Entang Wiharso: Crush Me

Entang Wiharso is an internationally renowned artist who has held major exhibitions in Asia, Europe and America. He is one of five Indonesian artists collaborating on an exhibition for the Indonesian National Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale which for the first time will be situated in the historic Arsenale area. Wiharso’s work emanates from his own personal narratives and experiences, which are used as a point of departure from which to examine the historical and geographic history of his home country. In this way, Wiharso links minor events and small actions to the larger timeline of the human condition, which he seeks to understand by pushing the boundaries of perceptions formed by prejudices and generalisations.

Entang Wiharso’s first solo exhibition in Mainland China explores issues of perception and reality, focusing on tracing personal and collective experiences which lead to specific occurrences. The works explore how the history of ideas, land, migration and ecology are contained within our actions today. Crush Me is also the title of a 6m-long double-sided sculpture in the exhibition. This monumental piece builds on the symbolic potency of walls as borders—whether they are constructed for protection, prevention, privacy or status purposes. Each side of the wall depicts two different presentations of the same story with one side intentionally distorted, thus, presenting a contrasting dichotomy. The subject is the artist’s personal narrative which, when projected onto the public stage, highlights how external conditions and the vulnerability of exposure can distort reality.

Four of the works in the show are from Wiharso’s Untold Story series, which uses seemingly unimportant aspects of life such as personal objects, clothes, daggers and plants from his garden to reveal the underlying beliefs informing the way people experience and perceive reality. Geo-Self Portrait was inspired by an Indonesian saying, “The elephant in front of your eyes is invisible, but the ants across the ocean are evident,” which warns of making prejudiced judgments on the faults of others without acknowledging your own. In this painting, Wiharso references the classic satire on human nature, Gulliver’s Travels, to comment on the reality of how the seals of religion, race, politics and culture constantly mark the individual or minority who can become an easily accused victim because of the stigma of their existence.

Entang Wiharso says of his work; “As I explored the reasons behind feelings and motivations, other stories emerged to reveal another reality, one that reflects immigration, social justice, survival strategies, geography and political systems. These kinds of stories, anecdotes that link to the larger geo-political narrative, are at the core of my current work. I want to put these ideas forward in many contexts to test our perceptions which often are formed by incomplete information, propaganda, generalisations or prejudice.”