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Bon Suwung (2012)

Bon Suwung is a collaborative project which explores wasteland potentials as a territory that creates a viable transformation of the relation between people and city-spaces. The project title inspired by Gunawan Maryanto’s fiction narrative (2005) is used here to represent the complexity surrounding wasteland formations in Indonesia, particularly in Yogyakarta. In its etymological sense, the Javanese term ”Bon Suwung” can be literally translated as “Blank Garden” which carries specific performative dimensions. The word “garden” here refers to facets of ownership and cultivability of an empty lot. While “suwung” or blank here is closer to specific mental experiences, rather than a physical quality, not unlike tabula rasa. Hence, this project foregrounds the wasteland condition in Yogyakarta as always already entwined with social practices, urban environments and wider discourse of cultural space, both in Indonesian and global contexts.

The preliminary forms of this project has been facilitated in the Wasteland Twinning Network, a cross-disciplinary global initiative for parallel research and action on wastelands. Building up from the case study of the network as a pilot site in Yogyakarta, KUNCI Cultural Studies Center seeks to expand it into a platform for discussion as well as action with local stakeholders, where forms of transdisciplinary participations are pushed towards imaginative-approaches and open circulations. This way the everyday practices on/of wastelands that are still unexplored in formal narratives, -such as in accounts of regulation and functionality, as well as history of property conflicts, can be charted and posed as a critique to the cultural politics of urban development.