Mapping Java

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A participatory workshop on mapping physical and cultural connectivity across Java.


Chu chu cha cha chu…, a train carries many things as it moves across the land; people, cargo, ambitions, ideas, cultures, and histories. The space within a train is experienced as both public and private at the same time, a meeting point for people from different places going to different places.

“Where are you from, and where are you going?” marks the intersection of individual projections of identity and sense of place, forming a larger network of shared experiences, a collective imagination of Java itself. Wherever you go by train, the whole of Java travels with you.

This workshop experiments with the concept of literally drawing out a personal map of Java, in a bid to understand how physical and cultural boundaries are never fixed, but in fact fluid.

Open call to participants from different parts of Java (and beyond) who are currently based in Jogja.

Description (Bahasa Indonesia)

tut..tut..tut…tut…. ketika melintas, sebuah kereta membawa berbagai muatan, mulai dari manusia, cargo, ambisi, gagasan, kebudayaan dan sejarah. Ruang yang terdapat di dalam kereta api menjadi pengalaman yang dirasakan baik secara privat dan publik, ia menjadi ruang temu antara berbagai manusia dari bermacam tempat yang menuju ke lokasi yang juga beragam.

Pertanyaan seperti “Dari mana dan mau ke mana?” menunjukkan sebuah interseksi atas proyeksi individu atas identitas dan soal bagaimana kita memaknai ruang, yang pada gilirannya akan membentuk jaringan pengalaman bersama, sebuah imajinasi kolektif atas Jawa. Kemana pun kita pergi dengan kereta, seluruh Jawa turut ambil bagian dalam perjalanan tersebut.

Lokakarya ini akan bereksperimen dengan dan melalui konsep Jawa, dengan menggambar peta Jawa, untuk kemudian membicarakan sekali lagi soal batas-batas kebudayaan dan fisik yang selalu cair dan tidak pernah tuntas.

Workshop day

This workshop began from the idea of visualising Java not through photographs, text, or satellite data, but personal connections. During my last residency in Kluang, I experimented with the idea of asking locals in a wet market to sketch out the map of the area they occupy. Using an updated methodology, and with a more structured format, I attempted the same in Java.

In collaboration with the Indonesian Visual Arts Archive (IVAA), and supported by the FY2019 Asia Center Fellowship Program FY2019, the workshop was scheduled on the 7th of February, with free admission for registrants.

All 14 participants came from different parts of Java, except for two from Sumatera and Kalimantan. One of the participants had previously traveled on the entire railway network. Instinctively, he began connecting the dots with a railway line, even filling in gaps between towns and cities as marked by the others.


The workshop began with a simple introduction and setting of goals. Combining four pieces of mahjong paper, the first task was to decide collectively which direction was North. Since any way could have been north on paper, it was an interesting opportunity for the group to establish group dynamics. The steps below outlines the methodology of the workshop.

1. Brief introduction and setting of goals
2. Participants collectively decide positions of the compass
3. Mark your own hometown
4. Draw (in whatever way) icons or symbols that you think represent the identity of your own hometown.
5. Mark cities and towns you are familiar with/frequently travel to
6. Presentation: talk about your own hometown
7. Discussion on the bigger picture. What is missing?

The resulting map reflected not the actual geography of the island, but rather a collective projection of each participants culture and identity. Towards the end of the session, each participant were given 10 minutes to talk about what they have sketched out, and this became an exciting opportunity for cultural exchange as every one else listened, and chimed in their own thoughts and feelings.

1 Java
Part 1 Cilegon, Tangerang, Jakarta, Bekasi
2 Java
Part 2 Karawang, Sukabumi, Pekalongan, Kendal
3 Java
Part 3 Semarang, Lasem, Jogja, Solo, Madiun
4 Java
Part 4 Kertosono, Sidarjo, Blitar, Probolingo, Banyuwangi

In a world smothered by data, and in the case of maps, freely accessible ultra-accurate maps with street-view, traffic data, and GPS, the act of drawing a map is silly. But charting a personal map is an interesting way of visualising boundaries of knowledge, experience, and sometimes ambition. The exercise also creates for a highly interactive and light-hearted environment for participants, allowing them to express and jab at each other without fear of being judged.

This is a project that is perfect for the classroom, or even at home. All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil/pen. The steps outlined above (2-6) can be scaled up to the size of the entire planet, or down to the boundaries of your own room. Anything can be mapped.

This workshop concludes my two months in Java for Longing and Belonging: Railway heritage in Southeast Asia and Japan, a research project sponsored by the FY2019 Asia Center Fellowship Program.

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