Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Portals and Hubs: Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta Airport

Gate E4 at Jakarta Airport, July 2016

So often we find ourselves in portals or transit hubs with too much time. I've travelled all over the world having thoughts and experiences in portals and hubs, and have decided to start documenting them here on Dress Me Up, Drag Me Out. It will be interesting to hear how your experience of these liminal spaces differ from mine, and how the spaces change over time.

The airport in Jakarta is unlike many European transit hubs. The planners have endowed it with an Indonesian flavour: timber beaming, orchids, an abundance of souvenir shops, and authentically failing air conditioning. It is also full of windows: inside this airport we are definitely connected to the outside. Nonetheless, a stillness prevails inside: dramatic fleshy orchid petals of white and pink are suspended in the air, their stillness belying their life; the constructed airport stands in for a hothouse or jungle habitat. At the entrance to the souvenir shops are display of gigantic butterflies, framed and pinned onto a cardboard backing. This is not Victoriana: the butterflies are vibrantly-coloured, fresh, and not a speck of dust. They have been culled for novelty; unlike the orchids, they decorate the space by their death. Further in the shops are a bounty of carved wooden sculptures featuring Buddha, Barong, monkeys, and Rama; stories from the past made available to the present.

Jakarta airport, July 2016
The airports in the London conurbation are a world of difference. There are no national flora of roses, thistles, daffodils or shamrock, and any local fauna such as mice or rats are hidden from view; that is, until the visitor reaches the Underground, where they frolic merrily on platforms and tube tracks. Instead of polished stone and solid timber, we tend to have kilometres-worth of dull, industrial carpet with no thought for beauty. It makes me wonder what visitors' first impressions of the United Kingdom really are, especially after leaving such calm and decorated surrounding such as these in Jakarta.

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