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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I thought for a long time about the Kho Liang Ie and his work, looking for all sorts of information, I even went to the industrial area where the Stedelijk Museum Library situated, and could not write a word. The only thing that is on the Internet is a biography, in the library all books and articles only in dutch language (sorry, but I do not know dutch).
And then I got lucky and found a booklet called ‘IE’. Read all three of the essay (which were in english!) on Kho, and than one of them caught me.
It is very rare material about Kho Liang Ie and his works, whitch did not exist in the Internet before. Now it does! It is my contribution to the online library of brilliant people.

Ettore Sottsass jr.
Milano, March 31st, 1971
On the occasion of the Kho Liang Ie exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

It is quite a lot of years I’m a friend of Kho Liang Ie, I know him well, we went together to airports, we waited together for the airplanes to leave while buying perfumes and Bols bottles; we even went together to Siena to see Duccio, some years ago, one of these blue days which destiny gives us twice a year, maybe, and we even had dinner together at the Indonesian restaurant called ‘Indonesia’ in Amsterdam; we had dinner with the beautiful Hetty and with Arie and the beautiful Oeki and with my beautiful Nanda, we gathered all together because we are friends with Arie and his beautiful Oeki, because we are friends, of Kho Liang Ie and all these are the reasons why I don’t think there can be any better critic than myself to say things about Kho Liang Ie’s work, also because we (I mean Nanda and I) have been in Indonesia, we have been in Java, we have been in Bali; we even spent four hours in a trembling tropical afternoon at Surabaja, waiting in the airport and not buying perfumes but listening to the crackling of machineguns, arriving from the horizon on the hot winds (because there was the big killing of communists, so they were saying), and anyway we have been in Indonesia and so I even know the country where my friend Ie was born, where he has been a child and then a young man, where he has lost all his money by gambling.
I mean he was really a young man in a beautiful country like Java. So I know all these things and so I am a good critic for Kho Liang Ie because I think I know important things about Kho Liang Ie, about how he is made, about where the roots of his works are coming from; I know important things like how was the first catalogue of colours he discovered in his life, how he discovered the sense of the ground on which one is walking, how he discovered the meaning of silence while entering the sacred walls of a temple area, how he discovered the concentration which is coming from the control of the net of itineraries that are developing going from one pagoda to the other or (for the water) going from one well patterned rice field to the other and then I know many other things: the joy of listening to gamelan concerts under a pure sky and then soft tender way of acting of the women, tender mimic of hands arms and shoulders and the tender use of leaves to hang (mixed with papers and flowers) from the bamboo shrines over the tombs of the funerals and then all these things and many more and more, that belong to the refined rituals of that oriental island.
So of course now Kho Liang Ie is a European architect; so now of course he is traveling from America to England, from Portorico to Italy, from France to Germany with airplanes, and of course he is driving cars and of course he is using tape-recorders and movie cameras and projectors and of course he is using chrome and laminated plastics and lamps and neons and of course maybe rubber floors and loudspeakers and crystals and all these things that belong to our ritual, why not, and even when someone reminds him of his not Java place, he just laughs; a very short laugh like cutting something forever, like underlying his dedication now to his new ritual, and that’s all. Why not.

And so that’s it: my friend Kho Liang Ie had not forgotten how to create an almost sacred space, not so much because the place is sacred, but because the man who is going into that space is himself the sacred object. Is this clear enough?
But if you want it more clear, just go and look everything Kho Liang Ie has designed with kindness, tenderness, soft touch to be put around the people, I mean to be used by people as a stage and scenery where to act in. You will always see that the memory of the long, long, ancient oriental experiences about the weakness and desperate fragility of human body, in fact have never disappeared from Kho Liang Ie’s attitude towards design: all these memories, all the memories of the sophisticated ancient technologies used to preserve the human body and to create around it a sort of delicate embrace of love are coming up to the surface any time Kho Liang Ie is choosing a colour or a light or is structuring an itinerary or is designing a space. This damned modern ritual, the traveling over oceans, the being every day shut or bombed somewhere else, the staying in the dark looking at shouting shadows of violence, grotesque or pornography, the being obsessed with universal death news, the permanent contact with the presumptions of the rich and the victimisation of the poor, the horrer of sounds coming out from smoking steel pipes, and the freezing touch of cosmic plastic non-real matter, etc., I mean the fucking modern ritual, becomes, at least in the limited areas touched by my dear Indonesian smiling friend, an almost possible ritual: at least, I know, we may close our eyes and be confident; there, inside these areas, we will be protected, we will be taken and helped, we will be even able to smile, we will be able to touch the surroundings, to sit down and, even, maybe to let our dreams go.


Download PDF book 'Kho Liang Ie' by Ineke van Ginneke 010 publishers (12.4 MB) or Download PDF of a shorter article from Items magazine 1984 #13 (4.2 MB).
all Dutch publications

Thanks to Stedelijk Museum

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