Life is dirty. Life is rough. Life is growth and decay. Blame it on hygiene, health codes, or “civility,” modern societies prefer to hide the ugly truths of life. In some sense, I feel as though I’ve been living in a fantasy world where garbage disappears overnight, cuts of meat disguise the semblance of a dead animal, and lawns are meticulously trimmed to tame natural growth. We live in a world of facades.
Indonesians have a genuine acceptance of the unpleasant aspects of life. Visit the local market to buy fish and they will be swimming in a tank, not filleted and packaged on a styrofoam tray. Walk down the street and a tree will be growing through the iron gate of a front patio. Why uproot the tree when you can rebuild the patio around it? Complain to the taxi driver about sitting in traffic for over an hour, and his response will be a patient smile and a shrug, “It’s Jakarta.” Sure, some improvements could be made to ease everyone’s lives, but it’s been a worthwhile opportunity to embrace raw, unpolished society.
There is tremendous beauty in decay. Uninhibited, nature weathers surfaces with infinite textures and the elements sculpt alluring forms. Metal rusts. Collaged advertisements peel off concrete walls. There are no veneers in Jakarta; life is real, unrestrained, unconcealed.