IN SITU: Lifepatch – The Tale of Tiger and Lion
M HKA, Antwerp
16 September 2017 - 07 January 2018
Lifepatch is a community-based organisation founded in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in 2012. They organise cross-disciplinary practices, bringing art, science and technology into dialogue in order to develop the useful application of technological, natural and human resources in their region. As with many of the artistic collectives in Indonesia, collaboration and interdisciplinarity are at the core of their work.
Their project for M HKA titled The Tale of Tiger and Lion focuses on the relations between two key figures of Dutch Colonial history in Indonesia – Hans Christoffel and Si Singamangaraja XII. At the beginning of the 20st century, the Swiss man Christoffel was employed as a Captain in the Royal Dutch-Indies Legion with the task of assassinating tribal kings and leaders in Indonesia. His “cat-and-mouse” with Si Singamangaraja, spiritual and political leader of the Batak people in Sumatra, became legend, giving Si Singamangaraja the status of national hero. Si Singamangaraja (meaning “Lion King”) was eventually killed during his guerilla resistance to Christoffel’s so-called “Tiger Legion”.
Christoffel travelled to all parts of Indonesia collecting weapons and artefacts from the tribes that he slayed. He eventually settled in Antwerp after marrying Adolphina van Rijswijck, daughter of the mayor Jan van Rijswijck, and later donated his collection to the Ethnographic Museum in Antwerp. For their exhibition, Lifepatch present a key selection of these artefacts, together with new artworks considering these two figures and their remarkable intertwined story. Their exhibition brings to light the competing narratives at play in the machinery of power and colonialism.
The exhibition started from research into Christoffel’s collection now at The MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom) in Antwerp. After examining the collection in the museum, Lifepatch continued their research in North Sumatra to collect other narrations related to the Si Singamangaraja, Christoffel, and the Dutch occupation in the region. Lifepatch discovered that though many of the historical artefacts are stored in museums abroad, the related stories still live in the North Sumatra people. The fact that people still believe and told stories related to this history, despite the lack of artefacts, raised questions on truth. Should the truth be verified by objects, or is truth similar to belief and thus does not need physical proof? Is the version offered by the museum more reliable than the version of people in North Sumatra?
In The Tale of Tiger and Lion, Lifepatch present the findings of their research, incorporating historical artefacts, artworks and archival material, together with a narration linking all the exhibits, seeking to bring the complexity of this history to the fore.
The IN SITU programme at M HKA offers medium-scale monographic exhibitions by significant early- and mid-career artists from around the world. It focuses on the commissioning of new works, foregrounding experimental practices in what is M HKA’s largest and most atypical exhibition space.
Lifepatch are presented at M HKA within the framework of Europalia Indonesia.
The exhibition is developed in collaboration with AIR Antwerpen and MAS – Museum aan de Stroom.
Curator: Nav Haq, Senior Curator – M HKA