Art shows two kinds of life: virtual and physical

Circuit – still from the Amphibia exhibit.| Photo by Tromarama.

Ying Tan, a Canadian curator, makes her debut showcasing Indonesian art collective Tromarama’s Amphibia exhibition at Centre A from Sept. 8 to Oct. 14.

Febie Babyrose, Herbert Hans and Ruddy Hatumena created Tromarama in Indonesia through the ‘Video After School’ music video workshop. The competition required its participants to create a music video for a band.

The three artists came together and made their video for Jakarta-based rock/metal band Seringai with a woodcut animation. Carving the 400 pieces of plywood took them a month and a half of hard work.

“This experience left us traumatized. At the end, we use the word trauma to name our group and [that’s how we] became Tromarama,” they say.

Amphibia: two kinds of life

Tan, curator of the exhibition, first saw Tromarama’s work in Hong Kong.

“I was instantly fascinated by their approach to new media and the relationship to contemporaneity,” she says.

Amphibia’ is a metaphor for how human beings live in two worlds at the same time: a physical world and a virtual one.

“[It shows] how our experiences of the world are oriented inside the screen [and] our perception is built from perceiving one image to the other,” explains the group.

Tan describes it as humans showing a liminal kind of existence where they’re neither within reality nor within the virtual multiverse. The whole collective was inspired by the positive and negative consequences of the internet in Indonesia and around the world.

“The democracy that was brought by the internet gave a chance for people to share their own voice. At the same time, people tend to take the screen as a truth producer. We no longer have a distance between our self and the screen. We are immersed in it,” says Tromarama.

Animation: a unique art

Twins – still from the Amphibia exhibit.| Photo by Tromarama.

Tromarama create their art using an unique and modern medium: animation. They were inspired by the cartoons and MTV shows they watched as children.

“It was the first time where we saw singing plates, a blue fat cat with powers, a flying carpet, a crying teacup, etc. Almost all daily objects from our surroundings became alive,” they say.

By the time the group was in art school, they wanted to create videos but lacked the equipment and skills they needed to do it. This is where animation, and more importantly stop motion animation, allowed them to escape this technical limitation.

“[The] computer came only as a tool to tailor the images into a moving image. Basically we could watch the final video in our camera viewfinder. When we work on something, we love to seek the roughness, the spontaneity, the improvisation, the imperfection in our daily life. This kind of process creates a certain emotion between us and the works that we found very human,” says Tromarama.

An interactive piece

Alongside Amphibia, Tromarama also feature another exhibition called 24 hours being others. Described as a ‘continuous, cumulative, and interactive piece’ by Tan, it uses an algorithm to search for tweets including any of the words ‘24 hours,’ ‘being,’ and ‘others.’ Then the software arranges the tweets (after erasing the user name, photo, etc.) into sentences and the final image is printed out.

24 hours being others is a mark of an era where anonymity, information surplus and futile news are constantly celebrated in daily life. We are in an era where people like to float around, surfing the world through others eyes to define their own existences,” reveals Tromarama.

When asked about why Tan chose Tromarama and Amphibia to be showcased at Centre A, she explains that the exhibit created by Tromarama invites us to consider what it means to exist in our modern era. Audiences will be driven to question how rapidly adapting technologies destabilize the line between human and machine, recontextualize our understanding of today’s dominant narratives.

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