mixed media installation

Best Artist of Sixth Bandung Contemporary Art Awards 2019


In 1955, Indonesian first president Ir.Soekarno initiated a program called MAHID (Mahasiswa Ikatan Dinas). This is a program that designed to send undergraduate students from all over Indonesia to study abroad. At that time Indonesia has a strong connection with the socialist countries through military, trade, cultural, and also education. Through MAHID students will study abroad and they will going back and work for the government as experts. Indonesian government sent the students to Beijing, Moscow, Bucharest, Prague, Brno, Sofia, Havana to study about science, social science, music, art, engineering, language, psychology, atc. 


In 1963, Soegeng Soejono became one of the student that join MAHID program, he originally came from Madiun. He went to Prague to study pedagogy and child psychology at Charles University. Everything went well until the G30SPKI tragedy in 1965 in Indonesia that involved PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia) or Indonesian Communist Party as the one whom responsible for the tragedy. There was a presidential power shifting from Ir.Soekarno to Soeharto that we all know as the new order regime and also genocide of the PKI members that involved army and paramilitary group. This event is also affecting the students that studied abroad at that time; Indonesian government through the embassy did a screening to all the students. Each of the students is being interrogated by the Indonesian embassy about the new regime under Soeharto. Every student that agree with the new regime they will taken back to Indonesia immediately, but for every student who against the new regime their passport will be taken away by the embassy and they are stateless.


Soegeng Soejono or Bung Yono his nickname is one of many students that against the new regime and choose to stay in Europe without passport. He and his friends started their new live in Prague as political exiles that still hope that they can go back to Indonesia one day. The day is never come until 1998 when Soeharto resigned after a series of big demonstration by the students that become the starting point of the reformation era of Indonesia. Bung Yono worked as a labour, illegal worker in Germany, Indonesian language teacher in Charles University. He married Czech woman named Barunka and he has two sons. At one point he decided to get the Czech citizenship in 1989 because it was easier for him to live with citizenship. 


Since 1963 when he first arrived in Prague he collected all the photos that connected with his personal life and also the life of the students. He collected these photos and videos for personal and he thought maybe one day his collection will be useful. He said that mostly peoples said that he is a hero but he said “what happened to me here in nothing compared to all the innocent peoples that killed because they are being accused as communist back in Indonesia” “So, don't call me hero”.  This work is about presenting a daily life of a political exile that live as an ordinary citizen in Prague. Through the photo collection we can see the life of Bung Yono and all other Indonesian in Prague. The video works is representing three different time on the left of the screen is the video of him arrived in Jakarta after 30 years and on the right is the video that shown him reading his first letter that he sent to his family in 1963 from Dobruska, Czech Republic in 2019. This video represent the 30 years of space in between he’s first experience arrived in Prague and also his experienced come back to Indonesia that shown the excitement, affection, laugh, tears that somehow we forgetting the reason why he need to be in Prague for 30 years. I want to give the audience the questions about what happened in between the 30 years so peoples can start to discuss more about the dark history of Indonesia.


These installations also contain a large-scale photo that I made to honor his life that he contributed to the Indonesian diaspora in Czech Republic. He took the role as grandfather for the Indonesians who lived or studied in Prague that called him Eyang that means grandfather or grandmother in Javanese language. A big scale photo is always related with important peoples such as politician, actors or actresses by putting his photo in the large scale I want to give him the same feeling as an important person. This works has been exhibited during the open studio in Prague earlier this year, this photo is a surprise to him and he felt happy about it. I used the everyday HVS A4 paper for this work to show the audience that everyday objects can be important if we give them more values.


Through this installation I want shown that how is the misused of power can change the directions of peoples lives. I hope this work can appreciate the life of Bung Yono and also triggered a discussion about what really happened in Indonesia in 1965 – 1967. 


I met Bung Yono in 2017 when through the contact that I got in Stockholm during my residency there in 2017. I met three Indonesian exiles in Stockholm that told me a lot about their stories and introduce me to Bung Yono. We keep in touch since 2017 and agree to do a project together, until 2019 I got a chance to do an art residency program in Prague. We spent 3 months exploring the memories of the exiles in Prague, and managed to create few artworks. There is another long version of the video documentary that still on progress. 


This work was made by the support of Meet Factory, Czech Republic.