In Indonesia, the year 1965 stands for political unrest and mass killings. Processing the events collectively and publicly has been challenging until today. With Professor St. Sunardi (Universitas Sanata Dharma) and visual artist Rangga Purbaya (Ruang Mes 56) we learned about the sociopolitically pressing issue of 1965 and how the aftermath of the events and anti-communist phobia is shaping the country’s present. How to artistically deal with suppressed information, incomplete stories, lost voices? How could a public participation in collecting memories and counter-narratives take shape? And did the collective experience of loss foster an aesthetics of melancholia?
With artists Mella Jaarsma, Bayu Widodo and Sigit Pius we discussed the complex cultural landscape of Yogyakarta, local myths and the challenges of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society:
Dutch artist Mella Jaarsma has lived in Indonesia for the past 40 years. She utilizes her work in order to reflect and comment on socio-political issues. She presented a selection of works connected to questions of religion and cultural diversity. For Binds & Blinds (2017) for example, she made an open call via Social media and collected around 650 pictures of belly buttons from people living throughout Indonesia. By exhibiting these “navel selfies”, Mella Jaarsma challenges the moral limitations and addresses growing religious fundamentalism.
Visual artist and activist Bayu Widodo (SURVIVE!Garage) often uses the metaphor of hands in his work that critiques political, social and environmental issues: hands that give, hands that take, hands that are able to caress but also hit. He presented works of his focusing on the commercialisation of urban space, such as in “Jogja Not For Sale” that criticised the city’s tourism construction projects that eintailed the building of 33 hotels in the short span of 2010 to 2015. How can we imagine a more humane city development in Yogyakarta?
Artist and curator Sigit Pius presented a work by Zico Albaiquni in the framework of Jogja Biennale XIV: Zico created a new myth in a Yogyakartan neighborhood: In seven locations considered sacred and during dawn, he exhibited a big painting of Nyai Roro Kidul, the queen of the southern seas. Zico documented how street cleaners and people active at that hour started noticing the portrait, how they gathered and prayed in front of it and asked the queen for advice.
Teater Garasi is a theatre collective which dedicates itself since 1993 to questions arising from social realities. Their work is collective and multisdisciplinary from the start: script, choreography, dance, music, videos are produced collectively, and intersections with film and game are explored. Teater Garasi understands its practice as a collective performance creation where all collaborators contribute to the process and where knowledge is shared and disseminated.
SURVIVE! Garage is a community alternative space and art shop that started in a rented garage in 2009. SURVIVE! Garage works with a range of artists and communities from Indonesia, and supports young independent, & emerging artists by providing a space to exhibit, run performances and workshops. During our visit, Bay Widodo explained how the collective operates, how it finds ways to survive year by year, and how it responds to a climate of rising religious fundamentalism.
What is Indonesia’s Art Identity and what are the challenges in documenting and archiving it? At the Indonesian Visual Arts Archive IVAA we learned about the social-political events that informed the beginnings and development of Contemporary Art in Indonesia.
Gintani Nur Apresia Swastika (Ace House Collective, curator Jogja Biennale XVI) explained how the model of the collective has created a sustainable ecosystem of the Art Scene in Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta also hosts numerous culture and art festivals each year. Gintani Swastika highlighted the ways how this festival culture fosters discourse among artists and provides spaces for exchange but also criticism and counteraction.
The collective Lifepatch describes itself as a citizen initiative in art, science and technology. Lifepatch emphasizes the spirit of DIY (Do It Yourself) and DIWO (Do It With Others) by inviting anyone to involve in the process of examining, exploring, developing as well as making the most of the function of technology, in both theoretical and also practical usages. At our visit we were introduced to the making of Jamu, a herbal drink and traditional medicine, and some got their hands on screamo kits and a few other circuit boards to use as synthesizers.
KUNCI Study Forum & Collective, established in 1999, experiments with methods of producing and sharing knowledge through acts of studying together. KUNCI’s practices emphasise collectivising study by way of space-making, discussions, research, publishing and school-organising (School of Improper Education). At our visit, the KUNCI members let us present their collective as though they themselves would be the ones visiting the space as tourists for the first time. In this shift of representation and openness for alternative narrations and the questioning of objectivity, KUNCI tackled questions arising in their collective practice.
Ace House Collective is collective established in 2011, shortly after a major art boom in Yogyakarta 2001–2008. The collective is driven by the urge of its members – all of them also individual artists – to find ways of collaborating with each other and reflecting on in what ways they can utilise their space to support other artists and collectives, and foster discussion and participation. In 2018 with “ACE Mart – There is No Art Only Market”, the collective turned their space into a running minimarket and presented works in this set-up.
Ruang Mes 56: A Cooperative Space for Art Et Cetera was founded 2002 by a group of photographers as a way to explore and claim their practice between visual arts and photography. Over the years, Ruang Mes 56 has grown into a collective space for artists who worked cooperatively with communities, within their networks. During our visit, Ruang Mes 56 member Dito Yuwono showed us a selection of works and exhibitions realized by the collective, before we explored the newly renovated multipurpose space.