The trip uncomfortably framed us almost as ethnographers: fancy curators coming from the “center” (Europe, curating, etc.) to the “margins.” The funny thing was that most of us were not from this so-called center, but from former and current colonies, so this framing was more a source of embarrassment than any indication of privilege. Our schedule was set in advance and supplemented with addresses. It usually worked efficiently everywhere we went, fitting for the globe-trotting curators we wanted to become.
We landed in Jakarta, and chaos ensued. We were stuck in traffic for hours, got lost, were late for most meetings and missed many others. Delay and absence in Jakarta are a collective responsibility, not individual. Everyone is late together; everyone is on time together… At least one hour late, we arrived at ruangrupa’s space-cum-apartment. We were warmly welcomed, and our delay was dismissed with laughter. Ade pointed to a sitting area… We hesitated, looking at the couch and back at Ade. Someone was asleep on it. Ade laughed and told us not to mind Andan, who was a deep sleeper, and to sit down around him. We were chatting and eating when Ade asked where I was from. I said Palestine, and right then Andan shouted from his deep sleep, “AHLAN WA SAHLAN.” He sat up and spoke in perfect Fus-ha Arabic. Everyone was listening intently, although they did not speak the language. Once Andan finished speaking, he waved his arm and said, “let’s have coffee and wake up.”
I now noticed how people took naps everywhere, in public spaces, under stairs, in the shade of a tree… Sleep was not private, not individualized. I guess it is trust in the collective which makes your vulnerability, your delay, your failure, your success shared, and not only your own.