Naima Morelli

Terra Incognita, the Socialists et cetera


In Melbourne one of the first questions people ask you is “where do you come from?”.
It makes sense in a city where hostels are flooding with drunk people swearing in so many different languages.
There are backpackers coming here with a sheer party mentality, europeans seeking for a well-payed job as waiters and wannabe adventures romantically compelled by soil their hair with red dust, possibly riding through the desert on a rusty jeep (that’s me, and I sadly found out that there is not that much desert in Victoria).

The prosaic reality of Melbourne city clashed so hard with my fantasy – eating Kangaroo on a red rock with aboriginals people – that I decided to keep myself busy with what is supposed to be my main job: contemporary art.
Well, the truth was that I was already in Melbourne to complete the last stages of my reportage about Indonesian contemporary art, so I found myself turning on the recorder and listen to the artist Tintin Wulia.
It was the first interview here in Melbourne and one of the last interviews for my reportage about Indonesia Contemporary Art.
Her work and her experience as an artist epitomized the core of my book: there is no such a thing called Indonesian art, there are some practices born in a geographical segment called Indonesia, and there are some artists born in Indonesia that are making art.
The edges are so sharp just on the map – ideas and aesthetic are much more fluid – yet these borders matter incredibly when comes to bureaucracy, biennales pavilions and personal identity.

Tintin lives in Australia and when I interviewed her she was completing her Phd at the Rmit University called “Aleatoric Geopolitics: art, chance and critical play on the border”.
On the 12th of July I was invited to take part in the performance “Terra Incognita et cetera”, related to the Phd examination. My “comrade” Lucas, who collaborated with me at my reportage in Indonesia, was invited too.
“Don’t call me comrade!” protested Lucas “I had enough of these damn Melbournian marxsist and socialists! I already payed 50 bucks to join their Marxist meeting!”
“Never trust a Marxist whose entrance fee is more expensive that the ticket of a late Dylan concert”

Anyways, the comrade and I trotted along the boulevard of the Rmit campus in search of the gallery where the performance would have taken place.
“Look! That’s were my socialist friends broke in to protest again the Rmit BAE sponsorship” Lucas explained me excited.
“I thought you didn’t like the socialists anymore…”
“Yeah… you know… that time was cool though!”

When we arrived in the gallery space at the first floor some people were already gathered there. On the wall was projected a map with meridians and parallels.
I narrowed my eyes trying to associate that shape with another map that I already knew.
“Middle Earth, Earth 616, Sim’s world?” suggested nerdishly Lucas
None of these. It was the world map with all the continents combined differently, some of them reflected, others upside down. Tintin Wulia was there cheerily giving instructions the the people, pushing them to claim their land with cocktail umbrellas.
According to the instructions, I fished in the bag for a fake note which would correspond to the number of squares that I could claim on the map.
I took my time to spot a nice location on the map, possibly with nice beaches and a cold climate. Lucas settled down for an estuary instead.
I puffed away slightly upsetted. His land was too far from mine, so I couldn’t invade him in the next future. Being Italian I’m akin somehow to Julio Cesar – it wouldn’t be unlikely that one day I could arrive to that far cities teeming with socialists making expensive conferences.

As reward for the participation to the performance, Tintin gave us an artist-signed passport.
Lucas was about to running away with a Japanese passport that he accidentaly found on a table, when Tintin stopped him, explaining that he would have to fish his passaport from a bag, like he did with the note. Randomness was the point, after all.
We both fished a British passport. Lucas was super sad – he wanted the Japanese passport so badly.
“That’s not fair… People often mistake me for a Japanese, you know? I kinda deserve it!”
Tintin didn’t want to hear excuses – that was the performance, like it or not. Lucas ended up putting his British passport in his pocket grumbling in a British accent.

The troubles were not ended for the poor fellow.
Comrades were waiting at a corner of the Rmit trying to convince people to join the socialists and secretly scheming for the next ambush to the university teachers.
We crawled under the wall to go unnoticed – somehow Lucas has avoided to join the socialist alliance so far. Apparently their quite expensive membership was comprehensive of guided tours to dingy factories in the Northern Territory and the honor of holding a protest banner during the rallies.
“If they only knew that you own some land now they certainly wouldn’t have you got away with it” I giggled.
He slapped me with his British passport.
I kicked him as hard as I could.
The socialists suddently noticed us and a girl walked in our direction handing us a form and a pen. Damn.