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The Babies: Allegory of Disciplined Bodies

So there is a little art window/gallery space on Clay in between Western and 1st that i pass on my way to Cherry Street for my morning Latte.  This space always has a creative art display, very pretty and interesting, that catches my attention when i walk by. This week was a different story.

I couldn’t just walk by and glance, i literally stopped in my tracks, felt sick to my stomach, and had to stare for a little while to really confirm what  i was seeing.  Babies swaddled with swords that were coming out of the bottom of the swaddling (That tattoo etchings on their faces i did not even notice until two days later).

More after the Jump…


I immediately thought, you cannot put innocent babies looking seemingly serene with sharp blades shooting out of the bottom of their swaddle, that is simply not ok. It made me queezy. Hence the point, i guess. While my stomach was turning, I tried to think of what this art could possibly be trying to convey. I came to the conclusion of maybe babies aren’t so innocent or that they are sinful, or that this could represent what pain that they could grow into inflicting on others. As humans, we’ve all inflicted pain on others in one way or another. But i couldn’t really come to any conclusion beyond those. I walked away and the image stuck in my mind. 

Two days later, i was walking by it for the 2nd time and saw a gentleman opening the door to the display with his key. I of course had to stop and ask him if this was his. I mean it is not every day that you see art that really affects you. It was Joseph C. Roberts, the curator, with the Center on Contemporary Art (COCA). He was clearly just as excited to talk about this with me, i was to ask. He told me that children were born into the world tainted by the sins of their fathers… or something along those lines. He then gave me a book published as a supplement to this exhibition. I mean, there is a whole book published as a supplement! I’ve read it, and it is super interesting. I’ve included some of it in the links below for you as well. It explains in detail the heart, thought  and artist background behind this exhibition.

If you haven’t seen this display on Clay st. between Western and 1st, take a walk and check it out yourself. You’ve got to see this to believe it. There is also a larger scale showing at the Coca Museum in Ballard until November 14th. 

Allegorical Babies and Violence in Harris Purnomo’s Work by Hendro Wiyanto “The big world of unlikely violence is already contained in the small world of the baby.”

Harris Purmono: VIsual Poetry by Joseph C. Roberts “I don’t know whether i should be afraid of or in love with Haris Purmono’s work-and I am afraid to ask; but i do, over and over again.”

3 Comments on "The Babies: Allegory of Disciplined Bodies"

  1. It really freaked me out too. I went to art school (though as a graphic designer, and not a fine artist), so I’ve seen my fair share of crazy art. I suppose this one took me so by surprise because I hadn’t walked into a gallery or prepared myself for an evening of art. I was taking a walk with my husband, and there they were. And all I wanted to do was get away. So, if that was the intent of the artist, they did it.

  2. joseph Roberts | October 24, 2009 at 9:25 pm |

    Trina: thank you for sharing your experience with Haris Purmono’s work. Like you, I was arrested in my tracks when I first saw this work. For me, that was last year @ Art Basel/Miami. So often, I walk by art works and don’t give them a second thought. Not so in this case! With my eyes and mouth wide open (for an embarrassingly long time), I could not stop staring with wonder at these floating babies.

    To this day, I don’t know whether I should be afraid of or in love with Purmono’s work. Regardless, I can’t help looking at it; I can’t help thinking about it. There are so many ways of “reading” the work. It is fascinating! It took us a year to get this work out to Seattle (from Jakarta), and I think we are really lucky to have it in town. See it (especially at night)!

    BTW, my initial reactions to Purmono’s work are reported @ CocaSeattle.Org and @ FpaGallery.com (which represents Purmono). If anyone wants to get together to see + talk about this show, I’d love to! How about at CoCA’s Cabernet Classic this Wednesday http://cocaseattle.org/tickets.php ??

    Sara: I’m sorry the work freaked you out. This Belltown CoCA space is an unexpected place to run into “edgy” art. The cool thing is it catches all of us off guard, and demands our attention. I hope it stimulates passionate conversation-

  3. Joseph- I’m sorry that we missed the Cabernet Classic, I just saw this post. My husband and I would’ve loved to attend! Please let me know any events that you have coming up and i’d be happy to post them on the site. Also, Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about this. It was such a pleasure to meet you and hear your story. I so appreciate that we have a CoCA space in Belltown and have enjoyed each showing of various artists creations. Thank you for you work on it.

    Each time that you have new art in this space, i’d love for you to post a blurb about it on this site- What it is, artist background, or whatever you’d like to say about it… This would be a great way for people to know when the art has changed, get some background about it, etc. With a readership averaging 1,000 unique visitors a day on belltownpeople.com it would be a great way to get the word out. Let me know what you think about that, if you’d be open to posting a story about the art. Also, feel free to post stories as you like, This site is set up as a community forum where everyone can post stories about anything that they are interested in.

    Thanks again Joseph! Hope to chat with you again soon.

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