Sin Island

2008–2009
Performance, installation and soundtrack
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Revising a Dutch military intervention in Lombok’s island (Indonesia)

Sin Island was an installation and performance, inspired by documents from the late nineteenth century, which reflected upon the structures of nationalism and “otherness” as a way to define self-identity.

The installation consisted of a black cube containing original military weapons from the Museum Bronbeek and in-situ animal costumes made ​​of papier-maché, inspired by photographs kept in the archives of the KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies.

Seven tableaux-vivants inspired by The Fall of Sin Island, a play by August Mahieu that criticized in 1894 the massive Dutch military intervention in Lombok’s island (Indonesia), were staged inside this dark cube. Four Dutch non-professional actors, recruited via the online newspaper Marktplaats, gave these performances.

The soundtrack, performed by the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, was a military march celebrating the surrender of the city of Cakranegara in Lombok. By slowing the tempo to 1/6, the march became a funeral march.

This project actualize discourses about New Imperialism, a controversial moment in Western history and ask what functions exoticism and authenticity still play today, highlighting how the political and the particular intertwine.

The Presentation

SIN ISLAND – free adaptation of A. Mahieu’s The Fall of Sin Island
Seven tableaux-vivants

ACTORS:
– KING of Pulu Dossah: ELEPHANT
– PRINCES Mohamad Madear: TAPIR
– king of Kebon Manis, Gusti Cantik bin Nabdi: MONKEY
– JAMBRUT chieftains: TIGER
– JAMBRUT officers: KOMODO DRAGON

Presentation of the animals

The Ultimatum (Contract)

The king receives the ultimatum. A canon shot is heard, causing fright and dismay. A vassal king of Pulu Dossah, the king of Kebon Manis (“Sweet Garden”; a play on “Karangasem,” which in Malay means “Sour Garden”) named Gusti Cantik bin Nabdi (“Lord Beauty, son of Servant”; a play on “Jilantik”) restores order. He points out that the enemy’s weapons are not yet in order. If command is handed over to him, he assures the king that he can favorably resolve the situation. The king gives his consent. Cantik leaves to the enemy’s camp to negotiate, accompanied by a few followers.

Set in Pulu Dossah in the capital city of Matahari

Actors: King, Cantik
Sound: Canon
Accesories: Matahari building, contract

The king receives the ultimatum

The Throne Room

The Jambrut chieftains arrive. The old king appears to be in a daze, and without comprehension. The viziers of Jambrut, Danu Bagar (a Malayization of “Dannenbargh”) and Cincin Ayu (“Beautiful Ring”; an approximate Malay translation of “Liefrinck”), examine and confirm the identities of two corpses: they are indeed the bodies of Prince Madear and his wife. A portion of the war indemnity is paid to the Jambrut emissaries. Cantik stays behind in the throne room, and boasts (in a soliloquy) of his good fortune. Prince Madear awakens from his feigned death and plots his revenge with Cantik.

Set in the throne room of Pulu Dossah

Actors: King, Princes, Cantik, Jambrut chieftains
Sound: None
Accesories: Flag, Kris, chair, indemnity

The old king appears to be in a daze, and without comprehension

The Catastrophe (Treason of Lombok)

The Catastrophe depicts the deaths of a chieftain and an officer. Set in the Jambrut encampment at night. It is midnight. With the twelfth sounding of the gong, firearms and explosions go off. Fiasco. The chieftains order the rank and file to hunch over, so as not to be hit by bullets. The officers themselves stand erect and walk calmly as they give commands.

Set in the Jambrut encampment at night

Actors: Jambrut chieftains, Jambrut officers
Sound: Twelve gongs, after firearms and explosions
Accesories: Gong, firearms, explosions

With the twelfth sounding of the gong, firearms and explosions go off

Retribution (Puputan)

Retribution destroys all the buildings in Matahari and take the king captive.

Set in Matahari

Actors: Jambrut chieftains, Jambrut officers, King of Pulu Dossah
Accesories: Matahari building destroy

Retribution destroys all the buildings in Matahari and take the king captive

Revelation

There is a statue of the Buddha and a cave. Voices of prisoners singing the “Miserere” from Verdi’s Jl trovatore. A shot is heard and all is quiet. Cantik emerges from the cave and, in a soliloquy, demonstrates delusions of godhood. An unseen voice disillusions him, saying that his gods have forsaken him. A genie emerges from the ground, reproves Cantik for his sins, and disappears.

Cantik throws himself to the earth and says, “Yes, I repent. It is true that the king of Jambrut is a mighty king. But it is now too late to turn back. I must now defend myself. I am not afraid. I am a lion, an eagle, a shining star fallen from heaven’s pinnacle.

Set in a cave

Actors: Cantik, voices singing the “Miserere” from Verdi’s Jl trovator
Sound: “Miserere” from Verdi’s, shot and monologue
Accesories: Buddha

Cantik emerges from the cave and, in a soliloquy, demonstrates delusions of godhood

Apotheosis

Prince Madear is captured and bound. In the foreground, the flag-waving guardian angel of Binuwa Bawah Angin encircled by angels. In the background, the princes of Pulu Dossah. The princes have been forced to bend over and a soldier’s foot is on each prince’s neck.

Set in a poetic image

Actors: Jambruts, Princes
Accesories: Flag

In the foreground, the flag-waving guardian angel of Binuwa Bawah Angin encircled by angels

Annex: Historic documents

Annex: Actors

Annex: Blackcube

Annex: soundtrack and posters from the installation

Credits

The project was realised with the support of Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam Artis Zoo (Natura Artis Magistra), KITLV, Tropenmuseum (Royal Tropical Institute), Museum Bronbeek (KTOMMB) and Conservatorium van Amsterdam.

Sin Island (2008), revising a Dutch military intervention

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Presentation
  3. The Ultimatum (Contract)
  4. The Throne Room
  5. The Catastrophe (Treason of Lombok)
  6. Retribution (Puputan)
  7. Revelation
  8. Apotheosis
  9. Annex: Historic documents
  10. Annex: Actors
  11. Annex: Blackcube
  12. Annex: soundtrack and poster
  13. Credits