Heri Dono

Heri Dono is a multi-media artist whose works incorporate video, music, and found materials. He was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1960 and currently lives in Yogyakarta. Some of the exhibitions he has participated in include: Exploring the Future of the Imagination, the Inter Communication Centre Tokyo, Japan 1997; Universalis, 23rd Biennial International Sao Paulo, Brazil 1996; Traditions/Tensions - Contemporary Art in Asia, the Asia Society, New York 1996; Jurassic Technologies, 10th Biennial of Sydney 1996; Beyond the Borde, 1st Kwangju Biennale, Korea; Inner City, 1997; and Inner City, 1999. In 2000 he received the UNESCO prize for the Promotion of the Arts at the Shanghai Biennale.

Selected Objects


Two Plates
China, Jiangxi Province
Ming period, early 17th century (probably Tianqi era, 1621-1627)
Porcelain painted with underglaze cobalt blue
Each H. 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm), D. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm); 1979.183 and 1979.184

These two plates caught my attention since at first they appear to be identical. But when taking a closer look at the two, small differences emerge and it reminded me of playing a puzzle game, spotting the differences. The two plates side by side look like a pair of binoculars and one must use the left and right eye to compare the two pictures. The almost identical men are Buddhist monks and look to me to be on a long journey, carrying pagodas or what could be a stacks of plates. Perhaps their journey is from China all the way to Japan, where plates such as these were used in the tea ceremony ritual. The monks are depicted barefoot with big toes and walk in a funny manner as though the artist has yet to study the walking image. Their Buddhist robes make them appear birdlike, in particular the one to the right. I feel this adds spiritual context to their appearance, and should they wish they could fly to their destination. I smiled because glancing quickly at the men they seem to be wearing glasses and reminded me of myself.

  Female Figure
Japan, Aomori Prefecture
Final Jomon period (1000-300 B.C.E.)
Earthenware with traces of pigment (Kamegaoka type)
H. 9 7/8 in. (25.1 cm); 1979.198

I chose this representation of an ancient female figure, as well as the figure of a man, because they are both comical and appeal more to me than the more classical artifacts. The woman has been made with artistic license and the emphasis is on her shape. This fat lady gives out a sense of warmth and happiness. I see her to be middle-aged and the way in which her arms hang, I feel that she should be carrying something, weighed down on each side holding buckets of water. In modern times perhaps she would be carrying plastic shopping bags full of groceries. The woman's overall shape is distorted as though what we are seeing is an image from a magic mirror in a fun house. Her conical rice hat and her clothing seem traditional of folk people, I feel as though she's a farmer working in the cold outdoors, even in the snow, because she wears thick, warm clothes that cover part of her face. The thick, strong calves and tiny feet suggest she can't go anywhere in a hurry and therefore is never in a hurry and plods through life.

  Figure of a Man
Japan, Ibaraki Prefecture
Tumulus period, 6th-7th century
Earthenware with traces of pigment
H. 56 in. (142.2 cm); 1979.199

This male figure is different from the female in that he is more serious with a protective nature. The figure looks regal, a man of importance. However his male attributes are not clearly shown. We assume he's male as he wears armor, but in fact the image is unisex with long hair peeping out from under the helmet. (In a strange way the hair style reminded me of Marilyn Monroe with her 50s female hairstyle.) The garment also suggests that the figure is a female. Closer inspection shows that the clothing consists of a tunic and trousers. This suggests that the figure is Chinese or Japanese, however one can't be certain since facial features give no evidence of ethnicity. The helmet looks like those worn by characters in the comic Asterix and by the Vikings, placing the figure in Scandinavia. The helmet could also be a crown like that the Pope wears. The pointed hat suggests someone of importance, perhaps a prince.

He is obviously a warrior and carries a boomeranglike weapon. The pillarlike legs suggest strength and the object he stands on was presumably dug into the ground to support the standing image. His body is markedly deformed with the greatest emphasis being his legs and the body tapering upwards. The overall shape is that of a pyramid and so the suggestion that he guarded a tomb or stood on top of a tomb is fitting.

In conclusion the image reminds me of the character Arjuna in the Wayank Kulit story of the Mahbharata. Arjuna is a handsome male warrior and is usually played by a female to show the extent of his beauty.