Screening by Natasha Tontey and Riar Rizaldi

Oct 17 — 21, 2023



Grand Luxe Hall, Western Front


1:00, 2:00, 3:00 & 4:00 p.m.


To complement a showcase of music from Indonesia represented by the Yes No Wave Music label, Western Front presented a screening of recent works by Natasha Tontey and Riar Rizaldi. The program of three works—Tontey's Garden Amidst the Flame (2022), and Rizaldi's Tellurian Drama (2020) and Episode 0: Metanoia – Prelude (2023)—screened in the Grand Luxe Hall on the hour during regular gallery visiting times.


Natasha Tontey, Garden Amidst the Flame (2022), HD video, 27 min.

Garden Amidst the Flame emerges from Tontey's ongoing research into the ancient knowledge, technologies, and cosmology of the Minahasa, an Indigenous nation in the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia. In this work, Tontey emphasises core Minahasa cultural beliefs in the all-encompassing equilibrium between the human and non-human. Drawing on her experience of karai, a ceremony that grants Minahasan warriors an armour of invincibility, she seeks to establish a queering approach towards gender, youth, and ecology.

Riar Rizaldi, Tellurian Drama (2020), digital video, 26 min. 25 sec. Indonesian with English subtitles.

On May 5, 1923, the Dutch colonial government erected a VLF radio telegraphic transmitter in West Java, one of the most powerful arc transmitters ever built, with the mission of projecting airwaves back to The Netherlands. In March 2020, the Indonesian government embarked on its plan to reactivate the ruins of the station as a historic site and tourist attraction. Radio Malabar was originally constructed in an area traditionally known as Parahyang (the abode of Hyang). Hyang has its roots in indigenous animism, describing either divine or ancestral entities who possess supernatural powers and invisibly inhabit high places such as hills, mountains, and volcanoes. Tellurian Drama explores the living landscape surrounding Mount Papandayan and Mount Puntang, the complex stratovolcano in West Java used as a suspension point for the transmitter. It tracks the story of Radio Malabar’s enmeshment with cascading histories of colonial rule, ancient Indigenous spiritual belief, and ecological resistance movements across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Examining colonial ruins as an apparatus for geoengineering technologies, Rizaldi’s soundtrack, composed with Sudanese musician Iman Jimbot, also gives voice to the mountain as a central character in the film’s narrative: the mountain as conductor of ancestral presence.

Riar Rizaldi, Episode 0: Metanoia – Prelude (2023), digital video, 6 min. 4 sec.

Rizaldi’s film series Mirage, explores the roots and repercussions of modern science and advanced technology on the social, political, and cultural life of humans and nonhumans in Southeast Asia, through a dialogue between particle physics and ideas about the nature of God in tropical Sufi mysticism. It introduces the life and work of sixteenth-century Sumatran philosopher, poet, and Sufi mystic Hamzah Fansuri. In his writings, Fansuri conjectured that God infiltrates every aspect of the universe, down to the smallest particle, and the universe itself is God’s radiating holographic projection on a two-dimensional plane. Toward the end of his life, Fansuri was deemed a heretic and he and his disciples were persecuted. His ideas, however, anticipated several hundred years’ breakthroughs in particle physics—the notion that the universe is composed of subatomic particles including both matter and antimatter—as well as the holographic principle—the theory that the universe is, in fact, two-dimensional.

The first episode, Episode 0: Metanoia – Prelude, reconfigures and interrelates two parallel modes of inquiry into the nature of reality. Formatted as a short Hanna Barbera-like animation set in the future, the film stages a conversation between two cosmologists about the presence of God in atoms. Particle physics and Malay-Indonesian Sufi metaphysics are brought together as different expressions of the same human endeavor to grasp the transcendental in the material. The film positions Western science as one methodology among many in a constellation of pluralistic worldviews.

Curated by Aki Onda and Wok the Rock.
A still from a film projected in the Grand Luxe Hall. A framed picture of a lush oasis is overlaid with the title of the film in pink bubble letters.
A still from a film projected in the Grand Luxe Hall. An image of a young girl dressed in sport sunglasses and red traditional Indonesian attire stands in front of a red patterned backdrop.
A still from a film projected in the Grand Luxe Hall. The image shows five young girls in a forest at night. They hold swords above their heads and are dressed in matching red traditional Indonesian clothing.
A still from a film projected in the Grand Luxe Hall. An elder dressed in a traditional red Indonesian garment holds a large drum. She is illuminated by a yellow light. Captions across the screen read, I didn’t spend my whole life to reflect my feminine virtue.
A still from a film projected in the Grand Luxe Hall that shows an archival group photo. Set in a forest, the black-and-white image depicts six white men standing in front of a group of Indonesian men.
A still from a film projected in the Grand Luxe Hall that shows several lines of wavy text layered over an image of a foggy forest.
A still from a film projected in the Grand Luxe Hall that shows a man singing and playing a stringed instrument in a forest. The instrument is ornately carved, and laid horizontally across his lap. He wears a black shirt, and a black scarf wrapped around his head.
A still from a film projected in the Grand Luxe Hall. Mirage 0: Metanoia – Prelude is written in red stylized text and layered over a watercolour painting of a galaxy.
A still from a film projected in the Grand Luxe Hall. Two cartoon space creatures, one red and one blue, float in outer space. A caption reading, They replicate in an infinite number to form the universe we live in today, is written across the bottom of the image in a squiggly yellow font.

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Western Front is a non-profit
artist-run centre in Vancouver.

We acknowledge the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations as traditional owners of the land upon which Western Front stands.