JAYANTO DAMANIKUntitled tea bags (strange fruit)
Until 18 October 2014

Jayanto's tea bags hang with beauty, delicately stained by dried tannin into a kind of exoticism that we are quick to think of as Asian. Jayanto is Indonesian. But he's just as quick to point out that the tea bag was invented somewhere in America sometime in the 70's and that tea is of course Chinese. Indeed this artwork reaches across cultures - it's an artefact of the perverse colonialism that is the modern world. 


"I created conversations with used tea bags, which I began collecting in 1997. Each tea bag...contains a memory of either my family or my friends...every tea bag tells a story of daily life's grievances and joys. I embrace their history and intertwine it with my own. I encourage viewers to recognise flesh, mind and spirit in order to create individual meaning."

This is how Jayanto described his tea bag installation to Slot director Tony Twigg, continuing, "Nothing is ever wasted and all materials of waste contain their unique history. They serve as tactile reminders of the past and give meaning to the present."

On the day Jayanto installed this piece, and over yet another cup of tea, his conversation turned to Indonesia's famous Black May Race Riots that occurred in May 1998, triggered by food shortages and mass unemployment that eventually led to the resignation of Indonesia's President Suharto and the fall of his government. The main targets of the violence were the ethic Chinese, however, most of the people who died in the riots were the Indonesian looters who had targeted the Chinese owned shops. Jayanto plucked the title of Billie Holiday's immortal song of racial intolerance Strange Fruit to sum up his piece.

Jayanto's fruit dangles for us; artfully melodious in their arrangement they await our mediation as whispers. 

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