Arts |

Abenk/Alter: Transcending Dualism into Art 

Arts | 21 December 2018

Abenk Alter is an aspiring progressive, artist in Indonesia’s Urban Pop scene. His passion for arts—conveyed via contemplative observation— is certainly a passion; one that has helped him make art based on human relations. His first solo exhibition is centered on this theme as part of a critique of show, speed and competition in contemporary society.

Indonesian artist Abenk Alter explores dualism in his recent exhibition "Interplay" at Ruci Art Space, Jakarta. Photo courtesy of Ruci Art Space/NOW!JAKARTA 

Held at RUCI Art Space, Abenk’s first solo exhibition INTERPLAY is a reflection of an assessment on the socio-cultural interdependence in the age of anxiety. The crisis of inequality, ethics and urban trends take precedence over social critique. To portray these phenomena, Abenk expresses his critical thinking about the perspective of Dualism, and how it transcends a variety of areas, rather than just two realities.

Dualism opens up a variety of philosophical beliefs—in two. But two of what? By far the most important forms of dualism is mind and body: material and immaterial, mental attributes and physical attributes. Arguments for and against this concept have frequently appeared on how something totally immaterial can affect something totally material. Looking into Abenk’s artworks draws one’s interest in tracing back to the history of Dualism by Plato, Aristotle and Descartes, and thus help one understand the meaning of the exhibit.

Discussion about dualism tends to focus on the belief of the reality of the material world. Then, it draws attention to arguments for why the immaterial substance cannot be treated as simply part of that world. For instance, the mental-and-physical problem is the problem. What is exactly the relationship between mind and body? Then again, what is the relationship between mental attributes and physical attributes? Simply, they cannot be contrasted from differentiation of mind over matter but rather the problem of causal interaction.

His interpretation for dualism portrays a tendency to choose contradictory things as if the world is dual, and therefore we are all conditioned to pick one thing rather than another.

The classical thought originates in Plato’s Theory of Forms in which he argues that the true substances are not physical bodies. That said, one’s physical body and mind are separate attributes. For these reasons, the world is dual according to him, and there is no exact science of matter. The matter is only shaped by virtue of having some particular form.

Aristotle, on the other hand, is against Platonic Forms. He signifies the mind and body as one attribute. He also believes that a person’s soul is no more than their nature as a human being; a manifestation inside the human body that a person could  be said to be a person.  

As I delve into their ideas of dualism, both Plato and Aristotle, at some point, have inclined a bias on their concepts because these doctrines seem to make the soul into a property of the body, thus making it ‘materialistic’.

However, Descartes re-formulates the two concepts, being the first who clearly conceptualises the mind-and-body problem in a more comprehensive and relevant to the modern philosophy. For Descartes, the mind-and-body problem, while being ontologically distinct substances, is a natural form of interaction between immaterial mind and material body. They casually interact in a unique, unifying function through some unspecified way in the pineal gland.

His artwork is not only on the wall display but also on the floor.

In Abenk’s painting, what I see is Surrealism, where he aims at expressing lines and visions free from rational thoughts. Everything is all about understanding the context in which it came about and depicting everyday objects and portraiture in unconventional ways. Manipulation of images and perspectives often leave a sense of unease yet strangely interesting and thought-provoking. The use of personal symbols such as faces, eyes, hearts, birds, sea creatures, plants, fire, robots, etc are what he interprets as multidimensional beings; something immanent and transcendent that lies from within and beyond the edge of the observable of universe.

His interpretation for dualism portrays a tendency to choose contradictory things as if the world is dual, and therefore we are all conditioned to pick one thing rather than another. Furthermore he clarifies in context, “Life is made up of an infinite amount of choices, but we are taught to choose something over something else. Realisation that everything exists has its own duality, which is contradictory but also complements one another, where without one of them there will be no balance. Why don’t we just embrace the differences and try to understand them as of oneness with causal relations to each other between the elements in the bundle? Like a coin that has two sides. On this occasion, it was also right to re-introduce myself ‘naked’ without accessories in black and white.”

INTERPLAY is on display until  27 January 2019 at RUCI Art Space, Jl. Suryo No.49 Blok S, South Jakarta. The exhibition is open from 11 AM - 7 PM.

Follow Abenk Alter on Instagram @abenkalter