Natasha Gabriella Tontey: The Cautionary Tales

Story By
Stephanie Mamonto

An attempt to reveal a disintegration of character through recreation of one’s presence and how he fit in with society in a collaboration of theatrical performances, installation, and video streaming. 

Three haunting figures walked along the street full of people. At a glance, they seem out of place, wearing elegant all-white ballroom gowns with fancy adornments like lace hoods and Victorian hat. All these pretty sight were in contrast with their misanthropic characteristic that was shown along the way.

Natasha Gabriella Tontey revealed the liminality problem that occurrs in the society. It all started with her curiosity towards the old and empty house at the intersection of Maga, Yogyakarta (formerly known as Sie Kee Gie). She then began collecting dossier about the man, the late Oentoro Mulyo, who used to live in the empty house that has been abandoned for years. Surprisingly, there were almost no good stories came from the society about him.

“At the beginning, I was very interested in exploring the nature of that old and obscured building which stands still in the middle of the society,” said the visual artist. She then started digging information from interviews, gathering all the data and experiences from people who have met and interacted with Oentoro. To make the story short, she found out that he had numerous conflicts with his neighbours and lived alone with his hatred and distress throughout his lifetime.

The memories and dossier collected of this uncanny yet mysterious man who was disliked by his surroundings were considered as facts and was rebuilt by Natasha through art performances, costumes, and replicas of Donald Duck figures placed in the Gembira Loka Zoo, Yogyakarta—believed to be art pieces made by Oentoro when he was alive.

The dossier were made into fiction script, performed and disclosed in the middle of society, presented as another fiction in the form of live streaming in the “LIMINAL” Art Project at Cemeti Art House. From the first theatrical performance by a group of professional actors, these complicated art layers shown the liminal state that occured unconsciously among the society: public disturbance, sudden traffic, the emergence of local police caused by fear, and also at the same time, public’s enjoyment of the spectacle.

“There were problems on how we were forced to break through the boundaries between ‘stage’ and ‘non-stage’, also the meetings of my work pattern and the other performers’,” explained Natasha. That’s why the second theatrical performance which was performed by a group of non-actors, moved into another ‘stage’: an abandoned and half-collapsed building at a hidden place. “On the second day, I tried a different approach on how the man’s presence was rebuilt among public to find different liminal state, experience, and emotions that would arise,” she continued.

The result was a surprise for the artist, the supporting group of actors and non-actors, and also for the society. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is how we were pushing boundaries between fact and fiction, entering the liminal zone, exploring new areas, and how one’s character revealed in the artist’s work was met by the broader society and unearth a whole new perspective. 

photos by
Stephanie Mamonto
artist's documentation