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Life is a Game, Play It

Indonesian photographer Leonard Suryajaya shapes a new identity on his grandiose sets.

Born to Chinese parents in conservative Indonesia, Chicago-based artist Leonard Suryajaya had to build his own identity after his formative years. Layer upon layer, his work became an active instrument in this process of invention and rediscovery, where he got to photograph his biological family mixed with his chosen one and explore a queerness he had to keep to himself, and from himself, for years.

For Leonard Suryajaya, finding a voice meant everything but cutting off his roots. Surrounded by patterns, flowers, kites and puppets, the characters in his photographs are playfully caught in the tension between tradition and modernity, embodying a new aesthetic that stems from their encounter. The artist also made his own family history part of the exhibition, including letters from his father, who whimsically writes to him: “All failure is nothing but delayed success, make it a chance to introspect & a whip - Life is a challenge, meet it - Life is a game, play it.”

"False Idol x North Kin" by Leonard Suryajaya is on view at
Plug In ICA
until July 17.

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