Arahmaiani, Handle without care, 1997
Handle without care

In her artistic works, Arahmaiani Feisal (*1961, Western Java) questions the contradictions and paradoxes of her country through performances, installations, drawings, poetry, dance, and music, as well as most recently through participative projects developed together with social and religious communities. Her performances amount to protests against social injustice, violence, political corruption, and the woman’s position in Muslim society. Arahmaiani, who openly expresses her Muslim faith, advocates as an artist an Islam that is open and tolerant, fighting to eradicate the violent and military-like interpretations of it in the Western world caused by radical Islamic groups.

The performance takes place on top of a hill just before sunset. The artist, clad in an elaborate ceremonial outfit, performs Balinese dance movements around a white circle painted on the ground with a large bottle of Coca-Cola standing upright in the middle. The artist, wearing black sunglasses, holds two plastic toy guns in her hands incorporating them as ritual elements of the dance. During the performance she shakes the Coke bottle and eventually opens it with an explosion of pent-up carbonation that spills into the smaller circle. Mantras can be heard on a CD player, whose singing mixes with the electronic sounds of the guns producing a cacophony of sound. Through a game of extremes between sacred and profane, between the religious objects and the cheap ones of mass consumption, Arahmaiani introduces dissonant elements in her interpretation of society and questions its ritualisation reflecting on its tensions and contradictions.

Courtesy Arahmaiani

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ritual, dance/choreography, activism, consumerism