project title:
Mas Keong Emas (Mr Golden Snail) 

what is Keong Mas

Keong Emas/Mas (Javanese and Indonesian for Golden Snail) is a popular Javanese folklore about a princess magically trasformed and contained in a golden snail shell. The folklore is a part of popular Javanese Panji cycle telling the stories about the prince Panji Asmoro Bangun (also known as Raden Inu Kertapati) and his consort, princess Dewi Sekartaji (also known as Dewi Chandra Kirana). (from

There are various versions of the story but all has a fixed narration where Dewi (as a golden snail) was found by an old lady, Mbo Rondo Dadapan who picked it up and brought it home as pet. When the old lady was asleep or went out for work, Dewi would transform back into human and as gratitude for keeping her safe as a 'pet', she would clean her house and prepare food for her. Mbo Rondo would come back or awake in surprise for the sudden feast prepared by Dewi.

So one day, being curious, Mbo Rondo pretended to go out for work while she waited in front of her house, peeking from the door. To her surprise, she witnessed the gold snail turned into a beautiful lady. Mbo Rondo then approached Dewi whom told her about her tragic story.

Well, what happened after was the typical fairy tale where Raden Inu found his wife and the curse was lifted as a result of their love.


This story has been taken into popular adaptation, Indonesian cinema, which you can watch from the links here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8 

The subject/s I am interested in for this project are a little different from the film's but I find the film is an interesting reference for narrative structure. It represents the life of modern Indonesian family. Again, not much references I am taking from this film, but I enjoy the cooking scene, which may be useful for the performance/video piece I am planning.

And interestingly, golden snail is more than just a myth. It is a nickname given to Apple Snails because of their bright yellow shells. Yes, it is an actual animal.!

However, the visual depiction of Keong Mas differs from one story to another. One depicts her shell like the apple snail's while others like ammonite's.

Keong Mas also reminds me of IMAX Theatre, located near Jakarta called Keong Mas. Its architecture mimics the shell of a snail hence the name.

For the longest time, I' have always thought that the history behind it comes from the local legend. Although it might have influenced the architecture in one way or another, the actual history is as follow.

In 1980s, the introduction of apple snails to Asia (most probably by the West, although I need to confirm this) was for human consumption. However, things did not go very well regarding health issue, apple snails became agricultural pest.


The architecture is inspired by this introduction of natural food source. Interestingly, up to date, not a single Keong Mas related film has been screened at the theater.


The initial proposal for the residency was to explore the possibility of combining local Spanish myths or folklore with Asian (particularly Indonesian/Singaporean) narrative/s. However in the midst of adjusting to the quiet village environment, I came across the snails. There was unexpectedly a lot of them in the parameter of the forest and later I found out that the snails are natives to Cataluna, the province of Spain where Nau Coclea is. So I began collecting them.


Cleaning the shells and they have pungent smell of earthl. It was so strong that comes the decision to make this project, Earth elemental.

But also the host, Clara Glari sent me an article about snail mutation and a community research done in Catalan. They found out that the shell of the snails will get brighter to lighter colors due to heat and global warming. Snails found in sand dunes change colors in a more rapid speed compared to those in mountainous area. And since the snails I am interested in are gold, I decided to have them Fire elemental.

So it will be Earth/Fire. This may change though.

And I bought Maggi noodle Oriental with Chicken and Curry flavors. The packages have images of dragons on them. The plastics have bright yellow borders and gold colored fonts. When Clara first saw the materials I had laid out on the sofa (pictures below), she also commented oriental. Looks like there is something with oriental and gold in the eyes of the Spaniards.

Adding on to research materials,

Basic biology background on the snails

Land Snails


So this was how the sofa looked like before I moved all the works into the other room.

I was in the supermarket the other day and found paper plates with glistening gold color. So i bought them. The 'metal' cover is made out of paper too.

The bag and paper mask is from Cosmopolitan magazine that I bought.

As for the pasta, scroll down to know more. ;)





I'm trying to create Keong Mas as characters. The plan is to create a being oozing out of a golden snail and it has blonde/bright yellow/gold hair. I think this is where the gender interest comes in. By the way, most snails are hermaphrodites.  

And here, shops sell magazines specially dedicated for hair. So these small A5 size magazines contain nothing but images of female hairstyles.



I am also interested in the relationship between snails, golden spiral and mathematics.

"Approximate and true golden spirals. The green spiral is made from quarter-circles tangent to the interior of each square, while the red spiral is a Golden Spiral, a special type of logarithmic spiral. Overlapping portions appear yellow. The length of the side of one square divided by that of the next smaller square is the golden ratio."

And there's mathematic formula for Equiangular Spiral

Let α be the constant angle.

Polar: r == E^(θ * Cot[α])

Parametric: E^(t * Cot[α]) {Cos[t],Sin[t]}

Cartesian: x^2 + y^2 == E^(ArcTan[y/x] Cot[α] )




I don't know what it means but it raises the question of precision and uncertainties, science and art, myth and reality.


And so I moved my works into another room.





















Have been experimenting on different visuals.

1. The snail spirit -> myth

2. Spiral and maths -> logic

In addition to that, I am thinking of trying out video/performance and performance

The idea came from the "siesta".

Siesta and Tapas

I have not heard of "siesta" before I came here and finding out that the shop closes from 2-5pm was not exactly the pleasant surprise, as taking train from Camallera to nearby town which only comes every 2 hours can be a nightmare if you miss one, arriving in town at ungodly hours and find yourselves at doorsteps of closed shops. So in terms of adjusting, this would be the most difficult. Imagine I would have to wake up at 6am to catch a train at 7am to Barcelona. Arriving there at 9, just to have enough time to walk around before the siesta begins.

So the brief idea is to be Keong Mas and cook snail-shaped pasta and serve them at 2pm during siesta period. Before that, audience can watch the process of cooking by 'peeking' through the door. Likewise for the video.

And to add in the research materials, these are the different types of snail-shaped pasta. But by the way, those snails are served as cuisine too here, and Clara will bring me to eat those next week. It reminds me of Singapore food, boiled Gong Gong with chilli. And I just wiki-ed Gong Gong, it is actually Gong Gong (Chinese: 共工) is a Chinese water god or sea monster, said to resemble a serpent or dragon.


Oh, and the Spaniards use olive oil more than anything else. So if I fried these pasta, will it turn gold? Any recipes?

I will look into siesta and tapas more in the next couple of days. Will be heading to Barcelona tomorrow. :D

But some fast reading on siesta here and here.