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'Birth from destruction, death by construction'.

 

The sculpture is a large observation tower constructed from materials that once formed the houses of 36 now displaced families. The displacement is due to the local Government (Bandung, West Java) approval of the demolition of resident homes for a redevelopment project. I have worked in collaboration with the affected community to construct a symbol of power, oppression and its structural fragility. To be sure, the Tower will eventually fall.

 

 

Constructed with the support of Gallery Soemadja, Bandung Institue of Technology and the Baur Project.

 


Navigation and Panoptikon

New Year's Eve 2015, people in Bandung welcomed terrace Cikapundung as a new public space. It is located directly on the side of Jalan Siliwangi and directly adjacent to Cikapundung. Only a few meters from the terrace of Cikapundung, stands a deserted and silent wooden tower. The probable question that the crowds who gather may be asking, "Why is there a wooden observation tower in the patio area of Cikapundung?".

In November 2015, an observation tower measuring approximately four meters was constructed under the initiative of Australian artist, Simon Finn. The construction was chaired by Mr. Herman, whom managed to build the art installation as a collective memory of artifacts, both artistic and poetic. Interestingly, the tower was built from waste material from the Kampung Collage eviction in October 2015 by citizens of former Kampung Collage.

The literal meaning of ‘tower’ is adopted from Arabic, Manara or manar. The term Manar is rooted from the meaning nar (fire place / place of fire) or nur (light spot / place of light). But the tower built by Simon and former residents of Kampung Collage is not the place to put the flames, however the light is made in the form of artwork.

Cikapundung tower was not merely a visual icon as it can also be climbed at anytime for up to 3 or 4 people. From the top of the tower, the viewer  can witness traffic surrounding Jalan Siliwangi and the entire patio area Cikapundung. Structurally the observation tower is  built by using recycled wood from the demolished settlement, therefore clearly communicating weakness and fragility. This lack of durability represents the weakness and helplessness associated with the community eviction October 2015.

Tower’s constructed on the coast are usually function as a lighthouse, to warn of hazard is not entirely different from the conceptual background for the construction of the tower in Cikapundung. Lighthouses are built as an early warning system for the successful navigation of travelling ships. The artist, Simon Finn gave directions and a marker for the successful organization of the local community.

A navigation system interpreted through the tower never denies the existence of the greater cosmos. For ships, the tower always provides a level of accuracy of precision for safety. However, Simon and the people involved in this project do not directly associate as an oceanographer and cosmologist, but together they appear to understand how to respond to to the idea of  memory space using symbolism. The erection of the tower demands the collective consciousness of all people that ever existed in the Dihidup community. This memory resides in the materials used to construct the tower even though they are  not as vibrant as the solid properties of the lighting and solid materials of the new Cikapundung terrace. The narrative built into the Tower shines beyond the new development with a deeper historical nutrition.


In the book Discipline and Punish (Michel Foucault , 1975), the concept of the tower has a close link with the theory of power. At the end of the 18th century, Jeremy Bentham adapted Foucault’s theory into the science of architecture. Jeremy coined the term Panoptikon which consists of two words, namely "pan" meaning "all" and "optikon" which means "to observe". The all observing  can be understood in the design of a building that allows one party to supervise the attendees without the understanding of supervision.
The Panoptikon concept is entwined within the meaning and reasons for building the observation tower in Cikapundung. It is clearly evident when viewing from the top of the tower, as everybody is invited to see anything what has historically been lost.

Assimilation, Symbolic, and Poetic
Viewin the Tower  from the creative process, the construction passed through many obstacles. Firstly, due to language difficulties, Simon and the residents experienced communication issues. It is essential that we remember that the village was also born on a combination of collage creation residents and collage artist from Australia, Deborah Kelly. Therefore, this is the second time the residents of Kampung Collage have partaken in a creative process like this. To be clear these projects, are not a form of assimilation across countries and across social classes attractive to dicermarti. The process of employment of the tower as a work of installation art, also managed to show a social realism that negate the idea of class. Contrary to the appearance of Cikapundung terrace which resides next to the tower, it is  feared that Simon’s presence may only meet the "thrill of pleasure" public "class pajamas".

Cikapundung Tower is designed with a very simple objective, just like the former settlement of Kampung Collages that was built with makeshift materials. However, the art collaboration between the former residents of Kampung Collage and Simon also reminds me of the words from Gaston Bachelard in his Poetics of Space (1969), "the humblest dwelling has beauty". The tower was successful in getting the viewer involved in a spiritual journey to justify that beauty in residential design is not necessarily beauty in living. Terrace Cikapundung  can also be criticized for sedekoratif that was made possible by the City Government of Bandung.

The fragile tower was surprisingly still standing (until today (31/01/2016).  The conceptual leagcy  continues to create a degree of polarization in its location. That does not mean its upright position serves as a type of visual chaos or emitting threats. Rather, it invites us to appreciate the value and the narrative behind the eviction of original Kampung collage community that once lived there. The poetic value can not be calculated or be embodied in a happiness index by simply using economic indicators. However, it can be intimately felt by involving a sense of empathy. There is always a suffering associated with people forced to leave their beautiful living spaces, and this beauty will always be a reflected when viewing the area from the top of the tower.

Citizens of former Kampung Collage certainly do not want the Observation Tower to be transformed into a "cold tower", which in the Great Indonesian Dictionary is touted as a  phrase that represents a higher position. This is far from the resounding  point of  the Tower experiencing, as a transformation of power is being seized instead by the viewer. Nothing has been done by the former residents of Kampung Collage and Simon also reminds us of the words of the book Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space (1969), "we are never real Historians, but always near poets".

 

Férri Ahrial
Pasundan University
Parsitipative Reseacher of Kampung Kolase

'Birth from destruction, death by construction'- Bandung Indonesia (2015).

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Simon Finn