Reflections on ‘Pilu Membiru Experience’

By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas |

“Adakah orang-orang yang selama ini menopang kamu sehingga kamu bisa terus berjalan, atau, istilahnya support system atau lingkaran pertemanan yang menopang kamu sehingga kamu bisa tabah?”

“Are there people carrying you so you can walk on your feet, or, a support system carrying you to get through all of this?”

This is the epigraph for Kunto Aji’s video for Pilu Membiru Experience. The person talking to us in that epigraph is Adjie Santosoputro, a mindfulness practitioner and emotional healing expert. In Pilu Membiru Experience, Kunto Aji, together with Adjie Santosoputro, invites three fans to talk to Santosoputro about their stories of loss and healing, which ends with Kunto Aji’s performance of “Pilu Membiru” (roughly “Melancholy Blues”)—a song from Kunto Aji’s sophomore album Mantra Mantra. The experience is then made into a video and a mini-album, where the three fans are given narrations by three Indonesian public figures: news anchor and host Najwa Shihab, singer-songwriter Nadin Amizah, and actor/singer Iqbaal Ramadhan.

“Pilu Membiru” itself is a song about loss, with an abstracted scene of the protagonist meeting the person he has lost a connection with, yet not being able to reconnect or to speak with that person. It’s a profound reminder of how intense human connection is and how painful it is to lose a loved one. Kunto Aji does not specify the type of relationship the protagonist has with the person, nor the reason why he loses that connection. This universality is emphasized in Pilu Membiru Experience, where the three subjects all have different stories that fit perfectly to “Pilu Membiru”: the loss of a mother, a low point at one’s life, and the loss of a significant other due to a natural disaster.

Even though these stories are deeply specific, it’s hard not to think about our own stories as we listen. Hearing these stories and the performance makes me think of my own experiences with loss as well. I may not have experiences like the three subjects, but I was reminded of the deep, intense relationships I made with people that I lost because we simply drifted apart. Either one of us moved away and can’t connect as well through technology so we got rid of the connection entirely, or other ways of disconnection. If I were to talk about it with my friends in my day-to-day, I would simply answer, “That’s life, I guess.” But while watching Pilu Membiru Experience, Kunto Aji allows me to sink in that feeling of loss and help me interrogate my own feelings. When the protagonist can’t reconnect (“Tercekat lidahku”) even though he has so much to talk about to that person (“Masih banyak yang belum sempat aku sampaikan padamu”), when you realize that connection is not only based on a person but also based on time and space—I realized that I still have to find closure to all of this while listening to Pilu Membiru Experience.

However, the project also gives a little bit of closure. Pilu Membiru Experience is not merely a wondrous display parading other people’s pain and trauma; in the video, as Kunto Aji performs the song, we hear the subjects voicing their gratefulness and aspirations to the person they lost and finding healing through Kunto Aji’s performance and Adjie Santosoputro’s conversation. I reflected on myself—what if I were the person sitting on that chair? What kinds of words and gratefulness would I say to the person I lost simply because we just drifted apart? Of course, unseen societal barriers would make it awkward if I just hit up their phone number and send these messages to them, but in a perfect world—a world of Pilu Membiru Experience’s creation—I can dig deep in these feelings. And as I watched the video, I felt tears streaming down my face (as you probably would too), and I thought, no, this is not a sign of defeat—it’s a purge of all my repressed emotions.

At the end of the video, as the participants left the room, we see Kunto Aji, sitting on the subject’s chair, crying. The decision to keep this shot in the final cut shows us that Kunto Aji wants to show us that sometimes it’s also not easy creating content that relates to the most vulnerable parts of our psyche. The therapist, the shoulder to lean on, the trusty friend—the people Adjie Santosoputro mentioned in his epigraph—has their own struggles too. We don’t talk about this in terms of the conversation surrounding mental health, especially in Indonesia. It’s important to check on your friends, especially those who’ve carried a lot of emotional baggage from their work. And finally, offer them gratitude and appreciation for their work, like how Pilu Membiru Experience is an honest, brave work of art.

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