I found a copy of that 2010 interview recently in an archive of the adversities I have endured since March 2010.
I decided to post it here, in several installments, as a prologue to a writing project I call “Thirty-Three Seasons in Hell”.
Here is the second installment.
2010: Jadis, Si Je Me Souviens Bien (II)
What is the philosophy behind Macan Tidur?
From the beginning, working with my business partner Tjok Agung, our ideas for Macan Tidur were never about making money. We simply saw truly beautiful and powerful things coming from all of the cultures of Indonesia, and thought, “If we choose what we like, what makes our hearts beat faster, then certainly there will be other people who feel the same.” We also agreed that we would never be slaves to the business. We would just do things our own way, without strategy and without structure, and present things in a setting we thought was beautiful and meaningful, and if people liked it, great. If they didn’t, great.
I have certainly kept that spirit through these fifteen years. I never think about what other people are doing, what competition there is, or what will make money. I discover objects of beauty, and textiles, and jewelry and then present them in a relatively unpretentious way, but with care. If people love what I love, I feel extremely pleased and grateful. That’s all there is in terms of a philosophy.
Oh, and also worth mentioning is how I feel deeply loyal and indebted to Indonesia. Consequently, Bruno and I studiously avoid looted goods, stolen goods, questionable goods, and cultural property which should be protected in situ. That is why we have always focused not on cultural property, but on arts and artefacts that were the personal effects of individuals yet reflect the power and lasting significance of their cultures and the times in which they lived.
That explains why we are strong in areas like textiles, weapons and jewelry. These things were personal possessions of individuals, created for and used by individuals and families, then left to the shifting sands of time. That’s a world of difference from, say, major bronze or stone deity images and many other objects I could mention.
We have never felt a need or desire to trade in questionable goods. We prefer to dig deeper into more human, universal, and subtle expressions of culture, which can be traded without “taking”. We like to offer pieces that give people an invitation to understand the cultures of Indonesia on a personal level. In this way, I think we have been able to inspire many people who knew nothing about Indonesia to forge a heartfelt bond with this country, its history and its peoples.
We particularly enjoy finding simple objects of everyday use that transmit a powerful sense of the spirit of the people and the cultures that nurtured them. I call these transcendental objects. They can be baskets, tools, architectural ornaments, personal ornaments, weapons, whatever. If they have a transcendental quality which expresses the power of the human and spiritual milieu that brought them into being, then they are valuable. Not just valuable, they’re priceless.
Objects like this automatically show an intrinsic aesthetic quality which cannot be ignored, discounted, or reproduced. I think the Japanese will understand this more than most other nationalities. We have clients from every corner of the world, yet I still feel a certain rapport with our Japanese clients, who immediately understand how a simple basket can express everything there is to say about the whole human experience.