Mount Merapi, one of the most active stratovolcanoes in the world, is wrapped in many layers of hidden histories, local myths, and constant surveillance of data collecting technology. Artists, scientists, academics and many more have been fascinated by this entity, resulting in many trans-collaborative projects and approaches trying to capture its essence.
In our final project we have been reflecting on conversation with a spectrum of locals living under the volcano, trying to get an impression of what it is like to live in close proximity to the restless giant. Our research is focusing on the fluidity of concepts surrounding collective memory, the siluman legend and the intersections between myth and science. We have decided to portray this manifolded complexity through a video installation. The Installation consisted of three projections that featured four edited one shot videos and a soundscape. Distinctive feature of the projections was the modification of the colour in the videos. We have opted for the edit in order to visualy unify the imagery to make it more coherent. Our reflected perspective has led us to believe that this decision portrayed the whole visual in an articulate way. The clips were portraying various behaviours of locals residing close to Merapi and stills taken in Merapi’s vicinity. Activities in the video work seemed to have certain time ambivalence that helped us to avoid time specificity. The notion of time ambivalence was also elaborated by the juxtaposition of the sounds in the soundscape. The sound was composed from geological movements, volcanic sounds, gamelan and instruments used in volcanology. This visual support of the soundscape aided the work in evoking the concept of collective memory.
At first we have decided to assemble a group revolving around the topic of volcanoes. The topic itself is so broad that we had narrow it down to more specific context and narrative. We tried to stay organic in our methodologies which lead us to research local contexts through text, conversations and participation in traditional cultural events.
On our journey shared interests have started to form around an Indonesian shape shifter myth-Siluman. It is mainly recognised as white tiger myth surrounding the proximity of Mount Merapi. We have made a choice to focus on this myth because of it’s vague description and multiplicity of interpretations by different sources. Some of the locals have referred us to meet the spiritual leader of the five mountain region. This figure is appointed every five years by inhabitants of villages around Mount Merapi. The activity of the leader remains still a bit unclear to us, but from what we understand, the leader is responsible for preservation of traditional culture by organising events where local myths are performed in form of dance, theatre and any other suitable form.
During our meeting there were two of these leaders present the current one and the last one before him. Both of them have explained their own understanding of the myth and gave us references to star forming our own position. The research has led us to a decision to animate Siluman through a performance.
This decision was later reverted because of new information that have made the previous plan appear insensitive and inappropriate in local context. Afterwards, our group has decided to create two different interpretations of Siluman in the final project. First one was steming from Silumans mythological origin representing it in the shape of white tiger and the second one was depicting Siluman as collective memory of Merapi’s landscape.