Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art and Leonard Suryajaya: False Idol x North Kin, May 13 - July 17

Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art is pleased to announce:

Leonard Suryajaya: False Idol x North Kin

May 13 - July 17, 2022

Opening | Friday, May 13, 7 - 10 pm

Panel discussion with Leonard Suryajaya, Charlene K. Lau and Claire Voon | Saturday, May 14, 3pm

Ethical Art Writing: Workshop with Charlene K. Lau and Claire Voon | Sunday, May 15, 1pm (RSVP required)

Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art is thrilled to announce False Idol x North Kin, a solo exhibition featuring Chicago-based artist, Leonard Suryajaya. It will be taking place in our galleries from May 13 to July 17, 2022. To celebrate the opening of the exhibition please join us Friday, May 13 from 7 - 10 pm for an opening reception and Saturday, May 14 at 3 pm for a panel discussion focusing on Suryajaya's work within False Idol x North Kin, with the artist, Charlene K. Lau and Claire Voon.

This is the first time the artist is formally exhibiting work in the country. Suryajaya was born and spent his formative years in Indonesia to Chinese parents. He is a second-generation child of immigrants who, like his parents, carry backgrounds that are deeply inflicted by conflict, displacement, assimilation, the attendant trauma, and to a great extent self-erasure as part of their process of survival. Within the predominantly conservative Islamic Indonesia the artist grew up in, he discovered his own queerness and subsequently had to suppress it from anyone including himself. Suryajaya's photographic practice began and developed after relocating to the United States after stints in theatre programs. Over the course of discovering the medium and shaping his artistic voice through it, his work became an instrument by which he cultivated and nurtured a self away from personal histories of trauma, a self surrounded by newfound family outside a biological one, and a self that felt weightless within the fantastical environments he designed for his photographs. One of his formidable series, False Idol, surveys a long trajectory of Suryajaya evolving over years, as a person and artist moving through the various complex circumstances he began and continues to traverse. The series has served as a respite for creativity for the artist and as a container to sustain opposing perspectives, identities and states of mind. Aspects of False Idol will be assembled for this exhibition. It is a series that upon viewing charms with its elaborately detailed selection of patterns, textures, objects and rushes of colour competing for your sight. It is indicative of the grand enveloping splendour Suryajaya's photo environments have become known for. A number of the pieces in this exhibition feature a mix of friends and loved ones including his biological family and the family he has made along the way. The artist has been lucky to participate in several artist residency programs which have connected him to various communities all over. This past winter Suryajaya, continued to build upon the relationships he's made through his work by offering free studio portrait sessions to members of the public when he visited Winnipeg for the first time. The result of this portrait session has been amalgamated into an interwoven collage that becomes part of his characteristic visually rich installation. The installation models after airport newsstands and gift shops for travelers on their way to or leaving home. The sculptural elements of the exhibition extend the immersive set designs of his photographs to make that even more vivid. Suryajaya sees these gift stands as an invitation to audiences to 'find a sense of familiarity in the photographs of the 'other', the foreigners.' The exhibition also features his video work, Lesser Than Three, a playful, surreal, theatrical work that features as its main protagonist, Suryajaya's long-time partner, Peter.

Suryajaya's work has circulated across the United States and overseas in various exhibitions and publications. He continues to create uncompromisingly maximalist images and installations that never feel overkill or boring and it is our very pleasure to have him in here for our local audiences.

In conjunction with this exhibition we are also hosting Ethical Art Writing a free workshop that will take place at 1pm on May 15th, 2022 hosted by Charlene K. Lau and Claire Voon in our galleries. Seats are limited and priority will be given to BIPOC participants. Please email to reserve your spot for the workshop.

Leonard Suryajaya (Chicago, IL) uses his work to test the boundaries of intimacy, community and family. He uses photography, video, performance and installation to show how the everyday is layered with histories, meanings and potential.

BA in Theatre Arts and BFA, 2013, California State University, Fullerton; MFA, 2015, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; 2017, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Selected exhibition venues include Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago; Benaki Museum, Greece; Photoforum Pasquart, Switzerland; National Library, Singapore; Wrightwood 659, Chicago; Aperture Gallery, NY; Barney Savage Gallery, NYC; Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago. His work is included in collections such as the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Photography, The Block Museum, Vontobel Art Collection, Joan Flasch Artist Book Collection, Mana Contemporary and Center for Photography at Woodstock. Awards: Aaron Siskind Foundation Award, Artadia Awards, Robert Giard Foundation Fellowship, CENTER Excellence in Multimedia Award, New Artist Society Award, James Weinstein Memorial Fellowship, Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Prize for Emerging Artist, The Santo Foundation Fellowship.

Charlene K. Lau is an art historian, critic and Curator of Public Art at Evergreen Brick Works. She has held fellowships at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity; Parsons School of Design, The New School; and Performa Biennial. Charlene has also held teaching positions at Parsons School of Design, OCAD University, Toronto Metropolitan University, Western University and York University. Her writing has been published in Artforum,, The Brooklyn Rail, Canadian Art, frieze, Critical Studies in Fashion & Beauty, Fashion Theory and Journal of Curatorial Studies, among others.

Claire Voon is a writer and editor who has contributed to publications including ARTnews, the Brooklyn Rail, Frieze, the New York Times, and Teen Vogue. Previously a staff writer at Hyperallergic and an assistant editor at Chicago magazine, she currently edits for Aperture and Borderless Magazine, a news outlet working to reimagine immigration journalism. She was born in Singapore and lives in Brooklyn.

Opening Hours and Procedures

Plug In ICA is by appointment. Appointments are available during gallery hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 12 - 6 pm; Thursday 12 - 8 pm; and Saturday 12 - 5 pm. Please book through our online booking system, email or call 204-942-1043 to make your appointment today.

No appointment is required for the opening on May 13 or the panel discussion on May 14. We do ask visitors to wear masks when not eating or drinking during the opening reception.

If you would like to participate in the workshop on May 15, email to reserve your spot.

We kindly ask visitors to wear masks when visiting the gallery, maintain physical distancing and stay home when ill.

Please note, our online shop is open and curbside pickup is available


We are on Treaty 1 Territory. Plug In ICA is located on the territories of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation.

Plug In ICA extends our heartfelt gratitude to our generous donors, valued members, and dedicated volunteers. We acknowledge the sustaining support of our Director's Circle. You all make a difference.

We would like to The Winnipeg Foundation for their ongoing support of Plug In ICA.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg Arts Council. We could not operate without their continued financial investment and lobbying efforts.

Plug In ICA relies on community support to remain free and accessible to all, and enable us to continue to present excellent programs. Please consider becoming a member of Plug In ICA and a donor at or by contacting Erin Josephson-Laidlaw at

For more information about our programming, contact Luther Konadu at

For general information, please contact: or call 1.204.942.1043.