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Untitled


BY: LIAU SHU JUAN

Iswanto Hartono and Raqs Media Collective, ‘The 5 Principle No-s’, mixed media installation with video and sculpture, 2013.

Iswanto Hartono and Raqs Media Collective, ‘The 5 Principle No-s’, mixed media installation with video and sculpture, 2013.

Stepping into the white cube, loud black Arial font greeted this reviewer.

“MAKE N PROMISES.
TAKE N PRISONERS.
DO N HARM.
KILL N MORE.
GO N FURTHER.”

Makan? Taken Prisoner? Don’t harm? Gon(e) further?

This is Iswanto Hartono’s and Raqs Media Collective’s ‘The 5 Principle No-s’.

I was a little puzzled at these paradoxical statements and decided to walk straight into the centre of the room.

I was greeted by a new revelation- the large ‘O’ right in the middle of each line. The ‘O’ blinks like a futuristic, pulsating time-travel device. When put together, they now read:

“MAKE NO PROMISES.
TAKE NO PRISONERS.
DO NO HARM.
KILL NO MORE.
GO NO FURTHER.”

Amazing.

Loud declaratives expanded on a gallery wall with the clever insertion and repetition of the letter ‘O’. It is both futuristic, yet ‘patriotic’.

The cynic will say this is idealistic but the hopeful will embrace these statements as truths; Indonesia has its fifties state of emergency, Singapore has its sixties race riot, America her 9/11, Cambodia, the infamous Khmer Rouge… Which country/state does not have any conflicts in their long founding history? Almost all countries are founded with an all-encompassing manifesto for peace. Make peace not war. Equality for all. Non-aggression. Non-interference. However, they are ironically overturned by the same makers of these manifestos.

The first line ‘Make No Promises’ is a humourous yet sad statement of reality. It hints of the undercurrent of innumerable number of broken promises such that it has to be declared openly. No promises on the size of shoes that you want. No promises that we can waive these charges. No promises that I can help you… These have been heard many times from sales assistants to insurance agents to potential lifesavers. ‘Make No Promises’ hence become a double-edged sword- a declarative statement on the offense but also a fearful verbal weapon of self defense.

Let’s move on to the last line.

The last line ‘Go No Further’ is ambiguous but intriguing. Go no further in? Placed positionally as the last line, what I could think of is ‘going no further in future development’. South-east Asia is one of the fastest and rapidly transforming regions, economically, socially and culturally. Landscapes change, people ‘develop’, and values morph for better and for worse.

Nevertheless, I would say that this work is one of the most politically charged works in this exhibit. It is simple (the principles) but speaks right to the heart of one’s soul. I saw a couple of young ones whipping out their smartphones and taking pictures of it.

And when you stand right in front of the work, you can see your own reflection on the shiny surface of the letter ‘O’- you become the reflection of those principles.

Email: mondaymuseum@outlook.com

Disclaimer: All views on the site are solely of the author’s and in no way are a representation of any individuals or organizations.

Copyright © 2013 Liau Shu Juan.

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