At my previous house, I used to have a place to hide. It was a spot behind the closet inside my parents’ room. The closet was touching the edge of the bed, and its other side was touching the wall. So it was a perfect place to sit, to build your ‘fort’ from the pillows, or simply to read a book.
I just realized that the spot used to be my favorite one. It’s not the bedroom, it’s not the living room, or the bathroom, but it is this spot that made me feels like home. This spot had became my own ‘space’. I used to read a book and also thinking, rushed myself with the questions and ideas that always came to my head.
When I sit on certain places, I will imagining things easily. I will turning myself in on every book I read, be able to visualize it easier than ever.
Weird, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s not?
A little place can build a very large space. It’s just a spot in my parents’ bedroom, which I think existed accidentally, but it could formed a lot of things in my mind. Sometimes we tend to see a value of a place only based on its ‘price’. Whether it’s luxurious, fulfilled the aesthetics requirements, beautiful to look at, or ‘functional’. Well, some ugly places could be highly valuable. Of course, it’s depends on every person’s experiences and needs, but what I want to highlight here is, is it possible that every single place has its own value, or maybe its own story?
The space that came from my favorite spot might be only in my mind, but it contributes my future. Have you ever think that maybe you were on a place that is actually very important to you, but you never realized it? That you have this favorite place to sit and to think, but you never count it as important, because it’s not as valuable as you think it supposed to be?
Some unusual place could be highly valuable. We might re-explore our house and looking for something that we tend to miss. I still pick my hidden fortress as my favorite. Although it’s not exist anymore, but I could still recall it on my head whenever I want to. How about yours?
Some people love someone, they are willing to do anything. Some husband loves their wife, he made an eternal tomb when she died. Some man forgives every mistakes the woman made, for he is keep waiting for her love. Some love stories are just a tragedy.
This is a story about a girl who was being loved, but she couldn’t love in return. She was a very beautiful princess. She has the most beautiful body in the kingdom, for she was slender. Her name is Rara Jonggrang (Slender Virgin).
She was an anomaly, because her form is human. While her father, Prabu Boko, was an ogre. Rara Jonggrang was a princess in Kingdom of Boko, a kingdom ruled by ogres. One day, Prabu Boko was trying to expand his territory by conquering their neighboring kingdom, Pengging. Prabu Boko trained his ogres army, his best fighters and do everything he had to do in order to win the battle. Prabu Boko was so sure that he’s gonna win the battle, because he knew that Pengging were inhabit by humans. No human would win against ogres. But what he didn’t know was that the Pengging’s prince, Bandung Bondowoso, were not an ordinary human.
Bandung Bondowoso were trained in magic and wizardry, something that even an ogre should be afraid of. He could transforms and curses things, he could summons the ancestors spirit, and no ones could defeat him. Prabu Boko didn’t know this, and he lost all of his ogres and soldiers when he fought Pengging. The King of Ogre met his death.
It was a desperate times for Kingdom of Boko. Rara Jonggrang missed her father badly, and he hated the man who killed her father. But it was only a time when Bandung Bondowoso come to Boko to claim his victory, and meet the princess in person. Rara Jonggrang was very enchanting that Bandung Bondowoso mesmerized by her.
But Rara Jonggrang hated the man, for he was the one who take his father away from her. There was no way Bandung Bondowoso could marry her, although Rara Jonggrang knew that she could do almost nothing. Bandung Bondowoso was the new ruler of Kingdom Boko, and it is only time that the prince lay his hand on her.
Bandung Bondowoso asked the girl to marry him. Rara Jonggrang rejected it at first, but Bandung Bondowoso kept trying. Finally Roro Jonggrang accepted it, with two conditions. First, the prince must dig a well name Jalatunda. Second, the prince must build a thousand temples in one night.
Just like her father, Rara Jonggrang underestimated the prince’s supernatural power. Bandung Bondowoso could do almost anything. He dug Jalatunda with his own hand, tried his best to impress the princess. While Bandung Bondowoso was working on the well, Rara Jonggrang pushed him so he went down, fell into the well. Asking help from her friends, Rara Jonggrang piled stones on it and buried the prince alive.
Bandung Bondowoso were stronger than anybody expected, he escaped from the well. Bandung Bondowoso forgave the princess, and tried to impress her once again. He built the mightiest and most beautiful thousand temples in Java, just like the princess ordered him.
He meditated and summoned the great ancient spirit of Demons, and he asked them to build thousand temples in one night. It was an easy job for the Demons, the only thing would stop their mighty work is the sunrise. So the Demons were working fast, until they made it with the 999th temples. It’s only one more and Roro Jonggrang have to marry Bandung Bondowoso any time soon. Roro Jonggrang knew this. She’s still hate the prince. She wouldn’t be forced to be married, and she would do anything to stop him.
The slender lady asked her friends once more, to light the fire in the east, and began to pound rice. The sound of the pounding, and the fire in the east awaken the rooster. They thought that it’s already sunrise, and they started to crow.
Thinking that it already dawn, the Demon disappeared into the earth, leaving the last temple unfinished.
Knowing that he had been fooled once again, Bandung Bondowoso was mad. He, the mightiest prince on earth, could do almost anything happened. He could defeats an ogre, he could builds a thousand temples. But why couldn’t he make Rara Jonggrang to love him? He cursed Rara Jonggrang into a stone. And then, he built the final temple by his own hand. At the end, he puts the stone of his lovers inside the temple, married her, and let her complete his labor of love. The most beautiful temple in Java is finished.
Some love story is just a tragedy. But a tragedy can form its beauty.
When I told my teacher at University of Indonesia, Bu Dotti, that I want to visit Borobudur and Prambanan, she looked excited. I told her that I want to take some photos and presented them the way it would suffice and to communicate the architecture itself. It actually related with the way I’m gonna present the photos in the exhibition that is going to be held next year (which sadly has got cancelled, but I think I still gonna try it.)
“I’m going to shoot some photographs, and I’m going to present it in a different way. Well, it might be not that different. I mean, it won’t be just some temple pictures. The picture would represents how we see the temple, and in the way communicate the architecture.” It was raining when I told her my plan. We were in her cubicle, in the teacher lounge at UI. She stood still. Her eyes wandered. It used to be one of a soothing moments when we (the assistant) used to think or simply chat in her cubicle.
I was slurping my hot coffee when she gave me papers. “You might want to read this.” She said.
It was a photocopied papers, about 30 pages. I read the title in front of it. The title said, “Chambers For A Memory Palace“. The authors are Donlyn Lyndon and Charles W. Moore. When I opened it, I noticed that it contains only one chapter.
“Hey, this is the book everybody talks about.” I said that to her while my eyes moving from one page to another.
She smiled, and then she took the book from my hand. She opened it, and pointed at some page which she already marked by a pencil.
“You can start from here.” she touch the pencil mark by her finger, and keep opening the book until we meet the other pencil’s mark. “till here. Just tell me if you already finished it. I just want to show you something later.” She was smiling mysteriously after she said that.
It was already late, and I have to go home. So I decided to brought the papers with me instead, and talk to her tomorrow. As soon as I go home, I opened the book. The marked part were telling me about the sequences and things that we would noticed and felt when we visit the architectural works. Charles Moore try to give Taj Mahal as an example;
“...Take, for instance, the axis that connects the entry portal of the Taj Mahal gardens in Agra, India, with the domed tomb itself. There the actual path plays back and forth along the axis in three dimensions. Within the geometrically simple walled apparition of a paradise garden, the path takes the observer through a measured set of experiences. When you first approach the great red sandstone gatehouse, you are funneled to its center by flanking walls and a tall arch. As you enter this canopied space your attention is drawn to a glimmering vision that fills the space of the arch on the other side, a white dome whose profile matches that of the arch and whose base and entrance are directly ahead on the same level, but hundreds of paces away.”
It was confusing at first, simply because I don’t get what the writer means by all of that. I mean, what is the big deal about describing the Taj Mahal?
But I decided to give my eyes a rest and discuss it with Bu Dotti on the next day.
“So, how is it?” she asked me when I was coming to her cubicle. I was smiling, and I know that I must look stupid because I told her that; “I didn’t really get it. Is it about how we see something not as it is, but more like to as it feels or looked like?”
She didn’t respond to my answer directly. – or maybe my question? – Instead, she took a bunch of photographs, and placed it on her table one by one. It was a photo of Taj Mahal.
“Bu Laksmi gave it to me after she visits Taj Mahal. Actually I asked her to take some photographs for me.” She explained where the photographs came from.
I was examining the images carefully when she picked one of them, and facing it to me so I can see it properly. It was the image of Taj Mahal’s facade. On the image I can see the dome, the white marble, the door, and also the minaret. I also noticed the pool that lead my eyes straight into the grand building.
“What do you see, beside the building?” she asked me.
I was still thinking when she spoke to me again “Can you imagine yourself seeing this building?”
“Hmm… Yes, I guess.” I answered with hesitation. Bu Dotti used to make me confused a lot, simply because she has a different method and approach of seeing things.
She seemed to noticed my confusion. “Where do you think this photographs was taken?”
“In the Taj Mahal?”
Well, I didn’t said that. That was what I’m thinking. I might be stupid and desperate but I knew that it’s not the right answer.
“Examine it again.” she said.
It was like a lighting bolt. The answer came to me. And the answer is not about what place it is, but more to why we use that spot to take the picture.
“I think it was in the mini tunnel, or arch, or something like that, that lead us to the Taj Mahal.”
I think my answer was right. But with Bu Dotti, you won’t get the answer very soon. She will challenge you again. Bu Dotti grab the book that she gave to me, and started to read the lines.
“When you first approach the great red sandstone gatehouse, you are funneled to its center by flanking walls and a tall arch. As you enter this canopied space your attention is drawn to a glimmering vision that fills the space of the arch on the other side, a white dome whose profile matches that of the arch and whose base and entrance are directly ahead on the same level, but hundreds of paces away…”
She stopped for a second, placing the picture directly so it was upright to my face, and than she said to me: “This is what we actually see when we enter the gatehouse, isn’t it? This picture represents what the architecture feels like. How it forms the image in our head, how we understand Taj Mahal. And, this picture tries to communicate it.”
I get it now. The photographs shouldn’t be just a bunch of beautiful pictures that fill the aesthetic and technique requirements, but it should be communicate my experience through Borobudur and Prambanan. The way I see it, and the way I feel it, are important alongside with the way I communicate the temples as a building and an architecture.
I made to Yogyakarta a week after that conversation. The photographs you are about to see are some of the result. It was not perfect, of course. And you might find no differences with the other architecture photographs. But this is the time that I actually try to used Bu Dotti’s method on seeing something, seeing building, seeing phenomenon, seeing architecture, and at the end; communicating it.