Caitlin Franzmann
Between two trees, between two ears, 2014
Leather blindfolds / sound masks incorporating headphones and radios, FM transmitters and media player, music composed and performed by Mas Bowo, Dale Gorfinkel, Rully Shabara.

(text by Caitlin Franzmann)

A set of handmade leather blindfolds, each with distinctive ear pieces, help the ‘sightless listener’ navigate through ritualised spaces and receive ‘spiritual’ transmissions.

Our homestay was located next to the Alun Alun Kidul (southern city square), which we passed most days on our way to and from the IBP workshop.  As soon as darkness descends on the square, it fills with crowds, light and music.  Games are played, the universal magic of bubbles appear in the sky and there is a scent of delicious bbq treats wafting around the edges.  One of the folklores identified with the Alun Alun Kidul is masangin, the ritual of walking through the twin banyan trees blindfolded.  It is believed that those having pure hearts can walk directly through the two sacred trees, reflecting a message that we must work hard to achieve our destination.

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From discussions, it remains unclear to me how this ritual first came about.   Some suggest it was an extension of the ritual of walking around the Yogyakarta palace in silence on the eve of Islamic new year.  Others suggest that it started as a physical test and the myth was later attached.  Today, it appears to be a popular game that many fail.  Andit, Peter, Dale and myself attempted the task of walking in a straight line blindfolded through the trees.  While Peter almost did a complete 360 degree turn and Dale trailblazed to the right, Andit stayed on track – the only pure hearted of our group.

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Masangin can be looked at as a playful game, a challenge for physiological and sensory astuteness or a testing of a person’s ability to centre their awareness internally to connect with the greater forces of the space. I wanted to explore all three approaches to the ritual and designed several sound masks with the help of master leather craftsman, Marlan.   The result – a combination of sci-fi and traditional aesthetics.

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The audio contained in the soundmasks include a contemporary and improvised take on traditional Javanese music composed and performed by Mas Bowo, Rully Shabara and Dale Gorfinkle. The intention of incorporating this music was to enable a heightened meditative state for the wearer and deeper connection with the sacredness of the space.  The composition sent through a radio transmitter (built by the wonderful Inu) was based on the identifiable traditional melody Kemana used for local ceremonies and processions.  With the transmitter located between the two trees, the wearer of the radios would pick up on the tune when closer to the trees – a kind of guiding force of invisible energies.

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Like for Dale, this concept of DIWO (Do-it-with-others) opened many possibilities for this work to evolve.  A big thanks to collaborators Andit, Marlan, Inu, Bowo, Rully and Dale for your skills, creativity and talent.