Aliansyah Caniago

Landscape of Barus

(Photo credit: Landscape of Barus (Aliansyah Caniago, 2019))

Aliansyah Caniago is using his period as a Visiting Artist attached to Radar's Ecological Thinking series of commissions to develop an ongoing project exploring the history of dryobalanops aromatica, a species of camphor tree formerly common to the region of Sumatra where he grew up. Once highly-prized by Arab merchants and European colonizers for its aromatic oil, illegal logging and land conversion for palm oil plantations means the tree is now increasingly rare: it is classified as 'Vulnerable', and Caniago himself has never seen one.

Caniago’s project uses the tree to explore the relationship between ecology and colonialism in Sumatra, including the history of the island's Bogor Botanic Gardens (developed with the input of Kew Gardens' first Director, Joseph Banks). Through this long-term research project, Caniago ultimately aims to plant dryobalanops aromatica in Sumatra. Previous related works include Tree Without Roots (2018), a life-sized sculpture of a camphor tree made from waste from a camphor factory, produced during a residency at the National Botanical Garden in Taipei; and Landscape of Barus (2019), a photo-collage of fallen dryobalanops aromatica leaves taken by friends of Caniago in Taiwan, where the tree is more readily found. The fallen leaves act as metaphors for peoples displaced by land clearance and gesture to the tree's formerly emblematic status in the region.

Aliansyah Caniago studied Painting at the Bandung Institute of Technology Faculty Art and Design. Through site-specific interventions, installations and durational performances, he is interested in working directly with communities and developing artworks that blend-in with the society, entering conflicted areas creatively and trying to repair the damaged environment. He has participated in several group exhibitions and performance art events, both local and international. Alongside his artistic practice, he is also one of the founder of Ruang Gerilya, an artist collective space in Bandung, Indonesia, which provides a platform for experimental works, and has a focus on artists interested in process and research.


Produced for Radar by Laura Purseglove
Academic collaborator: Peter Yeandle


Ecological Thinking

A programme of artist commissions and events exploring what creative and collaborative methodologies can bring to ecological study. Read more


Palm to Palm

Wed 25 May 2022

10:30am - 12:00pm

A performance work exploring Sumatra's colonial ecologies. Read more