Dwindanda Agung Kristianto (Nanda)
A Line: Inspired by Richard Long
March 5-10, 2019
People are often quick to ask of a work of art, “so… what does it mean?”, and Nanda’s work A Line; Inspired by Richard Long has certainly invited that question, especially from those who were not here to experience it in person. Like any work of performance art, Nanda’s A Line is experiential and to be fully understood, one must have been present.
Though analogies and visual beauty abound from the work, its meaning and value are derived neither through blatant symbolism nor simple aesthetics. The potency of Nanda’s performance was equally enhanced by the occasional presence of viewers as well as their regular absence. Rain or shine, accompanied, observed, documented or solitary, Nanda’s walk was persistent, six hours per day for six consecutive days. With an alert yet amiable presence, Nanda marked out a diagonal line across the land here at Rumah Tangga through the simple steady action of walking. The only materials were the artist himself and a stick of bamboo found here on the land; he borrowed a hat and an umbrella as necessary.
Nanda’s work at Rumah Tangga is a ponderance transmitted through the body, through action, and in relationship with the land. It is a way of “getting to know” … himself, the land, and his viewers. That the work is performed as a question reveals its humility. For those who had the opportunity to walk with him, the performance appeared effortless in its ability to invite intimate conversation around ideas, emotion, and personal experiences.
No thing in itself, no word, object, material, work of art, or phenomenon can “contain” an absolute meaning which can be guaranteed as deliverable to all who encounter it. Meaning making results from relationship. Meaning making is a process, derived from the space between conjectures in the same way that heat and light are derived from the friction of rubbing two sticks together. An artist first has a relationship to him or herself, then to their ideas, their materials, as well as the work’s eventual observers. The artist must examine these various relationships in determining the ultimate value of their efforts. A work such as Nanda’s A Line, with its absolute minimalism, strips bare this process of meaning making to highlight the importance of these relationships.
Beyond the knee-jerk question regarding the meaning of a work of art lies the question of purpose. To ask “What is the artist’s purpose in creating the work?” is a related but very different question. Can we always assume that the artist’s purpose is to “deliver” (as though meaning were an object) a “message” (as though the artist were delivering a thesis)? What of the artist’s fulfillment in solitary doing, or the artist who perfectly trusts their viewer and instead wishes to act as a guide into the world of individual experience and inquiry? Nanda is certainly among these artists who trusts their viewers, leading them to their own questions rather than his answers.
photo: Patar Pribadi
This is not to say that the work is without a point of view, or that its creator has absolved himself of responsibility for its content or value, as is a common contemporary criticism for works such as abstract painting. Nanda spent a great deal of time with the land at Rumah Tangga and A Line was shaped, re-shaped, and edited over a period of several months. Ultimately, his preparations and consideration for the piece, and his attention to detail in decision making are exemplified by all that you do not see.
Sitting across the table as these words are written now, Nanda says “The best part of art is when we don’t understand it”. He says that a work of art must create a Big Bang. Such a bang precedes language, precedes the question, and the answer; It is the original outflow of curious inquiry that gives way to an endless series of becomings. The artist’s role in this sense is to generate the impulse toward meaning making. This impulse turns static meaning into a fluid sense of meaningfulness which opens the observer to authenticity and personal purpose, core conditions for living a life of value.
Nanda’s creative purposefulness did not result in an object of quantifiable value but an ephemeral trace of ability and action, bringing definition to the invisible edges of a generous transmission of meaningfulness, of purposefulness itself. That A Line’s merit is unveiled through transmission is why the work must be experienced firsthand. In performance art, the observer is nearly always a participant. In extending the sense of the participant to the total environment around the work – the soil, grass, insects, flowers, trees, discarded bottles; the distance between points and the time between distances – Nanda’s single straight line exposes an endless series of connections simultaneously observed and observing. Emanating from the edges of a boot pressed line, and unfolding among an infinite series of points in space, time, and being, we encounter the mapping of a web of activated relationships, both discordant and harmonious.
Paradoxically, this vivid, ephemeral, exposure of ineffability could perhaps only issue from a work as simple as Nanda’s. A Line is quite literally grounded, built from the bare necessities of those boot steps and soil. Likewise, the work is grounded in its own history, stating clearly in its title “Inspired by Richard Long”. There is no grand invention here, but as Nanda shared today, “it is through endurance that simple things can become works of art.” Nanda’s endurance was a casual stroll, resulting in an approximately 50 meters long brown line cutting diagonally across a field of green like a furrow. Says Nanda, “I just plant my idea, my trigger, and everything around me will be cultivated.”
At the time of writing, only the barest trace of Nanda’s efforts remain upon the land at Rumah Tangga. To commemorate its moment we have planted a row of sunflowers along the furrow’s length. They’ve only just begun to emerge, but will in time grow to over three meters in height, producing many hundreds of edible seeds. —Kurt David Peterson