This new work is actually being shown for the first time in the exhibition Power and Other Things, curated by Riksa Afiaty and Charles Esche for Europalia Indonesia in Bozar, Centre for Fine Arts, in Brussels
The title of this installation sounds like a spell, but what will actually be conjured up? According to the "Merriam-Webster Dictionary", the word incantation derives directly from the Latin "incantare" (to enchant), which itself has "cantare" (to sing) at its root. This reminds us that magic and rituals have always been associated with chanting and music. In the "Encyclopaedia of Shamanism" (C. Pratt, 2007) it says that an incantation is a magical arrangement of words that has the power to manipulate actions.
In the exhibited shadow puppets, some visitors may recognize one of the ten inkblots published in 1921 by the Swiss psychiatrist, Hermann Rorschach. The Rorschach test, a controversial psychological test, became highly popular in the USA from the 1930s, also among anthropologists during fieldwork. From various Rorschach protocols – the written reports of all oral responses given by one or more subjects to each of the ten inkblots – Ana Torfs created an English language script consisting of 120 song texts for six voices. She selected fragments of protocols dating from between 1938 and 1981 that were recorded by anthropologists on the island of Alor (then a Dutch colony in present-day Indonesia), in Native American Reservations, in Japan, Algeria and China, but also fragments from reports by Hermann Rorschach himself. Torfs became fascinated by this material, the poetry and the words themselves, as language and literature.
For the recordings, six women singers of different ages made musical improvisations based on a Javanese translation of Ana Torfs’ script. The ten Rorschach inkblots were translated by Javanese craftsmen into shadow puppets and brought to life by Nanang Hape, a young puppeteer from Jakarta.
Ana Torfs, Incantations (double double), 2017
In collaboration with: Nanang Hape (puppeteer); Anngun Nurdianasari, Cahwati, Nia Dwi Raharjo, Sri Lestari, Sri Sulansih Kenyawursita, Yeni Arama (singers); Margono (puppetmaker).
Installation with digital projections on 2 two-sided wooden screens, 4 HD projectors, sound, 2 loudspeakers on tripods, at random loop (c. 240 minutes), variable dimensions; 10 objects in painted and perforated buffalo leather, horn, painted metal, various dimensions.
Production team in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia:
Vicky Rosalina (production), Amy Zahrawaan (production assistant), Iwan Budi Santoso (sound engineer), Hananta Kusuma Wardhana Putra (cameraman, data technician), Ainul Fikri (second cameraman), Joko Sriyono (light), Riski Ade Pradesta (runner), Dwi Suryanto (assistant to the puppeteer), Ali Maksum (design of screen for shadow play).
Post-production team in Brussels, Belgium:
Ludo Engels (sound mastering, digital programming), Jurgen Persijn (graphic design of text slides), Els van Riel (editor).
commissioned by Europalia Indonesia
with the support of the Flemish Authorities