Unspoken Language: Melati Suryodarmo [Indonesia]

“She enters the space to sounds of beating Indonesian drums. Stepping on 20 slabs of butter positioned in the center of the floor, she starts to dance; the movements of her body become faster and faster as the beats accelerate. She slips and falls, hitting the floor, but rises and continues. As the butter melts, her falls become more frequent and violent. Fear is visible in her eyes each time she loses control. After 20 minutes, exhausted and covered in butter, she takes off her heels and leaves.

First presented in 2000 at the Hebbel Theatre in Berlin, Exergie – Butter Dance has become an iconic work for performance artist Melati Suryodarmo. We meet amid the frenzy of the inaugural Art Basel in Hong Kong at the Pawn, a casual, trendy lounge in Wan Chai district. Petite and attired in an all-black outfit—the classic artist’s look—she is also sporting her signature ruby-hued high heels. Suryodarmo laughs as she tells me that she never thought of becoming an artist. Having received her first degree in international relations at the Universitas Padjadjaran in Bandung, Indonesia, she moved in 1994 with her first husband to Braunschweig, Germany, planning to continue her education. Unable to find a suitable program, she instead spent her first year retouching photographs. …”


Read ArtAsiaPacific’s profile on Indonesian performance artist Melati Suryodarmo here.

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