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A Conversation with Hana Madness

Malaria House got a great chance to chat with Hana Madness, one of the promising young Indonesian visual artist, about her latest news over the phone. Hana was in the UK at that time working on her next big project with amazing British artists.


MH: Hi Hana, thanks for allowing us to talk to you. We are very curious about you and the art that you create. Can you please tell us what is art for you?


If you ask me about what is art for me, I have to take you back to the beginning. Since I was a child, I have a psychiatric disorder due to the abusive condition in my family and the environment where I grew up. And it reached its climax when I was in Junior High School where I became more delusional with several suicide attempts. At that time, any psychiatric disorders that you have meant that you are insane, it means that God punishes you, and so on. So my family was constantly in denial with my condition.


So I grew up as a teenager without any professional medication and drawing was my only way to escape from the condition, the only way to keep me sane. In 2009, I started to draw on canvas and digital and started to join the collective exhibition. But still, no action on my condition. Until one of my good friends brought me to a psychiatrist and my first diagnosed was schizophrenia. However, despite my condition, after graduated from Senior High School in 2010, I got an opportunity to design 5 themes for a matches company in Indonesia. I had another meltdown in 2011 where I was diagnosed with the psychotic bipolar disorder, but I continue to create art because it’s my therapy, my only way to cope with myself.


The point of inflection happened in 2011 when I spoke for the first time about my experience at the Indonesian Street Art Database, where the event talked about art and its relation with disabilities. An Indonesian journalist wrote my story on the national newspaper and then I started to receive recognition for my accomplishment as a person with the psychotic bipolar disorder and also an artist. I started to get invitations to talk in many institutions as well as exposed my artworks to wider audiences. That’s when I realize that my story and the art that I created have a big impact to a lot of people who live with psychiatric disorders, deal with the family member who has psychiatric disorders, and how art can actually help people with psychiatric disorders as a therapeutic way to cope with their condition.


MH: You are now busy on preparing your latest initiative with James The Vacuum Cleaner sponsored by the British Council. Can you share with us how you get involved with British Council at the beginning?


In 2016, I was chosen by the British Council to attend the Unlimited Festival, a visual and performing art festival for people with disabilities in the United Kingdom. I met lots of people there, especially the ones who are focusing on art in relation to psychiatric disorders, and I went back home with lots of ideas.


MH: And what are you doing now?


At the moment, I’m working with the British artist and activist, James The Vacuum Cleaner, funded by the British Council to be a part of the first and the biggest arts and disability event in Indonesia, Festival Bebas Batas at Galeri Nasional. In the festival, I will collaborate with James on a specific theme “In Chains”, which will expose the theme of “Pasung”, a typical way of Indonesians dealing with psychiatric disorders people where they keep the person in chains. Most of Indonesians believe that the psychiatric disorders is a punishment from God or possess by Satan, so they will hide the person from everyone and put them in chains. This is a very important issue and we want to educate people through our art that the psychiatric disorders illness can be treated.


Right now, we are in Indonesia and we went to Cianjur to meet with Komunitas Sehat Jiwa, a local community that tries to help people with psychiatric disorders and to avoid them being in chains with their family. We are now in Bali to visit Rumah Berdaya Bali, where they accommodate up to 40 people with schizophrenic, and we did the same thing with the one in Cianjur. We shared James knowledge about art therapy for people with psychiatric disorders.


Through those experience and research, we will create artworks and it will be presented at Festival Bebas Batas later on this year.

MH: Can you share with us your other experience when you were in the UK?

I spent lots of time doing Art Talk and met lots of artists and activists. I also participated at a seminar in Bedlam Gallery, where I brought my postcard design with positive notes for the psychiatric disorders survivors in Indonesia. We sent this type of cards to people with physical illness, like a get well soon card, but we never do that for people with psychiatric disorders.


MH: Can you tell us which artists that you admire the most?


I admire artists that have the same condition as me and how they use their artworks to share their experience with the world.


MH: What a great story! We love to hear that you can give a positive impact through your art. Any message for Malaria House readers?


I learned that art is not just a therapy session to keep you sane. Yes, art is your weapon to tell people what you feel, because one of the most difficult things to be a person with psychiatric disorders is that we aren’t always able to express our problems.

But now, more and more people are appreciating my artworks as real art and I’m so proud of that. That appreciation keeps me to become more productive and create art. You can also do other things like music, or else to help yourself. But I think the most important message is you’ve got to do something to deal with your condition.


Hana will continue to work on her project and make sure that you show your support by attending the Festival Bebas Batas next October.



Photos courtesy of @senimansederhana_



By: Malariahouse | 27 July 2018