Oototol (ca.1943 - 2012)

 

Oototol was born ca.1943 during the Japanese occupation in the village of Pengosekan, to the South of the famous Ubud. He never went to school, both because his parents could not afford it and because he was somehow “different” from his village peers.
He did not fit, nowhere, behaved as if being the host of some “outside” forces –what the Balinese call bebainan– and reacted in strange, compulsive-obsessive ways, that soon had him turn into the village fool. He came of age during the heydays of Indonesian nationalism, when Sukarno’s speeches, heard on radio, were turning crazy crowds in the smallest Indonesian villages.
The great leader slammed the West in imaginative words and acronyms that carved themselves in people’s memory: vivere pericoloso, Nekolim (Neo-Colonialism-Imperialism), Ganefo (Games of New Emerging Forces) etc. Later on came the military, who took up a definitive visual shape with the arrival of TV sets in village houses. This did not escape Oototol’s attention.
So, the mythical nation, Sukarno, its founding father, and the military, all became “presences” that imprinted themselves in his poor “village fool’s” mind. Sometime in the 1980s, the Italian artist Mondo, gave Oototol a brush and Chinese ink, those “presences” burst out into the real to become art. An outsider art, full of military uniforms, dark-glassed characters, with Sukarno and his typical hat standing in row in a strange, uncanny demonstration of power. We can say that Oototol works are an involuntary testimony to the power of power in Indonesian short history.

Prof. Jean Couteau P.h.D.

 

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