S e m i o t i k a a d i l u h u n g 1 9 4 5 was never meant to be all that funny. The Facebook page posts sometimes bizarre, sometimes ridiculous images of everyday life in Indonesia without any context. The result is something that's funny, weird, and endlessly shareable. It's amassed a devoted following in less than a year, aided, in no small part, by fans who add their own context to each photo, posting in the same a e s t h e t i c as the page's creators.
But all of it, the one the site's anonymous admins told me, was unintentional.
"SA1945 isn't a funny page and we never told anyone to post comments with spaces between the letters!" one of the admins told me.
What the S e m i o t i k a a d i l u h u n g 1 9 4 5 crew have done is create a page where fans either get it or they don't. It's the equivalent of an in-joke between friends, except it's on a national scale and (probably) a million times funnier.
I wanted to figure out what it all means, so I sat down with one of the anonymous admins—we'll call him A.A.—at a West Jakarta coffee shop to talk about what makes him laugh.
VICE Indonesia: So why did you guys start S e m i o t i k a a d i l u h u n g 1 9 4 5?
A.A.: So on June 7th, 2016, both of us were really fucked up after finishing our finals at college. It was two in the morning and we submitted our final assignments one day before the deadline. The other admin and I usually came up with so many ideas, but we never executed 90 percent of them. So I told him, 'let's create a meme page.' We made it right away, created a Facebook page and posted our first meme.
It's just the two of you?
At first, yeah. Then I asked another friend to join us. I just said to him, 'you're going to be an admin.' Now we have seven admins in total, all of whom are fresh grads. We all went to the same university. We only recruit people we know to be admins and they must share our sense of humor.
Where do you even find these pictures?
The photos come from Google searches and our own personal collections. One of us has a folder on his laptop with gigabytes worth of pictures. We also take a lot from Twitter—the ones trending on Twitter—but not from Facebook.
You're not exactly the first meme-based Facebook page in Indonesia. What are your influences?
We like LSDmeme, redemptoris, and virtual experiences. We also like the Indonesian page Sepi dan Segala Serangga yang Menyangga ("Loneliness and All the Insects that Hold Us Together"). We first heard of memes from a local site, actually.
What's crossing the line for you? Is there anything you won't post?
The other day we saw an ibu-ibu with a Minions bag. We found it really funny, and we wanted to take her photo, but then we soon realized the consequences. The point is, we need to use common sense. We need to think of the potential impact, of what might happen to her or other people if a photo of them goes viral.
Making fun of tragedies is wrong. For example, the Russian ambassador who was shot in Turkey. An hour after the incident, a lot of international meme pages like Criminal Aesthetic were sharing memes about the incident. That was too soon. And their content focuses on tragedy instead of the funny side of life. We think that's insensitive.
What do you all have in common?
Most of us are dorks, nerds, and antisocial people. And some of us are self-proclaimed cinephiles, so yeah, I guess we're pretty pretentious. We spend a lot of time watching movies that are, if we're allowed to be stereotypes, in the art student/scenester starter pack. A lot of French films, Akira, Pulp Fiction, 2001: A Space Odyssey. We also read books like The Divine Comedy, 1984, or Brave New World.
A lot of people say you're all lonely single people with too much time on their hands.
Look, we shitpost because we're freelancers. We work from our kosan and mostly at night. So we don't have that many choices other than shitposting. It may mean we're lonely, but perhaps it's psychological loneliness, and not because we don't go out.
But it's not because we're single. When we created the page, one of us had a girlfriend.
What are you trying to do with the name? S e m i o t i k a a d i l u h u n g 1 9 4 5 sounds like it has something to do with philosophy or linguistics. Is that something you're all interested in?
Not really. We were just trying to come up with two unrelated, but cool words. But one of us read that semiotika [semiotics] is the study of signs, and adiluhung means 'high' [as in 'high culture' not 'stoned'] so semiotika adiluhung means 'high memes.'
Are any of you friends with the people behind p e n a h a n r a s a b e r a k?
We don't know them URL or IRL. But we do know of them. They don't know us through, because we only stalk them online. One of us has super-advanced/ creepy stalking skills.
Is there a common theme in your posts?
We like obscure things. We can find one that went mainstream once, but was then forgotten, because Indonesians are so quick to forget. So when someone posts something, they click it right away. For instance, a photo of Parto shooting in the air, or a photo of a tudeng saji. A lot of people share those photo. It makes us happy.
We try to keep the posts local—with a few misses. That includes all the stuff in pop culture, society, politics, the economy, and culture. So the pictures we post are about everyday life in Indonesia. I guess you could say it's Indonesian shitposting. Now, about the funny photos… we like the innocence of a photo. For example, if there's a middle-aged man doing something funny. But he did it because he is so innocent. We find that funny, so we post it.
So you guys like to laugh at other people's naivety. Like when a woman mistakes a vibrator for a powerbank? Don't you think it's a bit elitist?
Yeah, we're elitists and we're pretentious. We're aware of everything we do. Even before SA1945, some of us had a podcast called Pretensius that we intentionally made elitist.
OK, but what's with the empty captions? You only post photos. There's no context.
That's part of the concept. We shitpost out of context. We only want to be a platform. If we take a look at Indonensian meme culture, everything is politically correct or meant to persuade people toward a certain viewpoint. We don't want to do that. We don't want to be politically correct.
You recently posted a photo of Sandiaga Uno. Are you endorsing him in the election?
We post Sandiaga Uno's photos because he's more meme-able than say, Ahok.