The origin of the midnight.bunny
It was Ariela Kristantina and her drawing-pen that gave birth to midnight.bunny. Rie, the nick derived from her name, draws things to speak her mind: worries about children and today’s youth’s moral development; daily life occasions; and repetitive humane mistakes acknowledged in the seven deadly sins.
Just as a reminder, seven deadly sins in Catholic philosophy are also known as cardinal sins or capital vices. They are tools used in order to educate Catholics on human’s tendencies to sin. The whole complete set includes: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Yes, Rie subtly indicate them through her comics, illustrations, stories and narrations in relation to midnight.bunny.
Rie’s ideas are biblically correct, if I may put it that way. Well, she did grow up in the Catholic-based educational institutions and her parents are also Christians. I’m not suggesting that artworks are supposed to carry such religious issue or mission nor does Rie do this consciously. I am underlining the impossibility of leaving such baggage behind.
Rather than being a good Christian, Rie’s messages through her works shows how humanitarian and how compassionate she really is. Through midnight.bunny, she is being cynical to irrational and illogical adult. Yet, on the contrary, it actually shows how much she cares about other people, which in this exhibition is in the context of (almost) forgotten daily life occasions that led to certain mistakes.
The creation of the midnight.bunny
midnight.bunny is not your regular doll nor toy; though it is physically a doll, a self-made bunny doll with buttons as its eyes. midnight.bunny was made by a girl —a girl who according to the illustrator, is yet unknown. This girl-owner is pretty smart. Imagine a 5 year-old girl stitching and sewing her own doll!
Yet, smart girls are not known to be popular, she doesn’t have many friends. Moreover, her parents don’t care enough about her. So, she decided to make her own friend, which she did, and voila… midnight.bunny!
Judging by the look, midnight.bunny is no Miffy; but by its movements and actions, midnight.bunny is surely cute and funny. midnight.bunny is adventurous and has a large amount of curiosity that runs through its ‘vein’. When midnight.bunny wants something, midnight.bunny would get it, or at least try as hard as hell to get it; which partially explain midnight.bunny’s somehow-forgivable naïveté acts.
True that messages such as “anything is possible” and “dreams can come true” are allover such short story. Yet, such gullible act is supposedly a reflection on the adults, a reminder whether they’re doing such act or not. As some children stories are, midnight.bunny could be a critical reflection for the oldster —well, of course; how would you feel being ‘lectured’ by a bunny-doll, anyway?
The artist’s, her messages and I
Unlike in the 1970-1980’s, nowadays comics are no longer considered as neither propagandistic nor influential media.
Comics are now considered as one of the pop-cultures, especially the Japanese ones. In Japanese language, the word ‘manga’ means comics. Meanwhile, term manga in Indonesia (and world-widely), the term “manga” is used to categorize Japanese-styled comics.
Indonesian Wikipedia seems to skip the 1980’s period, in its explanation of the term ‘Indonesian comic’. Most likely, it is because of the (mass) media at that time used the word “comic” (and/or “comical”) as a synonym of “comedy” or “humor”. Other than the fact that both Ariela Kristantina and I were born and grew up in that period, late 1980’s are the most crucial moments for the invasion of Japanese comics to the country. These mangas include Takeshi Maekawa’s Kungfu Boy, Kyoko Mizuki and Yumiko Igarashi’s Candy-candy, and Fujiko F. Fujio’s Doraemon.
Mangas becomes such a pop-culture hit. Elex Media Computindo of Gramedia, one of the biggest publishing companies in Indonesia, imports more and more titles. In the beginning of 2000, they even started publishing mangas in the original Japanese format, which means reading from right to left instead of its Indonesian’s counterpart’s format. Therefore, today the Indonesian publisher only “translates” the fukidashi (text in the text balloons).
Rie chose manga as her medium of expression; and, yes, we were brought up under the massive influence of manga in bookstores and newspaper retailers on the street and in front of our schools. Both of the previous statements might have subtle connections, yet it’s not a point of discussion since most people don’t question why van Gogh chose realism, romanticism and naturalism. Obviously, taking Information Technology as an undergraduate study didn’t stop Rie from producing comics, which actually started in her high school period.
Through her comics, Rie declares her beliefs out loud: the books (or other media) you consume during childhood is you “planted” conception of life. This explains the reason why she always has rather moralistic messages through her works. She is one of those people who believe in small subtle changes and do ‘the act’ in order to play her role as a decent human being.
Rie and a few of her friends published their own 4-monthly compilation comic magazine called Splash. It was the first local manga to hit the market in the form of anthology. It is their way of contributing something real to the development of the country’s youth; with their self-funded publishing company coexisting among the tyrant monopolistic book distribution all over this country. Splash was published for the first time in August 8, 2006; and it still continues until today!
Before that, in 2005 both of us took a year diploma on arts and design, right after our undergraduate studies. Back then, I used to ask her to draw me sketches of everything because she’s the type of illustrator that draws things “precisely”. She perfectly obeys the rules in realistic drawing in the three-dimensional perspective sense. Furthermore, she was the epitome of a paragon student back in our “artsy” design school.
A model-student in a design school? What a bore; I suppose you’d postulate. I assure you, Rie is no regular smarty-pants type that creates dull works. Hitherto, she is the “precise” example for not trusting such generalizations and stereotypes. Based on all her artistry skills and awareness of the theories, she beautifully composes her moralistically-baggaged works. Other than similar subtle messages in her works, Rie also managed to build her visual identity through her lines, scratches and even titles.
Consciously, and continuously, Rie uses symbols throughout her works. Pay attention on how Rie uses dots or other punctuation marks in her titles. As a hint, let me tell you that dots are supposed to indicate separation of two words, yet not as far as a space —typed with the spacebar— would give you. It is Rie’s way to keep things connected; and it also shows how she puts her thoughts in each and every step she took.
Rie’s whole creation and installation of works is a reminder to its audience; a reminder of  having to make choices —in life. The moment anyone step in the gallery, they’re supposed to sort of surrender in order to enjoy, understand and/or appreciate Rie’s works. Such thing is explained in a delicate way that the audience wouldn’t have feelings such as being attacked by (or forced into) something.
Well, it actually is as easy as mentioning that this is a comical exhibition; which makes it clear that every works are connected and only works if it’s properly read, just like a comic book. But then, this exhibition is not based on the general type of books; it is influenced by books such as the series of Choose Your Own Adventure —books that gave its reader choices on the next step of the story.
So, here in the.trails.of.the.midnight.bunny, Rie also reminds people that  every choice people made and every step people took leaves marks, traces; just as the trails that all of the audience are tracing, midnight.bunny’s trails. Which brings us to another thing Rie reminds us:  every trace has the chance of being tracked or trailed by the others.
In the.trails.of.the.midnight.bunny, my part was only to excavate and let out the best part of Rie; and harnesses everything she passionately made in order to be consumable to all of you. Now, I’m going to stop babbling before I try to explain what midnight.bunny is saying beyond the cuteness of its gullibly-naïve acts. I won’t ruin you’re chance to trace midnight.bunny’s trails. Happy tracing!
Solo show of Ariela Kristantina
At Sika Contemporary Gallery, Bali
18 April – 8 May 2009
At Rumah Seni Yaitu, Semarang
6 – 20 June 2009
At Kedai Kebun Forum, Yogyakarta
12 July – 5 August 2009
Click on the exhibition venues to see the show.