IF WE WERE XYZ

Two of photos of artist Melati Suryodarmo are placed side by side. The artist is dressed in all white and the photo captures her in movement.

One of Asia’s most important contemporary artists, Melati Suryodarmo, has been creating powerful, immersive performance work for nearly twenty-five years. She premieres a durational performance, entitled IF WE WERE XYZ at Asia Society Museum. In this new work, she explores dreams—both in the sense of the subconscious experiences we have while sleeping and the conscious aspirations we have when awake. Drawing upon Javanese mysticism, the artist’s own dreams documented in a self-devised sleep laboratory, and other sources, Suryodarmo’s intensive research process leads to a visceral three-hour performance. IF WE WERE XYZ will feature a live journeying through a powerful dreamscape; Suryodarmo collaborated with technologist Antonius Oki Wiriadjaja to decipher dreams collected in her sleep laboratory which inspired the compositions vocalist/composer Jessika Kenney has created for the piece.

Entry with museum admission and permitted at any point during the three-hour performance. Space limited.

This performance also occurs on Friday, October 18 from 58 p.m.

On Tuesday, October 15, Suryodarmo discusses her artistic practice, developed over 25 years and influenced by Javanese meditation, Japanese butoh, and study of performance art with Marina Abramović, in the artist talk Body As Container.

Concept and performance: Melati Suryodarmo
Music: Jessika Kenney
Technologist and interactive systems design: Antonius Oki Wiriadjaja

Suryodarmo’s performances are part of Asia Society's Creative Common Ground, an initiative focused on the commissioning of interdisciplinary works that bring together artists and talents from different disciplines. Creative Common Ground is supported in part by a three-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Melati Suryodarmo is a performance artist based in Java, Indonesia. She studied under Butoh dancer Anzu Furukawa and performance artist Marina Abramović in Germany, where Suryodarmo earned a degree in fine art and an MFA in performance art at the Braunschweig University of Art. Suryodarmo is known for her highly physical, time-based performances in which she investigates identity, energy, politics and relationships between the body and its environments. She has performed in international festivals and exhibitions since 1996, including at the National Gallery of Australia (Canberra, 2019), Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum for Contemporary Arts (Berlin, 2018), Singapore Biennale (Singapore, 2016), Guangzhou Triennale (Guangzhou, 2015), Venice Biennale Dance Festival (Venice, 2007), eBent festival (Barcelona, 2007), AccionMAD! (Madrid, 2006), and Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival (São Paolo, Brazil, 2005). Suryodarmo was awarded “Best Artist” by Art Stage Jakarta in 2017. In addition to her performance art practice, Suryodarmo is a curator and cultural organizer. Since 2007, she has organized the annual Performance Art Laboratory Project for the interdisciplinary arts institution Padepokan Lemah Putih in Solo, Indonesia. In 2012, she founded “Studio Plesungan” an art space which functions as a performance art laboratory. In 2017, she was the Artistic Director of the Jakarta Biennale, one of the core visual arts biennale in Southeast Asia. melatisuryodarmo.com

Jessika Kenney is a vocalist, composer, and teacher whose work extends the vocal traditions of Indonesian sindhenan and Persian radif into new realms by way of contemporary composition and improvisation. Internationally regarded for the elegiac timbral quality of her voice, her practice of sphygmoresonance, or resonance of pulse, entails ritualistic focus and reverence for inner architecture that emanates a palpable sense of stillness. Kenney’s interest in the full spectrum experience of sound has led to collaboration with a wide range of experimentalists, while her partnership with composer/violist Eyvind Kang has yielded five spellbinding albums of minimal, delicate beauty. A student of radif with Ostad Hossein Omoumi, Kenney’s music is timeless, yet steeped in textual research, respectful of its spiritual roots while invoking unknown futures. jessikakenney.com

Antonius Oki Wiriadjaja is an American artist living in Surakarta, Indonesia. He helped record and convert the raw electroencephalogram (EEG) data into musical scores and visual representations for IF WE WERE XYZ. He received a B.A. from Hampshire College, where he was the lab manager for the school's cognitive neuroscience laboratory. He worked as a researcher for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs geriatric neuropsychology lab before attending and graduating from the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at the New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Performing Arts. He has taught interactive media for NYU in Shanghai, Berlin and New York. He was a 2018-2019 Fulbright U.S. Senior Scholar at the Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI), Surakarta, a prestigious art school in Central Java. He is currently a research fellow with the American Institute for Indonesian Studies. antoni.us