Katia Engel

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tanah air




Tanah Air is a collaborative work between Katia Engel and three Indonesian artists (dancers Davit Fitrik and Benny Krisnawardi; musician Syahrial Tando), all of Minangkabau (West Sumatra) origin. The work started as a 30-minute choreography, which later is extended to be a full length work.

Semantically, the words ‘tanah air’ (in Indonesian) evoke a peculiar sensation. As one-word, it means homeland or Heimat in German, but separately it means land or soil (tanah) and water (air). Katia is first intrigued by this wordplay (which is non-existent in its English or German equal) and approaches it by looking at the Indonesian landscape, here symbolically represented by a breathtaking volcanic topography. Her constant fascination of time, and how elemental time works in performance, informs her visual affinity.

In Tanah Air, Katia explores her distinct artistic style with her three collaborators – who shared, among others, not only cultural background as a Minang (a major ethnicity of West Sumatra, which apply matrilineal system), but also artistic training in Minangkabau performance idioms of pencak-silat (martial arts). As Minang men, they all are encouraged to go ‘merantau’ – a Minang indigenous tradition of immigration, as a passage to manhood.

In metaphorical terms, their ‘merantau’ practice (both geographically and artistically) is here contrasted to Katia’s own, who divides her time between Jakarta and Berlin. The encounter is explored through Cliffordian traveling and dwelling’s concept, when different language of aesthetics is interrogated to answer the core questions:

What remains when we leave?

And what do we take with us?

Does Tanah Air still exist?


Dancers: Benny Krisnawardi, Davit Fitrik

Musician/Composer: Syahrial Tando

Video: Katia Engel, Faozan Rizal

Photography (documentation): Fandi Siregar, Faozan Rizal

Artistic Director: Katia Engel