〈Napak Tilas (Traceback)〉, 2023.

Sound installation, domestic cardboard, acoustic foam, dimensions variable.
Commissioned by Asia Culture Center. Courtesy of the artist.

The city we walk brims with sounds. Mira Rizki Kurnia is fascinated with all the soundscapes in the city, and explores the ideas of memory and perception through her interaction with such sounds. In Napak Tilas (Traceback), the artist traces the historical memories of the riot which took place due to the abuse of power in Jakarta Indonesia in May 1998, and the Gwangju uprising in May 1980, and attempts to link the two incidents that happened in separate places through sound. For this work, Kurnia collected sounds that she found while walking in Jakarta and Gwangju, and discovered the voices of those who experienced the incident through published media. A new soundscape is composed through the collected sounds, and the exchange of memories between cities takes place as the sounds from Jakarta tell the story about the incident in Gwangju, and the sounds from Gwangju tell the story about Jakarta. The Indonesian word “Napak Tilas,” also the title of the work, means to reflect on important events or experiences from the past and connecting them with the present. Kurnia’s work experiments with the way we perceive and remember through sound. This sound becomes the very source through which she forms relationships between the two different places of Jakarta, the artist’s hometown, and Gwangju, a new city she has formed connections with. Furthermore, the sounds also link the moments of the past as experienced through her late mother, and the very present the artist resides.

1.Gwangju memory

The composition was constructed from Jakarta’s recent urban sound material. It was arranged based on the data about ‘the acoustic situation’ of the people during the Gwangju Uprising period (May 1980) gathered from public media such as interviews, journals, documentaries, etc. The narration made for the composition tells the walking journey along the uprising march, beginning the walk from Chonnam University to the Central Provincial office building. It starts with walking along with the crowds from Chonnam University, then passing the Gwangju station, encountered by the military troops, the march continues to the governmental area passing through the central bus terminal, shopping areas, and broadcasting offices, and ending up with silence after the event.
The sound materials were collected from the areas that are considered the primary place where May 1998 tragedy happened in Jakarta.

2. Jakarta Memory

This Jakarta May 1998 tragedy ‘acoustic situation’ composition was constructed from Gwangju’s recent urban sound material. Some data such as public journals, interviews, news, documentaries, and personal stories are used as references for this composition. The composition narrates briefly from the beginning of the tragedy, the riot at Trisakti University, the burning and destruction of Klender Department Store, the riot at Glodok shopping and residential area, and ends with a silent situation inside a silent room that represents the government’s room surrounded by a massive demonstration from all over Indonesian students at the parliamentary building.
The sound materials were collected from the areas that are considered Gwangju Uprising landmarks.

3. In Between

A composition constructed from both scenes took place which juxtaposed similar sound forms and sources. This composition shows how we compare two similar situations in different places, correspondence the listening perception between Jakarta and Gwangju in Mira Rizki Kurnia’s Napak Tilas (Traceback) during the creation of the work. Through these daily and ubiquitous sounds, the speculation of the ‘acoustic situation’ during Jakarta May 1998 and Gwangju May 1980 has been built.

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