Dua Dunia

Leyla Stevens

Presented in association with Perth Festival 2021

Conversation: On Multiplicity, Ecology & Artistic Practice, Saturday 27 February, 4-5pm
Closing Event: Saturday 27 February, 5-7pm

Dua Dunia (Dual Worlds) is the first solo exhibition in Perth by Australian-Balinese artist Leyla Stevens, whose work engages with historical memory, places and archives using moving image, photography and objects.

Focused on the far-reaching consequences of the 1965-1966 anti-communist purges in Bali artist Leyla Stevens sensitively works with the layered complexity of transcultural geographies and (largely repressed) histories defining the site’s discordant realities. Honouring the persistence of trauma that emanates from the haunting presence of mass graves in Bali – that are just one consequence of this tragic period – Dua Dunia inducts audiences into a deepened awareness of the ways in which the place comes into fractured being in the affective zone between its increasingly urbanised topology and its psycho-geographical wounds. 

The show centres around Kidung, a three-channel video installation. In this work, a ballad of witness and testimony, sung by Cok Sawitri, is interwoven with the image of the banyan tree. The site of a mass grave in south Bali, this banyan tree is a record of time, a marker of unseen spirit activity, and witness to the island’s hidden histories.

Extending this living archive beyond the site of Bali, to acknowledge the artist’s own history of migration and existence in that ‘in-between’ space, the banyan tree has itself experienced migration and displacement. Swept up within ecological and colonial flows, becoming a form of ‘memory without borders’, it resists ossification in the narratives of cultural globalisation. Its dendrochronological record cannot betray the geographic, political and cultural groundings of its historical past. The banyan tree, like the process of migration itself, is capable of expanding our horizons of time and space beyond the local to encompass a global future.

Making visible the connections between disparate histories and visible topographies – a banyan tree and the missing dead – Dua Dunia navigates historical memory through a spectral cartography, serving to re-frame Bali’s invisible landscapes as expanded archives of place.

Curator: Rachel Ciesla

Conversation: On Multiplicity, Ecology & Artistic Practice, 4pm, Saturday 27 February
This is the utopia of diasporic existence: to be present in two worlds at once in spite of the poor dialectics that link them, and to make it possible in each of them to inhabit and to develop the possibilities of a life in spite of all.
– Nadia Yala Kisukidi, 'Geopolitics of the Diaspora'

Moderated by Paul Boyé, this conversation will explore artistic practice in the context of diasporic life, the relevance of our old and new cultural ties to Indonesia and its complex and shifting place in the zone of our own statehood as it is articulated beyond a monolithic, border-centric 'unity'.

Thinking through Édouard Glissant’s definition of the diaspora as ‘the passage from unity to multiplicity,’ this conversation will ask, how do we navigate living amidst these contested narratives, what can we learn from Australia’s role in the political histories of Indonesia and the region more broadly, and how might we use these departures and multitudes to better understand our present condition.

Speakers include Nathan Beard, Leyla Stevens, Aisyah Sumito and Jaxon Waterhouse.

Dua Dunia has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.