Leonard Suryajaya: False Idol



Leonard Suryajaya (b. 1988, Indonesia) is a multi-media artist who recently won the First Place in the CENTER’s Excellence in Multimedia Award. In his award-winning project ‘False Idol’, he creatively documents the process and feelings surrounding the course of his Green Card application. As a Chinese-Indonesian immigrant living in Chicago, he had to face the American authorities and their questioning regarding his stay.

Suryajaya’s imagery is rather unusual, presenting a novel perspective on immigration and cultural norms. His photographs are highlighted with an explosion of colours and patterns that refer to both his roots but also the new culture he currently exists in. Floral printed sheets, strange plastic objects, an abundance of fruits and vegetables can all be found in ‘False Idol’. The subjects posing in the scenes are primarily his loved ones who clearly trust the man behind the camera – and the work also includes collages that intersect imagery with text and a video interview with Suryajaya’s mom.

Through the images’ theatrical and critical nature, the viewer suddenly becomes a witness to authentic visual history. The trust and loyalty that the subjects have towards Suryajaya makes the images beautifully absurd and at times disturbing – pushing the boundaries of representation of intimate relationships. ’False Idol’, exploring the themes of togetherness and performance within the context of leaving his homeland, has many layers that not only present a personal story but touch upon more universal themes of belonging, citizenship and religion.