A. Sebastianus Hartanto
Indonesia / ISA Art Gallery
Alexander Sebastianus Hartanto uses experiential ethnographic research as a prominent intertwining mode of existence. Hartanto’s works explore the decontextualisation of material cultures and how it is perceived, understood, and ritualized in practice. For Hartanto, decolonizing the ontologies of ˈaɾt/kunst, is to reclaim Sani, a way of living that involves offering, service, and search of the unknown. A recreation of pilgrimages, sacred spaces, and woven cloths are products of this practice, et al. The works and experiences of Sani may or may not be archived, documented, or shared. What’s left are remnants and evidence of materials that take place in Sani.
Prior to his comparative art studies, Hartanto was an apprentice for a Javanese master weaver, in East Java. He was awarded the William Daley Award for Excellence in Art History and a Craft Field in 2017, and the Massachusetts College of Art & Design: Fiber Arts Departmental Honors in 2018. He teaches craft practice & theory and design ontologies to Artisans in Java, Bali, and the United States.
His work on ‘dari/froms’ is part of a continuous ethnography, cartography, and inquiry into modes of existence. In his search for points of origin, Sebastianus references philosophers Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the rhizome, a non-hierarchical sprawl of various roots, shoots, and possible trajectories, always open to interconnection and entanglement with others.
Dari restitutes elemental materials of symbolic significance to Sebastianus’s work: rock, water, and cloth. The materiality of these objects has long been associated with rites and rituals, and Sebastianus draws on this symbolic lineage while contextualizing these objects with his own lived experiences. Sebastianus also revisits his collection of artifacts, ranging from childhood teeth to heirloom batik cloth, images and files stored on his mobile phone, his grandmother’s wig, and so on. This visitation, reassembled, allows Sebastianus to articulate his narrative of origins, and further understand our association with belonging(s).
In this way, Sebastianus weaves between his training as an ethnographer in his study and collection of artifacts, and his role as a magician or artist in creating new practices and personal rituals from these objects, transforming their import and agency by way of context and their relationship with other objects. Collectively, these assemblages inspire as well as articulate narratives of origins, being, and becoming.
The body or ‘being’ are also composed from particles – a million measures of time, images, shapes and colours of memory held in our soul, the possessions and heirlooms that define us and our origins, passed from one generation to the next. Sebastianus honors this lineage in works that combine two generational methods of image-making: photographic print and batik⁶, the Javanese wax-resist dye technique. These works, which the artist describes as ‘studies’, investigate the shape of ‘being’, its many layers, and its constitution. Pixelated image-particles, representative of memories and belongings, are imprinted on cloth and waxed over, before the cloth is then dipped into dye. This batik process is an apt metaphor for unveiling, as the wax holds the initial image imprinted onto the fabric, resisting the dye that otherwise shrouds the rest of the textile in darkness.