Sensibility of kids, fantasy of adults
by Jeong-ok Jeon
An American movie, Tooth Fairy, tells a story about an adult, Derek Thompson, who is unyielding to childish fantasy. He particularly tries to squash the tooth fairy myth: that when a child puts their fallen tooth under a pillow, the tooth fairy visits and exchanges the lost tooth for a dollar. For children, tooth fairies are heroes, providing comfort from fear of losing a tooth, and the promise of growing a new healthy one. But for Derek, this fantasy figure that lives in an imaginary world promotes a silly custom and encourages a false belief to those who should be ‘growing up’.
In typical Disney fashion and morality, Derek’s lack of wonder is novelly punished when he is sentence to be an actual tooth fairy for a fortnight. His subsequent change of heart brings to light the impasse between what is ‘childish’ and what is ‘grown-up’, and raises some interesting questions relating to the current exhibition Imaginary World: Childishly Inspired.
Imaginary World: Childishly Inspired features the work of three artists based in Jogjakarta who share an interest in exploring their vision of a fairy-tale-like world full of magic and fantasy. Using childhood memories and dreams as their pivotal concept, the artists, Tina Wahyuningsih, thedeoMIXBLOOD, and Rennie ‘Emonk’ Agustine suggest that we contemplate what it means to be an adult and what draws a boundary between children and adults. If Derek is right, being adults means getting rid of one’s childhood imagination and dream. However, the artists affirm that childhood fantasy is still alive in the hearts of adults, and more importantly it is critical in the process of creation.
Tina creates her imaginary world where surrealistic creatures and personified animals come to play together. In her world, we find elephants are flying in the sky and a bunny rabbit becomes the next supermodel. Looking at her imaginary creatures, we become a part of a whimsical story where anything is possible. As a mother of a two year old girl, Tina also often creates characters that are family members in her works. Mother House for instance shows that her creativity cannot be separated from her motherhood and symbolizes her domestic responsibility as a wife and care-giver.
While Tina’s imaginary world is illustrated in fictional narratives, the works of thedeoMIXBLOOD — a project duo consisting Dila and Otong — stand as individual sculptures. Inspired by Graffiti and Pop Art and influenced by childhood traumatic events, thedeoMIXBLOOD creates collages using toys, Barbie dolls, Wayang puppets, fabrics, batiks, magazines, and beads. By taking parts from one context or medium and piecing them together into another, their sculptures become akin to the hybrid, grotesque, yet fantastic mythical characters found in fantasy movies. thedeoMIXBLOOD is certainly gifted in embodying the indescribable into a work of art.
Emonk extends her creation of an imaginary world further by being both creator and creation in her series ‘MON’s world. Borrowing from many superhero characters in various famous comics, Emonk creates a new set of superheroes that are reduced in their size and rendered more cartoonish than ever. What is also interesting in her superhero series is that Emonk re-titles them by combining their original name and her own. Thus, her alter ego comes to a life as Super-MON (Superman), Bat-MON (Batman), Wonder Wo-MON (Wonder Woman) and Ultra-MON (Ultraman). Through her works Emonk tries to send an important message: we can be anything in our life and whatever we choose to be, we become the main performer.
In our constantly busy contemporary lives filled with “adult” responsibilities, it is ever-more important for us to search beyond the surface. The super-power of this exhibition is its ability to recall our inner child’s sensibilities, providing a momentary escape from the mundane as we enjoy the experience of playing and playfulness within the art. After all, the fantastical can bring joy and stretch our imaginations, and could even bring us closer to our deeper selves if we just allow it.