In November 2012 SLAVE PIANOS commissioned science fiction writer and art critic Mark von Schlegell to write The Lepidopters, a three-part science-fiction comic set in Indonesia. The comic is being drawn and water-coloured by Yogyakarta artist “Iwank” Erwan Hersi Susanto.
The comic nominally tells the story of an invasion of the Indonesian archipelago by alien moths, who plan to colonise Earth by engaging in inter-species reproduction.
In fact the text is a complex cipher correlating works by seminal American artist Robert Smithson with the work of SLAVE PIANOS and the multi-disciplinary Yogyakarta art collective Punkasila, and connecting these to ancient Javanese mystical systems.
The Lepidopters: A Science-Fiction Space-Opera is scored for the unusual instrumentation of soprano, virtuoso keyboard player, mystic-punk band (voice, electric guitar, noise machines, electric bass and drums), automated Gamelan, and analog electronics.
Central to the staging of The Lepidopters is the Sedular Gamelan two large interlocking wooden structures built to house a self-governing electro-mechanical Slave Gamelan.
The Lepidopters spirals out from this locus, connecting the work of Robert Smithson, who was closely engaged with the radical re-imaginings of early 70’s experimental science-fiction, with the work of his contemporaries David Behrman, Takehisa Kosugi and Eduard Artemyev, composers of progressive and experimental musics whose work evolved in the expanded sonic landscapes opened onto by analogue electronics, and in the interior fictive landscapes of utopian and dystopian visions that characterise the writings of Phillip K. Dick, Stanisław Lem and Alice Sheldon referenced in von Schlegell’s text.
All other aspects of the work are also pre-imaged within the comic, including the staging and costume designs, the design of new instruments and sculptural instrument housings, the films and animations to be projected during the performance, and the accompanying printed programme materials.