The Lepidopters is a four-part science-fiction comic written by Mark von Schlegell (Semiotexte) and drawn and water-coloured by “Iwank” Erwan Hersi Susanto (Yellow Teeth Comics).
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.
But the text is also a 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 musical structures that traditionally articulated these, and the derivations and misconstruals of colonial European & post-colonial American visitors.
Derived from the comic, The Lepidopters: A Science-Fiction Space-Opera is a three-part work for choir, virtuoso keyboard player, just-intonation mystic-punk band, automated gamelan, flute, clarinet, electric guitar, organ, percussion, electronics and video.
Central to the staging of The Lepidopters is the Sedulur 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.
Other aspects of the work, the staging, the costumes, the design of new instruments, the films and animations to be projected during the performance, and the accompanying printed programme materials, are also pre-imaged within the comic.