Melati Suryodarmo (b. 1969, Solo, Indonesia) graduated from the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunscheweig, Germany under the tutelage of Marina Abramović and Anzu Furukawa with a Meisterschüler qualification in Performance Art. Her practice is informed by Butoh, dance and history, among others. Her work is the result of ongoing research in the movements of the body and its relationship to the self and the world. These are enshrined in photography, translated into choreographed dances, enacted in video or executed in live performances.
Suryodarmo is interested in the psychological and physical agitations that may be from the self or the world but somehow result in lasting change the individual. This belief in change or growth through bodily action belies her early induction in meditation, which she continues to practice. The body is the home for memories and the self, rather than the individual itself, and the body’s system. The way the body translates internal and external ideas enriches the attitude and thoughts of the self. Meeting Furukawa, an accomplished Butoh practitioner, had opened her eyes on the expressive qualities of the body, a form of communication that transcends verbal language. This experience has motivated her lifelong studies into Butoh and other artistic forms concerned with the human body.
As a trained performance artist, presence is integral to the accomplishment of Suryodarmo’s work in all mediums. The senses picks up non-verbal inputs and receive them as communication of intent, emotion, energy or identity. These non-verbal inputs open the door to sensitive and individual perception and the creation of presence. However, everyone processes these inputs differently and interpret them differently based on their unique consciousness. By compiling, extracting, conceptualising and translating some of these factors of presence that she recognises into her work, she intends to tease open the fluid border between the body and its environment. These movements are understood through the metaphor of poets, who similarly assembles words and spaces to create their poetry.
Suryodarmo draws inspiration from her real experiences in the world. The path of history informs her perception of the everyday and the now. Her works often reflect the process that lead to current events, be it political, global or highly personal. In her abstracted gestures and poetical acts, the presence of each work is brought to a concentrated level of intensity. In abstracting these acts from their common context, they are made to correspond with new associations and sometimes identify radically with different meanings. The works’ abstract narrative throws the spotlight on the audience’s bodily response. This often results in a level of factual absurdity in the work, which is acknowledged and welcome.
Suryodarmo has presented her work in various international festivals and exhibitions, including Reanacting History: Collective Actions and Everyday Gestures (2017), National Museum of Contemporary Art Korea, Gwacheon, South Korea; SUNSHOWER: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia 1980s to Now (2017), National Art Centre Tokyo & Mori Art Museum, travelled to Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan; AFTERWORK (2016), Para Site, Hong Kong, travelled to (2017) Ilham Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; East Asia Feminism: FANTasia (2015), Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea; 8th Asia Pacific Triennale (2015), Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland, Australia; 5th Guangzhou Triennale (2015), Guangzhou, China; The Roving Eye: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia (2014), Arter, Istanbul, Turkey; Medium at Large (2014), Singapore Art Museum, Singapore; Luminato Festival (2012), Toronto, Canada; Beyond the Self: Contemporary Portraiture from Asia (2011), National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia; Marina Abramović Presents… (2009), Manchester International Festival, Manchester, U.K.; Incheon Women Artists Biennale (2009), Incheon, South Korea; Manifesta 7 (2008), Bolzano, Italy; Wind from the East: Perspectives on Asian Contemporary Art (2007), Kiasma, Helsinki, Finland.
Since 2007, Suryodarmo has been organizing an annual Performance Art Laboratory and Undisclosed Territory, a performance art festival, in Solo, Indonesia. In 2012, she founded “Studio Plesungan”, an art space for performance artists to use as a laboratory. In 2017, she served as Artistic Director for “JIWA”, the 17th Jakarta Biennale. She currently lives and works between Gross Gleidingen, Germany and Solo, Indonesia.