KALA KALI INCOGNITO
HOW HERI DONO GAVE BIRTH TO BABIES CORONA
Written by Elizabeth D. Inandiak
When one first glance at the seven paintings Heri Dono created at the height of the global coronavirus pandemic, one doesn't immediately perceive the shapes. One is gripped by a vibratory field of brown-black, red, and blue-green. This chromatic trilogy is typical of Yogyakarta batiks which traditionally use natural dyes: “They are the colours of the earth. They absorb the restlessness of the mind and soothe the heart”.
Against this background of deep and lasting chromatic peace, the shapes suddenly come alive and go to war, like Don Quixote, against an invisible enemy: COVID-19. We enter right into the resounding title of the exhibition: KALA KALI INCOGNITO. The blind battle of humans against the Wheel of Time.
To narrate this war, Heri Dono chose the male deity, Kala, which means time in Sanskrit and Javanese, and his female consort, Kali: “Nowadays we make schedules with all sorts of timetables, and time must obey us. The coronavirus has come to remind us that we are not the masters of time.”
Kali is waging this unarmed war within our body. She can arise without warning, incognito, and either kill us or let us live. She is Kala’s executor, the measure of change, the Wheel of Time, the Kalacakra, which can be found in ancient times in Java inscribed on Shiva and Buddhist temples, in ancient texts, and in the wayang kulit shadow puppet theatre.
All the characters in KALA KALI INCOGNITO's paintings are actually puppets. In their blindness, the warriors and pseudo superheroes do not see that they are jumping about under the merciful gaze of our planet, the oceans, the forests, the sky, which they are plundering. The Earth is the implacable witness of KALA KALI INCOGNITO, this ridiculous war against time orchestrated by big shots who are, in her eyes, pitiful jokers. The Earth knows that in the end, she will win this war. Without fighting. Just with her calm and inclusive gaze.
The Babies Corona were born in the very last stage of Heri Dono’s reflective process. Since their birth, they watch in amazement -- through boxes and hollow TV sets -- how humans gesticulate like automatons and defile the earth. The Babies Corona don't know whether it's funny or tragic, whether it's real or virtual. Like Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, they might well be our wisecracking partners, our Collective Conscience.