Someone Come Find Me remix launched last weekend in Jakarta at Historia Café in the old town of Kota Tua. A collaboration between Invisible Flock members Ben Eaton and Victoria Pratt from Leeds, UK and maker and technologist Miebi Sioki from Indonesia, audience members were invited to send text messages that were translated into morse code and flashed out at sea from a buoy anchored of the coast at Ancol just outside of Jakarta. Whilst watching the buoy flashing on a live stream, audience members could simultaneously read the anonymous SMS messages appearing on reclaimed and upcycled CRT TV screens.
We caught up with Ben, Victoria and Miebi to find out more about their collaboration and the making of this project.
Ben, can you start by telling us a bit about this project?
Ben: Our project is called Someone Come Find Me, and it is a revisiting or remixing of a four year old project that Invisble Flock first did in Brighton for Brighton Festival. Initially when we first did it, it was about our relationship to ships in the sea.
When we were here in March, we talked about Invisible Flock’s work in general, and this one felt like it resonated with Indonesia, or maybe Jakarta specifically, and the fact that it has a coast line.
So this is kind of the same thing but with a massive Indonesian bent. We’ve collaborated with a fantastic craftsman called Abot, who’s given it a really Indonesian twist – the physical rendering of the buoy when we did it in the UK was a functional buoy, whereas here it’s become very Indonesian. It’s handmade from scratch. And the idea behind it is people can have this simple interaction, which is to send an anonymous message by text - which is probably one of the lowest entry pieces of technology around - and it will get translated into morse code, which is this sort of dying language really, and it is poeticised and broadcast out.
It’s sort of part of a series of works around the idea of ‘slow social media’ and other forms of communication, making people slow down and think about how we interact with the world around us, both digitally and physically.
I think is a very brilliant idea. It’s like a message in a bottle, but a very unique way to send messages to other people. It’s very beautiful. I sent a message for my crush – I’m a little bit shy to say it to my crush [out loud]." - Audience member, Jakarta.
Victoria, what has your experience been like in Indonesia and how has it informed the project?
Victoria: It’s been brilliant, mainly because we’ve been working with Miebi. We were really well paired by the British Council. Our practices are very similar but sit within slightly different contexts. When Miebi was in London last month we talked about doing this project but left all the ‘doing’ till we arrived. It was a really nice, organic way to work. We really like working like that – responding to where you are rather than trying to ship something in. It’s an approach to touring work that we really like – to make it on the spot, remix it.
It’s been really reassuring for us here in Indonesia, as some commissioners struggle with an organic approach to work in the UK. Especially with digital, it’s expect to just plug in and work - but it never works like that. Especially if you’re dealing with something in the public realm – or even in the sea! So there’s been a lot of trust. And, you know, if it doesn’t happen exactly how you imagined it to happen that’s fine, it will just evolve and change. I think that’s definitely the sense we’ve got from working here. It’s a really nice attitude towards making. It has to be open, it has to be collaborative. And having Miebi here – we don’t speak the language, it’s our the first time in Jakarta – I think he’s been a fantastic person to have in place to make it happen. It would be very difficult without someone on the ground.
Miebi, can you explain how this collaboration began for you, and what your input has been?
Miebi: A month ago I was fortunate enough to be sent by the British Council to spend a few weeks in London and Leeds with Invisible Flock, to get a chance to work with them, get a feel for how they work - and for them to get a feel for how I work. I was supposed to remix Someone Come Find Me but in the time I spent with them in Leeds, I kind of figured out really quickly that their piece was already pretty much fully formed. And me trying to mess with it in any way would not add anything to it. I was afraid that I would ruin the integrity of the piece. So in the end I decided to make a response to the piece, something that compliments it and extends it. So my piece sits between their piece and the Indonesian public.
Putting it really simply, their piece is ‘Message in a Bottle 2.0’ - they’re sending messages into the ether, people who want to be heard, forgotten voices, disappearing landscapes, ephemeral messages – I love that idea, and I love the idea of a shared experience. There’s a lot of people sending messages to this buoy, which is then being translated into morse code, but nobody knows what’s going on. So there’s this sense of anonymity, but there’s also this sense of a collective, shared experience. I wanted to build more on that.
So my piece is a transponder tower, it’s a way of visualizing those messages, because the Indonesian people are more visual. Our relationship with the sea is very different to what it is in the UK. You know, morse code is a very foreign thing here, people don’t really get what morse code is. So I thought my piece should somehow cater to that. That’s why the visual component is very important for people to see what’s going on, and to have something that visualises this anonymous shared experience. That’s why the messages are being visualised on the CRT monitors.
I think the TVs are really cool because you guys [in the UK] are more of a maritime nation, whereas the technologies or mediums that we use in Indonesia are much more visual and literal. If you say ‘morse’ to someone, it doesn’t really translate, so having it out here [written on the TV screens], I think the impact is more immediate." - Audience member, Jakarta.
The reason why I chose CRT monitors is because for me personally, because I’m a fabricator, and I deal a lot with electronics and I make a lot of digital pieces, I see technology is moving so quickly, a lot of tech gets left behind. So, coming back to the thing about ‘forgotten voices’, there’s the thing about forgotten techonologies. I wanted to see what we could use these CRT monitors for, because they’re becoming really hard to come by now. So using them, refreshing them, upcyling them in a meaningful way, was something I also thought was interesting to do.
Ben: We’ve never really presented a piece with an accompanying companion piece from someone else and it’s really nice watching people begin to interact with it. Our piece has been given a frame that it doesn’t necessarily have on its own. It’s adding a whole other level of dimension. I think we’ve been really lucky that we’ve got on very naturally with Miebi so the works speak to each other – they don’t feel like they’re fighting or competing with each other, but they are actually both of the same thing. Its very exciting and quite unique I think.
The UK public will also be able to send their messages during the Digital Design Weekend in Jakarta and watch it streamed live at FACT in Liverpool. What do you think the Indonesian audience response will be?
Miebi: I think it will be interesting for them to see what people in the UK are talking about, what’s on their minds, how they’re living. And maybe it will shape a conversation which we have not yet seen. I don’t know what’s going to come out of it, that’s what I’m excited about. It’s the start of an open, anonymous dialogue between two nations.
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