Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

exhibition at ruru gallery, Jakarta

A collaborative exhibition and a series of talks: ruangrupa and the Indonesian Visual Art Archive.

art infrastructure in Indonesia

Christine Clark argues that Indonesia lacks a state-sponsored public infrastructure for the arts. Many in Indonesia consider this a problem, curator Rizky Zaelani, for example, wrote: “When the state’s bureaucracy is not – or, perhaps, not yet – able to organize its wealth so that it can support and develop infrastructures for the art, the ‘fate’ of the art development cannot be supported by strong and capable institutions. As a result, various artistic events are held with neither coordination nor long-term plans.” But that is far too fatalistic, why wait for the state? Clark argues that Indonesia doesn’t need to copy the infrastructure models that have proven to be successful in the West. Organizations like ruangrupa in Jakarta (ruangrupa organizes biannually Ok. Video Festival, I published a review in C-Arts Magazine, see here), Common Room Networks Foundation in Bandung and Cemeti Art House in Yogyakarta have proven to be so successful that they do they do more than merely fill the gap left by the state. However, she concludes that without a state-sponsored public infrastructure for the arts the development of contemporary art in Indonesia will always remain problematic. This conclusion doesn’t follow from her premises, and the only support she provides is that the current Indonesian art world is characterized by decentralization. Again, that doesn’t support her conclusion (it could, if she would replace ‘decentralization’ by ‘fragmentation’). Now she seems to say that Indonesia should in fact follow the models that have proven to be successful in the West. It remains a question whether the West provides a singular model – there is a huge difference between, for instance, the U.S. and Belgium (and even between the language communities within Belgium). And the nation-state model she seems to prefer does not come with neutrality (the Netherlands are a case in point, the current right-wing government slashed its budget for the arts and as a consequence museums, theatre and dance companies, and postgraduate educational institutes have to close or at least drastically slim down). Finally, an infrastructure for the arts could also be institutionalized from the bottom-up through co-ordination between the diverse art and cultural organizations in Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta (after all, MoMA in NY was a private initiative). Among many other things, it requires developing diverse formats of revenue models for financial sustainability (especially important now a dependence on foreign donors is no longer prudent due to the global financial crisis). One more point, the term ‘absentee state’ in reference to the arts in Indonesia is an exaggeration. Approximately one third of the budget of the Yogyakarta Biennale came from the state. The Jakarta Biennale is partly and indirectly state funded as well through the Jakarta Arts Council (DKJ). And all four venues at the two biennales are state-owned: the National Gallery and the Jakarta Art Center Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) for the Jakarta Biennale, and the National Museum of Yogyakarta and Taman Budaya for the Yogyakarta Biennale. TIM is not only state-owned, it was intended by the state to function for the arts, another example is Gallery Soemardja at the campus of ITB in Bandung (the National Gallery and Taman Budaya are colonial buildings, and the National Museum of Yogyakarta used to be a high school), from which we should conclude that the state used to have policies for the arts. Beside buildings and funding, sustainability is also about ideas. It is highly problematic that there is not yet a department of art history at an Indonesian university (which has priority over starting programs on curatorial practice or art management tailored to local needs instead of sending aspiring curators and art managers overseas for such programs).

Christine Clark, “Building a New Arts Infrastructure, Non-State Foundations in Asia;”

Christine Clark, “When the alternative becomes the mainstream, operating globally without national infrastructure,” in 15 years Cemeti Art House, Exploring Vacuum (Yogyakarta, Cemeti Art House, 2003): 122-124.

Rizky Zaelani, “Interpellation: Notes on a common language of comparison in international art events,” Interpellation, CP Biennale 2003 catalog (Jakarta: CP Foundation, 2003);

curatorial practice in Indonesia

June Yap: “As Agung Hujatnikajennong, curator in Bandung at the Selasar Sunaryo Art Space and the [2009] Jakarta Biennale, suggests, curatorial practice depends on networks […]. This has also begun to grow problematic in Indonesia, in that ‘the network is much determined by arbitrary connections, that all kinds of interests may overlap, and some curators are not able to define their own positions so as to gain a level of autonomy and professionalism. Since the boom of the art market in Indonesia, the Indonesian curator has been identified with the extension of the commercial institution's interest, such as with galleries or auction houses’.”

In a discussion with Tony Godfrey for Broadsheet, Agung says that “the notion of curatorial practice has always been like a free-floating job [in Indonesia].”

What is Agung’s own position in this?

June Yap, “Curatorial connections, Southeast Asia: Three panels, two books;”

Tony Godfrey, “Ethics and politics of curating in Southeast Asia,” Broadsheet 40, no.1 (2010), 56-59;

biennales as temporary museums for contemporary art

Kate Fowle writes that biennales “could act as a testing ground for artists and a barometer for the development of art practice.” However, because Indonesia lacks art museums that collect and preserve art works, and by doing so put these works in context, biennales could offer this context and serve as temporary museums for contemporary art and provide a context by not only looking forward but also by looking back (thus: not only focusing on the young, the hip & the talented, which serves the art market but doesn’t provide any context).

Kate Fowle, “Who Cares? Understanding the Role of the Curator Today,” in Cautionary Tales, eds. Steven rand and Heather Kouris (New York: Apex Art, 2007), 15.

wall texts and the 2011 Jakarta Biennale

The chaotic display of wall texts - none at all, containing only minimal information (name of the artist and title of the work) or wrong translations (and perhaps there were also wall texts attached to the wrong art works) - at the 2011 Jakarta Biennale was certainly a major annoyance. However, this raises a question: since when has it been custom to have extensive wall texts interpreting the displayed works at art exhibitions and to see these texts as necessary? The works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh en Mondrian - to name the three most important artists from Dutch art history - are not accompanied by extensive wall texts (at least, so far as I recall). Are the works by these artists - unlike contemporary art works - considered self-explanatory?

exhibition at Salihara, Jakarta

See here for more info.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The market and the arts in Southeast Asia

Tony Godfrey (Sotheby’s Institute of Art) on art in Southeast Asia: “What is changing in this area for art? What does the future hold? One thing that struck me when I moved here […] was the paucity of state support, the dominance of the market and the prevalence of speculation in that market. Working as you do as curators or critics in this context how do you avoid being compromised? Can we begin by addressing this question?”

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Roma Arts wishes you a creative 2012!

Roma Arts
wishes you a creative 2012!

Roma Arts is a think tank that promotes passionate, ambitious and focused ways of producing, presenting and experiencing the diverse forms of arts from Indonesia. We give keen attention to art practices, forms of presentation and experiencing the arts through various means: for example, workshops, discussions and research on such topics as art practices, management, presentation, art criticism, funding, education, audience engagement, and etcetera, which will result in publications and exhibitions. Roma Arts intersects with the many already existing art institutions: (semi-)state-run institutions, commercial galleries, private museums, artist initiative spaces, and etcetera. We are ready to engage with the members of these organizations as intermediaries to promote fertile interaction between these spaces and their audiences.
Warm regards,
Roma Arts