Last Words at Roh Projects

Prae Pupityastaporn, Atit Sornsongkram, Tanatchai Bandasak


Last Words on one hand refers to a person’s final articulated words, stated prior to death. There is a sort of existential depth to the noting, and further consideration of such premises, as it relates to the limited time one has to communicate a certain thought or idea during a certain transition, traversing into an unknowable ontological state. There is at times a sense of finality or closure, or a sense of profundity in relation to the attempt to reconcile the abstract nature of death in relation to a reflection upon one’s own life and memories during these final moments. These words sometimes contain certain morsels of truth that resonate to others and become “famous” last words. And
at times the last words attributed to a certain person may not have been their final statements after all, instead constructed or adjusted by others for different purposes and functions altogether. In light of the Covid-19 Pandemic, which has played such a life- changing role upon many of us in ways big and small, there is perhaps a certain compulsion for us to consider those things we would say if we had only but a few last words to say.


Although initially ominous in terms of inclination, Last Words refers as well to an aspiration to look towards new chapters, new horizons, that previously may have appeared to be distant or improbable. Another way to look at Last Words is as a sort of hope to depart conclusively from a certain state to another. We commissioned Bitta, the young daughter of Herbert and Febie, two of three members of Tromarama, to develop our main exhibition graphical image placed in front of our catalogue and wall-text specifically to express these objectives we share, that there is a hope for a certain ending to the particular sense of uncertainty that came with the peak of the pandemic, towards a certain new normal, or new equilibrium of sorts. Despite the fact that there are certain things that may have been transformed more permanently, that this new equilibrium would allow for at the very least an intangible feeling that visiting an exhibition space physically may be safe and unhazardous to one’s wellbeing.


Last Words is itself a certain culmination of sorts arrived towards from a confluence of disparate origins. It is on one hand an end chapter towards a series of exhibitions developed within the constraints of, relating towards, or responding contextually with regards to the Covid-19 pandemic between 2020 - 2021. It involves multifarious efforts to investigate the possibilities of reconfiguring physical exhibitions, online presentations, and many things in between in an attempt to build somewhat of a cohesive program in light of, and in spite of, everchanging situations. This series of projects began with Irwan Ahmett and Tita Salina’s performance lecture Apocalyptic Smile on the 25th of July 2020, which we conducted to a very limited audience, during a time when there more questions than answers regarding how the virus was spreading, and safety protocols were at its earliest points of conception. We worked closely with the Goethe Institute in Jakarta to consider how to conduct a presentation with an abundance of caution: full hazmat suits, face shields, and masks were prepared for each of the invited friends taking a certain risk towards their well-being to attend Apocalyptic Smile. The situation progressed in such a way that physical shows would be difficult to conduct safely, and a series of governmental restrictions in the form of lockdowns began to come into play for the rest of the year and beyond. IRL/In Real Life, a presentation for Art Basel Hong Kong on the 23rd-26th of September 2020, as well as Tiger Orchid, a presentation for Art Basel Miami on the 2nd-6th of December 2020, were reconsidered in terms of their respective methodologies. IRL/In Real Life was fully realized and documented within the confines of the domestic environments of Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo and Syagini Ratna Wulan as it was not possible at the time to conduct activities beyond those constraints at the time. Approaching the end of the year, Bagus Pandega and Kei Imazu developed an exhibition at a shopping mall premises completely that had no tenants renting space for Tiger Orchid. This line of thinking, or attitude, was further continued for a number of exhibitions throughout 2021, including Kaul/Luang, simultaneous solo exhibitions by Luqi Lukman and Maruto Ardi at Selasar Sunaryo Art Space in Bandung in the month of June – July 2021, New Paintings by Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo, a presentation utilizing drone technology to capture a body of works in the context of nature on the 17th- 19th of June 2021, as well as a collaborative work Companion by Davy Linggar, Gary-Ross Pastrana, and Tromarama developed through digital forms of communication and shown at the 2021 iteration of Art Basel Hong Kong. This work acted as the first iteration, or extrapolation of Last Words, that also takes a part in this exhibition.


Last Words began as a series of informal conversations between a number of artists based in Thailand (Atit Sornsongkram and Tanatchai Bandasak), the Philippines (Gary-Ross Pastrana), Indonesia (Tromarama), courtesy of Nova Contemporary and Silverlens Galleries, with the intention to regularly check on and reconnect with each other in light of the respective isolative environments we were all facing at the time. This dialogue would grow in scope through the invitation of all of the artists present in this exhibition. Without a particular end goal in mind, a certain trajectory began to emerge with regards to the possibility of developing a project together as ROH was invited to participate in RHE: Galleries Curate, a series of interconnected presentations developed by our gallery colleagues in different parts of the world, surrounding the theme of water and its flow. For a long time, this project existed in our minds as a certain aspiration towards the idea of realizing at a certain point some kind of normalcy in our respective conditions that would allow us to finally work towards a physical exhibition together. A presentation that may perhaps even travel to their respective places of origin at some conceptual point in the future. The idea of actualizing our conversations into reality seemed so foreign, so beyond the realm of the possible, that perhaps these aspirations belonged more in the realm of dreams than reality.

Last Words
also has implications to the process of conceptualizing, designing, and building the physical space that now holds this exhibition on Jalan Surabaya 66 in the residential district of Menteng with our architect and collaborator Barry Beagen. There is a sense that this three-year time arc between deriving our original intentions to build a space for contemporary art, which in many ways was very personal and intensely developed through an ongoing dialogue, that seems to finally be arriving at a sense of reaching materiality and completion. To then have its first activation manifested by a similarly organic, unrestrictive presentation of works somehow seems apt.


The works in Last Words look at the idea of water from numerous vantage points and perspectives— empirical properties, metaphorical connotations, relationships to spirituality, implications to the quotidian, the essential role it plays in nature, as well as the more sublime and speculative. The ideas brought forth in the exhibition began as large brush strokes in our conversations, and through a more rhizomatic progression of ideas, eventually other artists were invited who each felt cooperatively could add further layers and nuance to the premises presented in the show. Some of these conversations have been included in the accompanying catalogue to the exhibition.

10 December 2021