Tellurian Drama (2020)

Riar Rizaldi

Tellurian Drama Riar Rizaldi Indonesia/Hong Kong SARdigital 26.5 min2020

On May 5, 1923, the Dutch colonial government erected a VLF radio telegraphic transmitter in West Java, one of the most powerful arc transmitters ever built, with the mission of projecting airwaves back to the Netherlands. In March 2020, the present-day Indonesian government embarked on its plan to reactivate the ruins of the station as a historic site and tourist attraction. Radio Malabar was originally constructed in an area traditionally known as Parahyang (the abode of hyang). “Hyang” has its roots in indigenous animism, describing either divine or ancestral entities who possess supernatural powers and invisibly inhabit high places such as hills, mountains, and volcanoes. Tellurian Drama explores the living landscape surrounding Mount Papandayan and Mount Puntang, the complex stratovolcano in West Java used as a suspension point for the transmitter. It tracks the story of Radio Malabar’s enmeshment with cascading histories of colonial rule, ancient Indigenous spiritual belief, and ecological resistance movements across the 20th and 21st centuries. Examining colonial ruins as an apparatus for geoengineering technologies, Rizaldi’s soundtrack composed with Sudanese musician Iman Jimbot, also gives voice to the mountain as a central character in the film’s narrative: the mountain as conductor of ancestral presence. 

Streaming Details

This film is available to stream globally.

Program Partners

This film is co-presented with Mothlight Microcinema.

Image credits: all artworks, stills, and portraits courtesy of the artist © Riar Rizaldi.

about the artist

Riar Rizaldi (Indonesia/Hong Kong SAR) is an artist, filmmaker, and curator born in Bandung, Indonesia in 1990. His videos, installations, performances, and radio plays focus on the relationships between capitalism, technology, extractivism, and theoretical fiction. He received a BFA in Digital Filmmaking from Middlesex University London (2014), and an MA in Creative Art Practice from Newcastle University (2016). He is pursuing a PhD at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong. His recent films, including Kasiterit (2019), Tellurian Drama (2020), and Becquerel (2021), have been exhibited widely at festivals, museums, and galleries internationally, including the National Gallery of Indonesia, Centre Pompidou, Locarno Film Festival, Bangkok Underground Film Festival, BFI Southbank, DOK Leipzig, Guangdong Times Museum, Asian Film Archive, Documenta Madrid, Images Festival, Centro Audiovisual Max Stahl Timor-Leste, Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts, Cinéma du Réel, Kyiv International Short Film Festival, Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, Moscow International Experimental Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival, Centre National du Cinéma, Viennale, and the Yayasan Biennale Yogyakarta, among others. He is the recipient of awards and accolades, including the Newcastle Institute of Creative Art Practice Award (2016); Silver Screen Award for Best Southeast Asian Short Film, Singapore International Film Festival; Best Short Film, Lausanne Underground Film & Music Festival (2020); and the Hubert Bals Fund, International Film Festival Rotterdam (2021). His film Ghosts Like Us (2020) was voted Top Ten Video Essays, Sight & Sound (2020). Writing about his practice has appeared in Map Magazine, Ocula, Variety, The Jakarta Post, and elsewhere. He has curated projects for ARKIPEL – Jakarta International Documentary and Experimental Film Festival, Jogja National Museum, and NTT InterCommunication Center in Tokyo. Rizaldi is co-founder of the art collective SALON, a platform for experimentation in the fields of media, performance, and improvisation in Bandung, Indonesia. He lives and works between Indonesia and Hong Kong. 

Artist interview