Harvest from Atlantis

Jakarta is a strategic coastal city because it has many access to and benefit from the sea. Its civilization and history are inseparable from the maritime narration of the colonization of Portuguese, British, Dutch and Japan. The coastal line in Northern part stretches 42 km, the estuary for 13 rivers flow from the mountains in South of Java. Jakarta Bay used to have a lot of nutrition carried away by the current from tropical forests over the years, but now the condition is a lot different. It’s been damaged! Uncontrollable pollution from household waste and heavy metal waste in industrial area are the cause. While Jakarta’s dependence on the coastline is very high, the access for commodity trading from archipelago even around the world.

In responding this situation, we collaborate with green mussels farmers who still have a communal life and traditional cultivation. Their livelihood has been disrupted, their settlement is threatened with eviction even some residents are criminalized by the corrupted law system because of land privatization going massively. Green mussels are endemic to Jakarta Bay, and are sold throughout the city as an alternative of source of protein cheaper than meat especially for the lower class. The processing of green mussels becomes source of income for women and sometimes children involve. Above all, heavy metal contamination is a serious issue for farmers and their customers.

The work title inspired by a myth of the sunken ‘Lost’ City of Atlantis which is believed to be located in Jakarta Bay. An ironic as Jakarta is also slowly sinking because of land subsidence and the rising sea levels. The green color on mussels reminds us to foliage and trees in tropical forests that are increasingly gone due to deforestation. Together we plant a tree under the sea and patiently wait for several months until it’s ready to be harvested, a symbol of hope and concerns towards the future.


Numpang Lewat series

A set of 4 short audio diary entries recording the sounds of uneven patterns of mobility in Kampung Dadap, Tangerang and its’ surrounds. Numpang Lewat is an Indonesian phrase meaning passing through, and these audio snapshots show the circulation of people, objects and language that pass through Kampung Dadap with varying levels of speed and ease.

This fishing neighbourhood is at once peripheral to and highly integrated within circuits of globalisation, isolated by terrible road access as it is bypassed by toll roads leading to the neighbouring international airport, but integrated through the mobility of its residents, many of whom become migrant workers to supplement their traditional livelihoods.

The Extraction

A young foreigner had gotten into a fix. They were beginning to explore the capital city of Jakarta and with it numerous others. Discontentment with any singular narrative had motivated the city to adopt the clothing, style and even the skyline of other cities around the globe. The young foreigner made their way around the bustling streets deciphering maps and newspaper print as best they could.

Today they imagined themselves as a fish, tomorrow they would be a raindrop. But one thought caught in their mind and stayed there relentlessly. It surfaced at the forefront of their thoughts (or was it slightly to one side?), and simply would not budge. The young foreigner had faith in a form of God but it was not this idea that had drawn and so focused their attention. They believed in the universal value of all people, and they believed in free will. But these concepts did not drive the growing monomania lodged between their knotted eyebrows. The singular idea tormented them still.

As the days bore them forward they dispensed with the printed press and took instead to watching. Only the most brave buildings would do. They sought out posh hotels with sharply tailored security guards holding their weapons in a firm grip. They sat for hours tearing scraps of paper, depositing them slowly into an upturned umbrella. At the end of each days sitting they stood, umbrella tightly closed and made their way home. If it began to rain they activated its opening mechanism and as it shot open hundreds of newspaper scraps poured down on passers-by to whom they would declare, ‘The Show is About to Begin!’.

In the midst of this organised downpour that same singular vision shone through like a beacon across the dark night. The singular idea tormented them still. Transfixed the young foreigner wept with frustration. Small chunks of pink newspaper sticking to their face and clothes. About this there could be no ambivalence: the city of Jakarta had triggered a new mental state that was practically becoming a condition. It had planted this terrible idea in their mind and simply had to go. No alternative could be countenanced. Having decided to rid themselves of the rotten notion they began listening out for healers among their daily interactions with the city’s many faiths, cultures and medical practitioners. With so much potential for miscommunication it confused them that any single idea could be absorbed from the city so clearly. Yet this only served to reinforce its apparent power over their actions.

One evening it was suggested to them over a bowl of steaming hot noodles that the kind of treatment they sought lay further than the circle of investigations they had set for themselves. Further perhaps than the city walls.

What did it all mean? Their minds eye scoured the horizons, performing sweep searches across an ocean of possibilities, settling upon the shore.

Keeping to their usual routine of observation and mental note making the young foreigner nevertheless began to gravitate, as though drawn magnetically by the moon, toward the broad waterfront of Jakarta’s north sea coast.

It wasn’t long after the first inquires had been made that they arrived one evening at a softly lit, lively village. Unsure of how to begin the young foreigner made a start at what they believed to be the periphery of the village, working their way toward the perceived center in concentric circles. Dialogue with those they encountered seemed naturally to follow a similar, circuitous path. They made sure to reveal only aspects of their condition in conversation.

As the day drew long a sense of deliverance began to mount. The villager’s were somewhat ambivalent about the young foreigners presence but the common wisdom seemed to direct them to the home of a prominent village spokeswoman.

Among the glow of boats and fishermen they were finally introduced to her. The prominent village spokeswoman stood at the threshold of her home sizing up the young foreigner for what seemed like an excruciatingly long time. Their eyebrow twitched. Her hand made a short beckoning motion which they took to as a command to enter. Following the woman into her home they were shorty asked to sit and answer three questions. The first concerned their expectations, the second sought to reveal their motivations but the third question was truly absurd; what, she asked, where their intentions?

Dumbfounded the young foreigner peered inwards as if in a trance. They barely noticed as the woman gently lay a broad cushion on the floor and coerced their body to one side, knees already resting on the floor until they were lying on their side with the broad cushion under their head.

All of a sudden the woman leant in and placed a hand across the young foreigners head, open fingers revealing their open ear. The woman produced a short metal instrument and deftly plucked the stupid bloody idea clean out of their head. They had hardly noticed two assistants enter the room while all this was in play and now the three of them, the woman and her two assistants all stood smiling at the young foreigner from across the room.

And lo, as the errant idea whistled out of their brain they mused at its own ridiculousness. They heard clearly for the first time in weeks, maybe years. If only, they thought, I could demonstrate this procedure to all the other young foreigners around the world!

But before long, somewhere deep in the recesses of their mind they began to hypothesise as to how, precisely, this could be achieved.

• Alex Head 23.03.19

Images: Irwan Ahmett, Adi Priyatna


-2m: Suara-Suara dari (Bawah) Laut

Ziarah Utara is taking part on an exhibition consists of a number of artists and communities to respond to the current situation and cultural history of Jakarta’s coast, through 6 weeks long exhibition of video, installation, sound and photography works, and public program of workshops, lectures and performances. The exhibition is located at the Jakarta History Museum, a popular site most commonly visited by school groups, families and tourists, which generally focuses on Jakarta’s pre independence history. With this temporary exhibition we hope to provide a different perspective, a living history of Jakarta that is still very much in the making.

Opening date: Tuesday, 7th of May 2019

Special performances: “Menyisir Aku Meriang”, Teater Tagar Jagat | 16.00 – 18.00

Exhibition period: 7th of May ~ 16th of June 2019 | 08.00 – 15.00

Museum ticket: Rp.5,000 (includes entry to the exhibition)

Public Program

May 4, 2019 | 15.00-17.00: Workshop “The Future of Jakarta from the eyes of Children” by Rujak RCUS, Kelompok Jurnalis Cilik

May 12, 19, 26, 2019 | 14.00 ~ : Solo Performance by Budi Ceeguk (Teater Tagar Jagat)

May 16, 2019 | 16.00-18.00: Talk “Urban Legend in North Jakarta” by Seno Gumira Ajidarma. Registration required here

May 24, 2019 | 16.00-18.00: Public Discussion “Middle-age Artistic Crisis” by Irwan Ahmett, Enrico Halim, Ugeng T. Moetidjo, Yovista Ahtajida. Registration required here

May 25, 2019 | 16.00-18.00: Photography Workshop: Responding by Visual Your Surrounding by Budi ID. Registration required here

June 14, 2019 | 16.00-18.00: Talk “Hikayat Nakhoda Asyik dan Si Pitung yang ke Laut (The saga of a charismatic captain and Pitung goes to the sea)” by J.J. Rizal

June 16, 2019 | 16.00-18.00: Closing event: Performative Lecture “35 years under 33 meters” by Irwan Ahmett, Tita Salina, Hannah Ekin, Jorgen Doyle. Registration required

All programs are conducted in Bahasa Indonesia. Free entry, required online reservation. Further information for reservation and contact: info@rujak.org