Magic Centre - Ade Darmawan
Magic Centre Ade Darmawan
The multi-media installation Magic Centre by Ade Darmawan (1974, Jakarta, Indonesia) focuses on the Indonesian publishing company with the same name which was mainly active and successful in the 1960s. The company published self-help books that claimed to improve people’s intellectual capacities, skills, business qualities, character and success in life. The books have titles such as How to Be Rich, Your Key to a Happy Life, and Dynamic Leadership Techniques. Most were originally written by American and European authors and were later translated into Indonesian. The books were introduced in Indonesia during a period of social and political change. Darmawan is interested in this transitional period when Indonesia was changing into a capitalist society. The books were introduced to help people master life in a new capitalist world.
In 1945 Sukarno declared Indonesia’s independence and became the country’s new president. In 1967 Suharto rose to power and changed Indonesia’s political direction. He overthrew the Communist party and was responsible for large-scale massacres. During this period the country was bombarded with nationalist propaganda from the government. Under Suharto the people in Indonesia were encouraged to embrace capitalism. He described the pro-western direction which the country was taking under his leadership as the New Order. A lot of energy was invested in Indonesia’s economic development. The influx of consumer products from “the West” increased dramatically during this period.
In this installation Darmawan critically analyses the political, social, and cultural shifts that took place in Indonesia during the 1960s. The installation includes display cases with copies of the books, illustrations from the books, sound materials, a diary of a former worker, objects which he found and purchased, and quotes. It also includes twenty-five shiny second-hand chandeliers made of damaged and broken fake crystal that together form one large sculpture hanging from the ceiling, a central element of the installation.
The display cases symbolise the new capitalist consumerist society. In Indonesia products are sold in these types of cheaply-made prefabricated display cases. They contain objects such as purses, souvenirs and other things, cast in glass, resembling small sculptures rather than mere consumer goods. With the presentation of these objects, often found at flea markets, sometimes broken or “incomplete”, Darmawan undermines and comments on the fetishization of objects and commodity culture.
Darmawan uses the publishing company’s books to examine Indonesian society during that period. Three banners adorn one of the walls in the exhibition space. The banners are printed with some of the publishing company’s book covers, stripped of from their titles so that they look like flags.
The installation Magic Centre was recently acquired for the collection of the museum and the presentation is part of the collections exhibition The Collection Now.
Ade Darmawan’s work deals with Indonesia, its history and its people. He focuses on the histories that often remain untold, on minor histories that may seem irrelevant but form important elements of the DNA of particular communities. He uses a broad range of mediums including installations, digital prints and videos. He is one of the founders and also the director of the artist group ruangrupa, who are the curators of SONSBEEK ’16 in Arnhem, the Netherlands.