The story of Semsar Siahaans artis-

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					De l’oreille gauche

work mobilized again in 1990, when          ponent was halted three years early                         implies, is to slide into an Illichian abyss
Wyeth–Ayerst asked the FDA to ap-           when it was found that the combined                         in which the risks of seeing a physician
prove Premarin for heart disease pre-       increased risk of heart disease and                         outweigh the benefits.
vention in women who have had a             breast cancer overwhelmed lesser ben-
hysterectomy. Every heart disease pre-      efits to bone and colon.                                    Sharon Batt
vention drug used by men has been               The authors of The Truth About                          Elizabeth May Chair in Women’s Health
tested in a large randomized trial, the     Hormone Replacement Therapy could not                        and the Environment
Network argued at a public hearing;         have foreseen the trial’s early end, but                    Atlantic Centre of Excellence for
by contrast, claims that estrogen re-       in many other respects their perspective                     Women’s Health
placement promoted heart health in          is prescient. Clinicians can confidently                    Dalhousie University
women had never been rigorously             recommend this book to patients as a                        Halifax, NS
tested. Leading researchers, sponsored      science-based resource written in lay
by Wyeth–Ayerst, countered that a trial     language on all aspects of hormone                          Ms. Batt is the author of Patient No More:
of estrogen replacement would not be        therapy, from short-term use for                            the Politics of Breast Cancer (Gynergy,
feasible. The FDA turned down the           menopausal symptoms to a thorough                           1994) and Preventing Disease: Are Pills
company’s application.                      evaluation of alternatives like phyto-                      the Answer? (Women and Health
    The Woman’s Health Initiative           estrogens, herbs and “natural” hor-                         Protection, 2002).
clinical trials, funded under Bernadine     mones. Its cautionary approach to these
Healy’s leadership at the US National       preparations, and to the risks of long-                     1.   Writing Group for the Women’s Health Initia-
Institutes of Health, grew out of this      term hormone use, addresses many                                 tive Investigators. Risks and benefits of estrogen
                                                                                                             plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal
ruling. The Network lobbied hard to         questions women have been asking                                 women. Principal results from the Women’s
make sure the trial went ahead. The         since July. For busy physicians, the                             Health Initiative randomized control trial.
trial’s opponents included leading gy-      book could be the answer for all those                           JAMA 2002;288(3):321-33.
                                                                                                        2.   Sibbald B. Fallout from JAMA’s HRT study
necologists, who argued that “the           unread studies (with a few exceptions,                           continuing to land in MDs’ offices. CMAJ 2002;
heart disease benefit is so well proven     journal references are provided).                                167(4):387.
                                                                                                        3.   Pearson C. Response to the announcement that
that it would be unethical to ask               Since the release of the Women’s                             health risks outweigh benefits for combined estro-
women to accept the possibility that        Health Initiative findings, Network                              gen plus progestin. National Women’s Health
                                                                                                             Network, July 2002. Available: www.womens
they might be randomized to a               members have had one message for                        (accessed 2003
placebo.” The rest is history. The          physicians: get drug companies out of                            Jan. 13).
                                                                                                        4.   Toozs-Hobson P, Cardozo L. Hormone re-
Women’s Health Initiative study was         medical education. Easier said than                              placement therapy for all? Universal prescription
launched in 1993, and the HRT com-          done — but the alternative, this book                            is desirable. BMJ 1996;313: 350-1.


A very political art
T     he story of Semsar Siahaan’s artis-
      tic emergence reads like the script
of The Year of Living Dangerously, Peter
                                            resist Japanese and Dutch colonialism.
                                            The senior Siahaan was appointed by
                                            Sukarno as the first chief commander of
Weir’s depiction of the social upheaval     Medan, charged with defending North
in Jakarta before President Sukarno’s       Sumatra from Dutch troops in their
fall in 1965. There were times when         second move to reoccupy and recolo-
Siahaan’s practice of his art endangered    nize Indonesia.
his life, and other times when it saved        Siahaan started making works of art
him. In profiling his career, there seems   very young. “The first time I got art
no way to divorce his art from his hu-      lessons was in Belgrade, Yugoslavia,
manitarian convictions and political ac-    from 1965 to 1968, when my father was
                                                                                       Semsar Siahaan

tivism. There is nothing “virtual” about    an Indonesian military attaché to Yu-
this painter.                               goslavia,” Siahaan recalled in my inter-
    Siahaan was born in Medan, North        view with him. In 1975, after graduating
Sumatra, in 1952. His father was one of     from high school, he studied painting at                     Semsar Siahaan, 2001. Double Self-
the founders of the North Sumatra           the San Francisco Art Institute. He                          Portrait.Oil on canvas, 76 cm × 76 cm
People’s Army, formed in the 1940s to       moved back to Indonesia to study sculp-

320                                  JAMC • 4 FÉVR. 2003; 168 (3)
                                                                                                                                                      The Left Atrium

                 ture at the Institute of Technology in        days of huge peace demonstrations.
                 Bandung, West Java, from 1977 to              On the third day, Siahaan recalls,
                 1981. There followed various brushes          “hundreds of military reacted violently
                 with cultural and political authorities; he   to the peaceful demonstrators.” He re-
                 moved to the Netherlands, where he            counts his experience:
                 was active with expatriot Indonesian po-
                 litical dissidents and published a bulletin   Twenty three were wounded. I was
                                                               beaten up by seven soldiers. They
                 called For the Sake of Democracy and Hu-      knocked me down on the street, and
                 man Rights in Indonesia. After returning      broke my left leg into three pieces. They
                 to Indonesia in 1984, he applied his tal-     didn’t stop kicking me in the stomach,
                 ent to making graphic banners and             legs and head with their boots, creating
                 posters for political demonstrations and      bruises all over my body. They threw me
                                                               into the army truck, from which then

                                                                                                             Semsar Siahaan
                 spent most of the proceeds from his
                                                               they again threw me to the ground near
                 drawings and paintings on funding             the local police headquarters. My condi-
                 grassroots coalition movements. In 1990       tion was such that my left leg was spin-
                 he went to Australia for a six-city tour of   ning around and in hellish pain. Two                            Semsar Siahaan, 2001. The Global
                 his exhibition and lecture series, backed     hours later an army ambulance came and                          Trader. Oil on canvas, 76 cm × 76 cm
                 by the Democratic Socialist Party and         took me, very roughly and by force, to
                 Greenpeace.                                   the military hospital. There, they tor-
                                                               tured me, bending my broken left leg like
                                                                                                                              allegorical narratives that collapse tem-
                                                               a V. They set the leg, improperly, in a
                                                               thick plaster cast. Then they put me in an                     poral and spatial relationships between
                                                               isolation room for two days, while the                         episodes and frequently appropriate
                                                               military colonel interrogated me.                              motifs and characters from myth and
                                                                                                                              current events to refer to, or satirize,
                                                                   In 1995 Siahaan’s career, and possi-                       Western cultural imperialism and Eu-
                                                               bly his life, was saved by an invitation to                    rocentric values. His paintings contain
                                                               participate at an exhibition at the inau-                      diverse references, such as George W.
                                                               guration of the Singapore Art Museum.                          Bush enthroned (wearing Presidential-
                                                               This was followed by shows in Australia                        Seal-encrusted cowboy-boots of office),
                                                               and Japan. By 1997 he was an interna-                          the ghostly Twin Towers, the Sum-
                                                               tionally recognized artistic voice. But                        marian goddess Ereshkigal, Christ, and
                                                               this was also the year that military                           a transcendent bird-man figure. De-
                                                               squads in Indonesia started kidnapping                         spite these external allusions, these
                                                               pro-democracy activists, including                             works also depict a personal journey.
                                                               artists, students, professors, journalists                         Although his injured leg now pro-
                                                               and outspoken intellectuals. Dozens of                         hibits Siahaan from marching in politi-
Semsar Siahaan

                                                               youths were shot and killed in military                        cal demonstrations, his posters, banners
                                                               operations against civilians across In-                        and signs are carried by students in ral-
                                                               donesia that spring, and in May Jakarta                        lies in Canada and the US. His recent
                  Semsar Siahaan, 2001. The Genoa
                                                               exploded in riots that rapidly spiralled                       works are unsparing, depicting the emo-
                  Tragedy.Oil on canvas, 76 cm × 76 cm
                                                               out of control.                                                tional narratives of an immigrant from
                                                                   Siahaan again escaped to Singapore,                        the warm-blooded societies of Indonesia
                    In 1994 Siahaan received the Best          and later arranged his immigration to                          in Anglophile Victoria. His political be-
                 in Show award at the Jakarta Biennale         Canada. Since his arrival in 1999, he                          liefs and faith in humankind are a blend
                 IX, an exhibition of contemporary in-         has achieved a visibility that even estab-                     of warning and of hopefulness. As he
                 donesian art. The work that gained            lished Canadian artists have difficulty                        comments, “[There] is a global, young
                 him this prize was an installation            attaining. His third solo show in Victo-                       people’s unity emerging to build a new,
                 piece, Redigging the Mass Grave. In late      ria, presented at the Community Arts                           humanized life-vision through their ac-
                 June 1994, after the government had           Council of Greater Victoria Gallery last                       tivism and works of art.”
                 banned three magazines and a leading          summer, featured 25 works painted in
                 newspaper, Siahaan was involved in            2001 and 2002.                                                 Yvonne Owens
                 organizing an alliance of Indonesian              Siahaan paints in oil, using a mural-                      Ms. Owens is a Victoria-based art critic
                 NGOs into the Indonesian Pro-                 ist style that sometimes incorporates                          currently pursuing graduate studies at the
                 Democracy Action, which held three            elements of graffiti art. His works are                        University of York, England.

                                                                                      CMAJ • FEB. 4, 2003; 168 (3)                                                   321

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