HONF (house of natural fiber) and Cellsbutton


(the view from Borobudur temple)

Last stop– but definitely not least!– a nocturnal romp through Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the second largest city on the island of Java (after Jakarta) located near the volcano Mt. Merapi (which erupted just last year and coated the city in layers of ash). What I thought was beautiful was the contrast between ancient aspects of traditional culture– such as batik, gamelan, puppetry, and cuisine– and the geologically volatile and ever-changing landscape.

I also can’t forget the particular mixture of things that characterized my experience of the city: motorcycles, instant ramen (Indomee), the local beer, Bintang, that can only be bought at Circle K stores, kretek (clove cigarette) smoke in the air, and the delicious tempe that is savory and fried and completely unlike the tempe I know in the States (packaged blocks of hippie food).

The first I was there, I stayed in the city briefly while making an exploratory trip around SE Asia. It was there that I met the kids from HONF, or house of natural fiber, an Indonesian new media collective. They told me an inspiring story about their bio-art project, Intelligent Bacteria: Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. The director of Transmediale (a media art fest in Berlin) saw their work and suggested that they submit it to the festival. The project was accepted, but there was only enough funding to bring two members of HONF to the festival, even though there were four people who were instrumental in putting together the project. So the guys from HONF decided that no one would go unless all four went, and they borrowed money and went to Berlin. The only way they could afford to return to Indonesia and repay the loan was if they won the grand prize at the festival– and they did! The remaining prize money went to funding for HONF.

below: the lab



The project is the process of making wine out of Indonesian fruits and creating circuits that amplify the tiny noises of the CO2 bubbles created during the fermentation process. It is also a reaction to an alcohol tax which caused alcohol prices to spike and deadly methanol-containing homebrews to enter the market. HONF holds winemaking workshops that explain the process and educate the community: fermenting naturally with yeast only creates ethanol, not methanol.

(Also see this article, Indonesia raises a glass, HONF creates)


above: Akbar teaching a wine making workshop

below: Timbil teaching my friend Sam and I how to eat snakefruit, one of the fruits used in their wine. the skin looks just like snakeskin



below: another winemaking workshop, and some large jars of banana wine fermenting

yeast for winemaking measured out into small vials

When I landed the second time, it was dawn in Yogyakarta, clear and crisp. I was so jetlagged from the trip from Spain (which took several days and included stops in Qatar, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur) that I immediately fell asleep at a friend’s house and didn’t wake up again until dusk. I called Andreas of HONF and told him I was in town. He told me it was the opening night of Cellsbutton and I had to come over! I told him that I was completely exhausted and I would come over the following morning. I immediately fell asleep again. I woke up again about three or four hours later, looked at the clock, and saw that it was 9:30 pm. I decided: screw it, I might as well go to the opening party for just an hour or so and say hi. I ended up hanging out all night, chatting in the cool night air, drinking Bintang, and watching a Javanese puppet show. When the sun rose, I fell asleep again. And thus began my stay in Indonesia, the only time in my life that I lived nocturnally for an extended period of time. (And trust me, this made my trip really difficult to photograph.)

One of the first activities of Cellsbutton, an international new media festival put together by HONF, was a continuous 48-hour stretch of workshops. (The workshops I wanted to check out were in the middle of the night and at dawn, so luckily thanks to my nocturnal beginning, I was already on schedule.) The workshops were about tools for media artists, both hardware and software, and covered topics ranging from using game design techniques in projects, using VJ and DJ software, and building homemade audio circuitry.

below: Effi and Stahl from the Swiss Mechatronic Art Society teaching a workshops about creating electricity from lemons, oranges and potatoes, pure data and modul8 workshops

creating electricity from fruits

creating electricity from lemons, oranges and potatoes

pure data workshop


The programming for Cellsbutton was also combined with an edition of Breakcore Labs, an ongoing series of experimental audiovisual and breakcore events. The performances and DJ/VJing were by both local and international artists.



above: breakcore_labs

below: view the canal that runs through Yogyakarta during a night motorcycle ride

canal by night


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