Perulangan (2022)

[loud, short] Bam!

[startled] Agh!

[super loud, with echoes] Bam!!!

[shocked] Ahh!

[nothing] …

[perturbed] Ugh

[moderate] Bang

[gasped] …

[super loud, long, long echoes] BAM!!!

[shuddered] …

[nothing] …

[still shuddered] Ah

[small echoes from afar] bang … bang …

[quivering…] …

>> shuffled repeat <<


Yuli Prayitno, Perulangan (2022). Iron, colored pencil, jewel, silver, pearl, velvet, leather, audio, 350 x 230 x 70 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Yuli Prayitno often works with mundane objects, things that are easily recognizable for us, such as chili, chair, map, heart, and ear. Yuli works with them for the sake of the audience. Never ever did he want people to pinch their eyes and eventually leave his work while mumbling the ultimate accusation towards works of art, “I don’t get it. It’s difficult.”1 Other than that, found objects have really been the departing point all throughout Yuli’s oeuvre. Oftentimes, these objects were functional in a day-to-day manner from the different periods that it came from —maps from Majapahit era, peranakan-styled chair from second half of the 19th century2, a radio from the early 1960s, amongst others.

The restoration aspect that is often shown —if not forefront— in Yuli’s oeuvre is his form of respect to the found objects along with its aesthetic history. How these objects were made and used are related to its social history. Therefore they would depict at least one aspect of the societies in which they came from. In parallel to that would be its material history and how it relates to the period’s technological development. For example, when would these gems and stones be treated in a particular way? Or, what kind of tools would have been used to generate a certain carving motif? How were these found objects that fascinated Yuli used? When were they made? Who owned them? What kind of changes did these objects go through? On and on we can go with these archeological or historical questions. Nevertheless, Yuli is not the type that would be bothered in articulating such things, let alone in making it the rationale of his works.

His reluctance to share does not come from a shy or prideful place, rather from his belief that he is an artist, therefore he makes artworks. And, that expression nor representation is not what he aspires his works to be doing. Yuli believes that his works are free to be interpreted by its audiences. As much as he believes in his readings of these found objects that he then manifested in an act of restoring it. Fully aware that, by working with them, he is giving new meanings to the objects. If there is a ‘task’ that Yuli would want his works to be performing, it would be as ‘simple’ as that it triggers particular aesthetic experiences.

Let us look at this work that lies in front of us, Perulangan (2022). It is a constellation of objects that we would immediately recognize. A crown, a cushion, and an animal trap. The crown is made out of colored pencil, red velvet, and gemstones. The crown is set on top of a cushion that is covered with a natural color leather. The cushion, as the crown’s pedestal, is set on top of an animal trapped that Yuli has enlarged, quite dramatically. These constellations of objects came with loud boom sounds, a sound that may come from heavy metal items crashing. 

It wouldn’t be surprising for us to immediately connect the shocking boom with the giant animal trap. In a split second, our imagination will take us into a scary possibility: The gigantic animal trap catching something right in front of our eyes. In this space where this work is displayed. In this gallery set up that is almost sterile —or separated— from our mundane realities that we would be facing the moment we leave this fair. Space —therefore time— is one keyword to slowly unravel Yuli’s artistic practice all through time. He sees space as a social sphere in which he himself, and us too, are a part of a societal unit with various roles, functions, and dynamics.

What is Yuli thinking about? What does Yuli want to say? Both may not be relevant. We are anyway free to interpret the work as whatever symbols that we’d understand or are on top of our minds. Crown can mean power; trap may symbolize a disturbing agent that needs to be eliminated; the fact that the trap is enlarged may indicate the size of the disturbance—surely it isn’t a rat or any agricultural pests; and many more. Not so much writings on Yuli’s practices are available. From that low pile, many talk about his meticulousness in dealing with various kinds of materials, such as wood, resin, rubber, silicon, metal, glass, ceramic, and so on, especially how he’d deal with these materials in ways that changes, or challenges, the way we think about them. These skills of his are often read as a way of treating the craft, the traditional, or the historical with a contemporary viewpoint.3 We’d need another essay to explore each and every material that Yuli had chosen to use, plus how he deals with them one by one. The use of colored pencil, for example, has been in his practice since the mid 2000s; or how he treated the leather, metal, or even gemstones which are nothing new in his oeuvre.

If we shift the question to: What kind of experience is Yuli trying to generate? We now have the chance to answer by looking closely at what is visible, what is present, and what we can experience in space. Visually, Perulangan (2022) shocks us with Yuli’s enlargement of an object that we would have otherwise acknowledged as an antique version of an animal trap and its natural rust. Indeed Yuli spent some time burying it underground, before leaving it under the burning sun, or for rain to keep pouring on it, and even allowing it to be left in a flood. All for the sake of allowing the rust to appear in ways that might have happened to iron throughout time. Instead of the cheese that we would see in comic books or cartoon films, a gemstone-accessorized crown on top of a naturally-colored leather cushion is carefully —and meticulously— set as bait. Almost unavoidably we’d ask, what kind of animal is to be trapped by such a bait?

Before arriving in front of Perulangan (2022), we could already hear its booming sound. Not to worry if you miss it, though, the environment in which the work is set is rather happily hectic anyway. Once we stand in front of, or around, Perulangan (2022), the boom finally works. We’d suddenly be shocked by it and soon feel anxious, eerie, or even scared. When we finally associate the boom with the gigantic trap, all of the feelings just now become intensified. The pause between these booms are also not as predictable as the firecracker or fireworks on a new year’s eve —that we know wouldn’t have lasted more than 30 minutes. This aural —and temporal— uncertainty adds to the creeps of the giant trap. Somehow the beauty of the crown just disappears, however painstakingly beautiful it was —the colored pencils were merged into a form prior to being carved, the entanglements between the wooden materials of the pencil and the red velvet made it feels even more royal, and however shiny those gemstones are.

We would eventually leave this fright behind —be it because we are scared, annoyed, not interested, or running out of time. Once we stepped out, Perulangan (2022) is no longer confronting our eyes. Yet its terror hasn’t ended. We’d still hear the boom, even if it gets softer and softer the further we go. Each boom, however soft, would have the possibility of invoking that brief horrid feeling. Even when we’re back into our mundane, away from the spaces in which art gets to be staged and given light, the echo of the boom might follow us. Along with the horror that it triggers.


Yogyakarta, 5 April 2022
Grace Samboh
(English translation by Aminah Ibrahim)



  1. Enin Supriyanto, 2009. “Yang Merakit Bahan, Benda, Bentuk, dan Pesan” (He who Assembles Materials, Things, Forms, and Messages) in Yuli Prayitno’s solo exhibition catalogue I Love…, Jakarta: Nadi Gallery.
  2. Seng Yu Jin, 2014. “Unity in Diversity: Archaeologic Excavation of the Peranakan Tionghoa” in in Yuli Prayitno’s solo exhibition catalogue Unity in Diversity: Archaeologic Excavation of the Peranakan Tionghoa. Singapore: Equator Art Projects.
  3. See: Yvonne Spielmann, 2017. Contemporary Indonesian Art. Artists, Art Spaces, and Collectors. Singapore: NUS Press & NIAS Press; Asmudjo Jono Irianto, 2003, in Yuli Prayitno’s work description for the CP Biennale 2003 here (last accessed in 1 April 2022); or Rifky Effendy, 2017, in Yuli Prayitno’s work description for the group show Perjalanan Senyap (Silent Journey) here (last accessed in 1 April 2022).


A+ Gallery booth
Art Jakarta Gardens
7-14 April 2022
Hutan Kota, Plataran, Jakarta, Indonesia

Click here for the bahasa version of the essay.

About Grace Samboh

Believes in unicorn, conviviality and the struggle towards collective subjectivities—even temporarily.
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