woensdag 3 augustus 2016

Critical Spiritualism in Context: Ayu Utami and Erik Prasetya

Mangunwijaya did not like to write about Theology of Liberation, but rather about Theology of Development. Also in his criticism of institutional religion he was not so hard and wrote with new terminology like religiositas about religious feelings and practices that were not bound to one well organised, defined and closed religion.
Ayu Utami gave in Tilburg a talk in early June where she also went on the soft vocabulary. She is no longer attacking the three M: Modernity, Military and Monotheism, (like in the book Bilangan Fu), but now she tries to define Critical Spiritualism. In February 2015 she published together with her husband Erik Prasetya a small bilangual book (Indonesian and English) under the title Banal Aesthetics & Critical Spiritualism (Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedi).
Erik writes about the art of taking pictures while considering Sebastiao Salgado is his example for Street Photography. As far as I can understand it, he wants to take pictures not of artificial and  planned or even 'orchestrated' picture, but  it is only poccible if you have a knowledge and vision of society yourself. Salgado was a student of economy byt the found that he could better show his vision of the world through pictures than through learned articles (and so contribute to a more prosperous and more human society).
In her own contribution Ayu Utami puts some quite general question like: Apa itu keindahan? What is beauty? When is a photograph or a writing a piece of art? When is it more than just a nice picture, a nice story, or even a philosophical consideration? Ayu turns to the biblical stories. First to Adam and Eve, compared to the story of Rama and Sinta. Second comes the story of babel, language multiplied and a cause of trouble among people. The sumpah pemuda of 1928, when Indonesian youth promoted an independent and unified Indonesia with one Indonesian language is put forward as an ideal.
In her conclusion she remains rather vague: Criticial spirituality is openness to the spiritual without betraying critical rational thought. Like for Erik the pictures are more powerful than theoretical writings, Ayu is better in the narrative than the abstract theory. Quite good that she put some storytelling here as well, although the theory remained somewhat meagre.

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