Dismantling the narration of historical canon using a feminist perspective is not merely changing the existing important figures with women's body and thought. It is considerably a deeper process which...
Dismantling the narration of historical canon using a feminist perspective is not merely changing the existing important figures with women's body and thought. It is considerably a deeper process which tries to deconstruct the social system and people's way of thinking by referring to historical narratives instead of changing the existing figures and accommodating gender-based characters. Therefore, the artists who work to dismantle and re-write historical narratives usually re-read the unbalanced and raise new perspectives on women figures by acknowledging their agency.
Citra Sasmita, a Balinese artist, not only tries to re-read the historical canon on how women are positioned within a certain socio-political context, but also indirectly explores the path of art history-which is also patriarchy biased. She has been running this reading project for about five to six years, and during the last two years of the project, she intensified the process whose result was presented in Biennale Jogja XV Equator #5. The historical canons in Indonesia are mostly produced by the highest power-written by kingdom poets or philosophers circulating around the power. One of the most referred canons is called Babad or Kitab. This kind of text is used as a historical reference for the next generation. It means those Kitabs have 11institutionalized" a patriarchal system, and they are supported by the power to be considered the truth. Citra is interested in Kitab Kakawin written during the Javanese Hindu era and brought to Bali as a canon. Preserved in kingdoms, up to now this kitab is also considered one of the highest achievements of Javanese Literature. Kakawin is often seen as a source of knowledge to study the life of ancient Javanese and Balinese. While actually a fiction based on the life in a palace, it is viewed as a depiction of life in the mentioned context. Therefore, exploring Kakawin as a main source to see women's position in the social life of ancient Balinese, Citra realizes that there exists a border: it's a social life in a palace culture written in men's perspective (the writers who wrote the canon).
In various visual traditions around the world, women's body are presented naked to show men's sexual desire. In Kitab Kakawin, women's body is often associated with nature; one organ is associated with fruits, for instance, or a woman is wearing natural jewelry. Citra tries to break the body free from the connotation of sexual power and desire, and place it in a more anthropocentric context, designating a purer human existence. In some figures, their bodies are made as having a lot of organs, like with two or three heads, and several hands. While Citra might not mean what we interpret, her depiction of women's body with several heads and hands leads me to the image of post-human. There are recurrent symbols, like fire and trees, that direct us to think them as an effort to underline the relation between women and nature.