The Why Question

Dear all

The lizard-like creatures that live in every house here are called tokeh’s. What’s in a name? Well, it’s more like ‘the name gives it away’. For the last few years they used to drop their u know what just in front of my desk. Splash from 20 feet high. Now they changed the location of their toilet, it’s just above my desk. Laptop, books, nothing is sacred to them.    I guess I should’ve expected it, in Dutch Tokkie is slang for a very antisocial person.

The bats do the same from the top of the roof but that’s outside and.., bats bring luck is what they say. So, filthy too but different. The pump of the pool got stuck, it happens. A bit of dirt in the valve and the water runs back in the reservoir that, at one point, overflows. Easy to solve, start the pump again, dirt goes away and ready. Not if right at that moment the electricity goes off. Garden under water, pool half empty. (Or should I, to be positive, speak of the pool being half full?) And a rat stole my adhesive tape in the studio. Found it back later under the kiln, still adhesive, no tape anymore. I think that’s about it as far as my problems go, can’t think of more.

It’s called lucky. It also leaves plenty of room to think, a luxury; often a pleasure, sometimes a burden. Most people here have their hands (and heads) full with their daily chores. Although less extreme than in Africa here also the main question is how to get food on the table. That, and the instalments for the motorbike, electricity and, of course, how am I going to pay for all those offerings and ceremonies. Schooling of the kids is then, maybe no surprise, not the first priority for many and that way things stay the way they are. Thinking about life is and how it should be; not so many thoughts in that field. The, sometimes radical, developments in Indonesian society hardly get any attention. In a long conversation with an expert on education from Singapore we concluded that the ‘why’ question is banned from Indonesian schools. ‘Learn children how to think, not what to think’ I read somewhere. Apparently that leads to an uncertainty that is so threatening that the establishment here doesn’t want to go there. When my friend, during a school visit, suggested that the teacher would let the kids name the fruit she had in her hand in stead of telling them it was an apple, to let the kids tell which colour it was and maybe even, later, cut the apple and explore the inside, the teacher thought that all too confusing. And no, they were not allowed to cut fruit.

A thinking (middle) class is the nightmare of every dictator, of every society that suppresses. It’s not the first time that I think that the dis-functional school-system here is what some people actually want it to be. The why? As always power and money are involved but I’ll never understand. In fact, there is a lot I don’t understand. A (Dutch) politician is caught in small-scale, unjustified claims towards the government for reimbursement. The same guy, tough on each and every citizen that gets one euro too much, calls this something small and unimportant.

It’s postponed but it doesn’t look like it will be cancelled, another nine people will be led in front of a firing squad. Among the victims – is there another word for it? – two Australians. There are many reason to oppose capital punishment, one is plenty for me; you do not bring yourself down to the same level of the perpetrator. Possible perpetrator in fact, because history shows us that in every system mistakes are made. Like the Netherlands did a few weeks ago, the Australian government does its utmost to not let this happen, not to its own citizens that is. We, Australia, did help you ten years ago when the tsunami struck with a billion dollar; you owe this to us. And there is also the threat of a boycott of Bali as a tourist destination.

Something small in the ocean of disasters that overflow the world, nevertheless with human lives at stake. A bitter illustration of a difference in mentality, also of selective indignation and a western attitude of superiority that finds its counterpart in a feeling in this country to be seen as ‘less’. Capital punishment has to stop but these steps bring heels in the sand.

In the meantime I work for my exhibition at Glass Gallery Leerdam in the Netherlands that opens on May 17. Below two object, both inspired by, based on a poem. (Sorry, quite impossible to translate.)

Love, FrankIMG_2120_2



Speaking terms

He is eight years old and at the, three times repeated, question if he was Charlie his answer was negative. No, NO, NO??? No, he was for the terrorists. A few hours long this, life-threatening kid was interrogated bye the police. No, he didn’t know what terrorism was but he was Muslim and those cartoons shouldn’t be.
The terrorists have success; panic and ridiculous behaviour and the result will be, no doubt, more pain and sadness than we have seen so far.

Dear All,
Family expansion. I’m a bit late but now it’s happening and, in a grand way. In the pond along the house live about 30 comets, small red/orange fish. Lived because it’s not so anymore. A count this morning learned that in the meantime there are at least fifty. Fat papa’s and mama’s and tiiiiiny small ones. Is it a sign they’re happy or are they so bored that, well, you know… I have no idea but I enjoy the miracle.

Many people in Penestanan are busy with the upcoming cremations. Tonight I had dinner at Ibu Putu’s and she spends every free minute on the making of specific parts of offerings that have to be brought. Mountains, huge mountains of offerings. Four members of her family passed away in the last years and will be cremated now. She so hopes it will be enough; diligent tinkering every day and she still worries. It’s not like it is in the West but here sincere engagement touches me. Hinduism is one of the big world-religions (although most Indians, India being the biggest Hindu country, wouldn’t recognize the customs in Bali) and from the rituals I hardly understand anything at all. What is hidden behind those rituals is not much different from anywhere else. A religious feeling that is being canalized through local custom. It’s a pity that church-like institutions and religion almost became synonymous whereas a religious attitude, of course, doesn’t have to involve an institution. The other way around not either I often think. It’s not the Ibu Putu’s of this world that gave religion a bad reputation; it’s the power-institutes that grossly abuse the search for the meaning of life that is present in all of us.

The police are quite in the picture these days. The proposed new head of police is, by the commission that is installed to fight corruption, accused of just that; corruption. Just before his appointment. He deposited 150 million cash (dollar, not rupiah) in account in the name of his 20 year old son. It’s something that raised a few eyebrows so the appointment had to wait. Not to the liking of a number of politicians because other skeletons might come out of the same closet. Not to the liking of the police either so they, in return, accused all of the members of this commission of different crimes and irregularities. And just now it came out that a judge forbade the commission to point at this policeman as a suspect. The suspicion that you could bend the law a bit when you have a 150 million is not totally without base.
The traffic, the little thefts as far as they are there, all sorts of petty crime in the meantime, remain a nice opportunity to line the pockets of the police. Almost everything is for sale.
It is not out of compassion that, in retrospective, I think it wasn’t a good plan. But for sure, it wasn’t. In Kuta, I wrote it before, you don’t want to be found dead there, I slipped through a traffic light that was, just, red. Not good but in the chaos traffic is on this island, a bit less serious than in e.g. the Netherlands. The ‘hey, Hey, HEY’ of the police on the other side of the street was loud enough but I decided not to hear it and drove on, fast. Then I remembered that last time, when I almost slipped through red, an officer came after me on his motorbike. Driving faster still? Not an option. I went into a store to ‘buy something’. Just in time, from inside I could see a policeman driving by, searching for, I think, me. So it worked? No, not really. First I’ve been sitting in front of the shop, half hidden behind a car, like a criminal on the run. Then, with hesitation, went on and even twelve streets further I was still looking behind me if not… That night I woke up twice because a policeman was standing at my bed. Not a good plan indeed. That I deprived some policemen of their bribe doesn’t worry me but still, next time better not through red.
I work hard at my exhibition that will open in Leerdam Glass Gallery on May 17. I work hard and with pleasure; to express myself and in the hope to provoke some thoughts. It’s not meant to test out where the boundaries are by trespassing them.
Mister Lars Vilks wanted to challenge political correctness so he made a drawing of Muhammed as a dog. That it would generate so much commotion among Muslims, he hadn’t expected. ‘Maybe naïve’ he now says. I stick to the opinion that each and every person has the right to express him/herself in a way he/she deems necessary. The only acceptable response is by (written) words, no act of violence can be trivialized in the least or, worse, be approached with understanding. And still I wonder what we’re making of this world when ideas like those of Mister Vilks become commonplace. When, as I believe it is, art is communicating we have to make sure we stay ‘on speaking terms’.
Love, Frank

Glass and silver. Based on a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke
staand liggend

Was mich bewegt


Man muss den Dingen

die eigene, stille,

ungestörte Entwicklung lassen,

die tief von innen kommt,

und durch nichts gedrängt

oder beschleunigt werden kann;

alles ist austragen –

und dann

gebären …


Reifen wie der Baum, der seine Säfte nicht drängt

und getrost in den Stürmen

des Frühlings steht ,

ohne Angst,

dass dahinter kein Sommer

kommen könnte.

Er kommt doch!


Aber er kommt nur zu den Geduldigen

die da sind,

als ob die Ewigkeit vor ihnen läge,

so sorglos still und weit …


Man muss Geduld haben,

gegen das Ungelöste im Herzen,

und versuchen, die Fragen selber lieb zu haben,

wie verschlossene Stuben,

und wie Bücher, die in einer sehr fremden Sprache

geschrieben sind.


Es handelt sich darum, alles zu leben.

Wenn man die Fragen lebt,

lebt man vielleicht allmählich,

ohne es zu merken,

eines fremden Tages

in die Antwort hinein.


Rainer Maria Rilke