The pall wraps Dogtown in dirt and brown. The air is burnt, acrid. Stay outside for the day and the coughing begins, a dry hack at the back of the throat that clears nothing and leaves you dry.
Every year it’s the same, the palm oil plantations are cleared, fires spring up across all of Indonesia and the smoke goes up an apocalyptic season unto itself. As heavy as the smoke lies the sense of resignation, it’s another country, the government is powerless, too much money in back pockets and brown envelops for anything to change.
“We stay indoors” say the people who can. Houses, air-conditioned cars, offices, all sealed tight and the shopping malls fit to burst. It’s a marker of status, a new culture emerging, who gets to stay indoors, who has to go out.
In the workshops and warehouses of Dogtown there is no indoors, just a roof for the rain. No one wears a mask, there doesn’t seem to be much point. This is the raw edge of environmental destruction, a hard reality and an everyday practicality, a dream of blue skies turned to brown.
The dog who barks at the mountain, the mountain does not move
Dogtown is busy but no one is making or manufacturing here, it's all spare parts and scrap, repairs and custom jobs. Opera pipes from the workshops, fake birdsong from the alleys, but the sound of the welding punches right through. The pressure is on and it’s easy to feel, people work hard and dream big for success. In a country that’s growing there’s still room to make it, tomorrow to hope for once today has passed by.
Dogtown’s run down and the strays run amok, the palette is old with a muddy grey wash, but stark as a spray paint are bold swipes of colour, the tricked out sports cars of the rich kids from town. They know a man who knows someone who can inject some cc, a warehouse in Dogtown where the parts are cheap the questions slim.
Even out here there’s a thin golden thread, a cash rich connection that’s woven by mouth, these men have the skill, those men have the cash, KL and Dogtown have something to trade.
The dog who barks at the tail of the elephant
Dogtown’s strays are mixed like the attitudes that treat them. Some feed them and offer them a place, others revile them and shoo them away. There’s some religion here, dogs are unclean as well as just dirty, but for the most part it's personal if the hand reaches for the scraps or the stick. The strays don’t breed here, they are bought in, unwanted runts from other litters, dropped in the night to gather the next day. Just like the scrap here, the dogs get recycled, some find new homes whilst others still wait.
Like the bitch who gave birth to six puppies
Malay etiquette determines that a rude man smiles and laughs to strangers. It is an impertinent man who looks you in the eye. It is a threatening man who grasps your hand firmly. Only strangers from foreign countries mix up all three. Etiquette begins with the body, swagger into a room and your legs announce you before you’ve opened your mouth. You’ve missed the point without saying a word.
We have the fool's licence, it’s where we start when we learn, two lost boys having some fun, wandering round Dogtown, just a couple more strays to add to the pack. But that doesn’t last long once the clipboards come out. Our cameras and microphones have a sinister air, devices that record can brand and point out, mysterious data and opaque intentions, that harmless caper doesn’t quite match. So the man on the scooter rides up to come see, he asks what we’re doing and why we are here. We don’t really know so it’s quite hard to answer, we just want to wander without much of a reason, it’s a place to uncover on the sake of its own.
The dog who still wags when his tail is pressed down