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woktherock on 06/23/2012 at 12:00PM

PUNKASILA: The Acronym Wars

PUNKASILA exhibition at Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, Australia

PUNKASILA is an artist collective project formed by Danius Kesminas during his artist-in-residence at Yayasan Seni Cemeti (Indonesian Visual Art Archive) in Yogyakarta, PUNKASILA features seven young artists from Yogyakarta and Kesminas. PUNKASILA play custom-made, hand crafted mahogany guitars, built to simulate M-16’s, AK-47’s and other weapons. They wear camouflage-patterned hand-painted batik, tailored as military fatigues and play originals songs which highlight the multitude of acronyms and abbreviations that describe the full spectrum of Indonesian political, cultural and religious life.

In March 2007 Punksila present a concert (Permission to Fire) and CD launch plus an exhibition (Conspicuous Objects) at Kedai Kebun Forum in Yogyakarta. This followed by an exhibition at the Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney (April/May 2007).

The name, PUNKASILA, which literally means punk principles, derives from Pancasila, the five tenets devised for the unitary basis of Indonesian nationhood. While reading “The Politics of Indonesia” by Dr Damien Kingsbury, Kesminas found himself continually referring to the index of abbreviations and acronyms and it is this index that he chose as the basis for PUNKASILA’s “lyrics”. These acronyms became a set of abbreviated “songs” performed in a frenetic progressive-punk-rock idiom. The song titles are in fact the complete lyrics (with completed nomenclature echoed in Bahasa Indonesian).

Together with the band, Kesminas wrote 17 songs based on selected Indonesian acronyms and abbreviations. The genius of the pancasila as propaganda, condensed through its motto, “Unity in Diversity”, is to unify the wide ranging cultures of the Indonesian archipelago and to suggest that it is the five principles that they have shared in common since time immemorial. The concept that drives the Punkasila project is to distil the cacophony of disparate political, military, religious, cultural and bureaucratic organisations that constitute the Indonesian body politic to their abbreviated form of acronyms. It is hoped to make the songs both humorous and provocative in equal measure, in part by flattening out each organisations’ implied agendas, arbitrarily presenting them alongside rival, non-affiliated or completely disconnected groups. In addition, many of these acronyms have been popularly inverted using plesetan as a kind of subversive double-speak. This specifically Indonesian wordplay adds another layer of pathos and the ridiculous to PUNKASILA’s repertoire.

All the songs are original. The average length of each is about 1min 30sec with Kesminas singing the acronym repetitively and his co-vocalist Hahan howling its complete form in Bahasa Indonesian. Sometimes these roles are reversed. The song writing process is all the more interesting given the band members very limited English and Kesminas’ non-existent Indonesian. PUNKASILA’S first CD, “Acronym Wars” released in conjunction with the 2007 Yogyakarta & Sydney exhibitions/performances. To date PUNKASILA have played live shows in Semarang, Bandung and Yogyakarta and have been censored only once. PUNKASILA also performed at the 10th Biennale of Havana, Cuba in 2009.

TNI: Tentara Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Military), Tikyan Ning Idab-Idabi (Poor but Adorable)

PNU: Partai Nahdlatul Ummat (Islamic Community Awakening Party), Partai Nunut Udud (Party for Taking Cigarettes from your Friends)

TURBA: Turun ke Bawah*, Turuk Babi (Down to Earth*, Pig's Vagina) *This was a leftist ideology of the 1950's and 60's for the political and cultural mobilisation of the populous. It was later used by the Soeharto regime to spread New Order ideology to the villages.

KOPASSUS: Komando Pasukan Khusus (Special Force Command), Komando Pasukan Suka Susu (Milk Lovers' Force Command/Tit Lovers’ Force Command)

PKI: Partai Komunis Indonesia (Indonesia Communist Party), Penggemar Komik Indonesia (Indonesian Comic Fans), Penggemar Kaos Indonesia (Indonesian T-Shirt Fans), Partai Kaos Indonesia (Chaos Party of Indonesia)

RPKAD: Resimen Para Komando Angkatan Darat (Army Para-Commando Regiment Command), Rampung Kenthu Anake Duwekmu (We have Sex but the Child will be Yours)

In 2012, PUNKASILA writing and recorded their new album only in 2 days. This album “Crash Nation” telling the stories of disasters and its relation to the traditional myths and syncreticm based on the events in Indonesia. The “Crash Nation” will be released in June 2012 by Yes No Wave Music for free download.


PUNKASILA - "TNI" (01:25)
PUNKASILA - "TNI" (01:25)
PUNKASILA - "PNU" (01:34)
PUNKASILA - "PNU" (01:34)
PUNKASILA - "PKI" (01:19)
PUNKASILA - "PKI" (01:19)


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