What the hell is Design Against Tyranny?

jiwabening: constellation of hope & happiness
jiwabening: constellation of hope & happiness

Surely, it would take me ages to explain about Design Against Tyranny (DAT).  So, to make a long story short, the whole idea of DAT is as follow:

Visual blog departs politics for esthetic endeavors

An Indonesian blog shifts its focus from battling pornography laws to promoting the digital arts

The Jakarta Post

Thursday, February 15, 2007

By I Wayan Juniartha

The journey reached full circle this month for Electronposts (electronposts.blogspot.com), once an open, visual blog dedicated solely to fight the controversial Anti-Pornography Bill.

When the blog celebrated its first anniversary this month, it also joyously embraced its transformation into a personal blog committed to promoting the digital visual arts.

“Initially, Electronposts was a personal blog, a medium of intimate self-expression,” the blog’s creator, Marlowe Makardhwaja, said.

He pointed out that the blog’s first posting, on Valentine’s Day 2006, was Short Span: A Life of A Particle, an image that underlined the transient nature of human beings.

“It was my personal confession of my fear and, later on, my acceptance of life’s ephemeral quality. We are all going to die, I am going to die. And the blog is supposed to eternalize that moment of awakening; the moment I fully realized that my existence is nothing,” he said.

However, the Balinese blogger’s emotional struggle against the Anti-Pornography Bill, which reached its peak in the first half of 2006, soon transformed the blog into an effective campaign tool.

“There was a need to spread the message as far and wide as possible. And the struggle’s leaders saw that internet was the perfect medium to do that,” Komponen Rakyat Bali (KRB) chairman Ngurah Harta said.

KRB, the organization that spearheaded the Balinese’s opposition to the bill, was founded by over 40 Balinese intellectuals, including the respected scholar, Prof. Dr. I Made Bandem — Marlowe’s father.

“Marlowe understands technology better than any of us. He knows how to get the younger generation’s attention. Naturally, the responsibility to build an Internet-based campaign fell into his hands,” Harta said.

Marlowe responded by immediately constructing Jiwamerdeka (jiwamerdeka.blogspot.com), the virtual face of the KRB. Moreover, he transformed Electronposts into an open blog by launching the Design Against Tyranny (DAT) visual project.

“I invited Balinese graphic designers, photographers and visual artists to create works inspired by their opposition to the bill, the kind of images that celebrate esthetic freedom and respect multiculturalism,” he said.

Soon, the blog was filled with images laden with political messages, including the eternally haunting Remember: In Defense of Independence. It was an image of the state symbol, Garuda Pancasila, with the Indonesian archipelago in the background, emblazoned boldly with the word “Remember”.

“It is a simple yet very powerful and very provocative piece,” noted art critic Putu Wiratha Dwikora. “It reminds us of the very basic foundation of this nation; respect toward cultural diversity. The bill is a grave threat to that foundation.”

As the legislators quietly shelved the bill, the struggle gradually died out.

So did submissions for the DAT visual project. Before long, Marlowe had became the sole host and image provider of the Electronposts.

Once again, the blog became a personal medium of Marlowe’s esthetic journey.

“I want to share the beauty I have witnessed, the joy I have felt, the anxiety I have suffered, with as many caring people as possible,” he said.

“I want to paint but I am no painter, I want to take picture but I am definitely not a Salgado nor a Cartier-Bresson,” he lamented. “But I love creating beautiful visual images. And, I am good with Photoshop and Dreamweaver.”

So, armed with a compact digital camera (his cameraphone), an assortment of image manipulation software and a powerful laptop, he began what he calls “the labor of love”, constructing a digital visual landscape, one beautiful image at a time.

Currently, the blog features over 180 images, the majority of which are Marlowe’s works.

“His works cover a broad spectrum of thematic interests, techniques and metaphors,” Wiratha said.

Some are mundane experiments on lines, circles and other geometric shapes presented in striking colors, while others are a visual homage to his creative idols, from Warhol to Mondrian, from Lennon to Springsteen.

“Some were so childish in their metaphors that you just have to laugh at them or, maybe, with them,” Wiratha added.

Like.Duck.To.Water is a prime example of Marlowe’s childish impulse. A funny-looking duck sits on a glaring red backdrop with a single phrase: “cuddling me quackly”.

“Some works, on the other hand, display a mature ability to construct subtle, meaningful metaphors,” he said.

This is probably best displayed in Missing: Key to Conscious Dreams and 401(k). The latter cleverly pairs the 401(k), the United States’ retirement plan, with a distorted image of the Buddha to construct an image of spiritual longing.

Yet others are so personal in nature and motive, such as You and My Meandering Disconnected Prose, Washed Out Wanting and Woe is Me, that interpreting them would surely be a futile attempt.

“However, regardless of the blog’s overall tendency to become a very personal medium, Marlowe has still created works with heavy political messages,” Wiratha pointed out.

One recent example of such works portrays a life jacket floating in a vast, gray void, truncated by the upper border. The phrase “many times before” in tiny letters adorns the life jacket, and the image is aptly titled …—…, Morse code for SOS.

“It is a very powerful work that seizes our minds instantly and forces us to revisit numerous disasters, man-made and otherwise, that have befallen our nation, from the crash of the Adam Air plane to the flood in Jakarta,” Wiratha said.

To Marlowe, Electronposts has completed its first mission, the political one, and was now eager to pursue its second.

“I want to convince the Balinese artists, the local creative minds, to pay more serious attention to the digital medium. The rise of the digital arts is a certainty,” said Marlowe.

“The future of our arts and artists will very much depend on one thing: our ability to utilize and our familiarity with the new languages and tools of the digital age,” he said.


Remember the journey here

PS. The particular digiART above (titled: jiwabening: constellation of hope & happiness, 2006) was created as a postcard, dedicated to everyone supporting a dear friend – jiwabening – surviving the horror and foul-smell of the Intensive Care Unit at Sanjiwani 12, Sanglah Hospital, Bali.

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