Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Fountain of Lamneth

An exhibition, curated by Aminudin TH Siregaror, at Gajah Gallery, Singapore, with works by Bandung-based artists.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


HONF's exhibition at LAF in Yogyakarta until 15 May, 2012.

by Enin Supriyanto

During the end of March 2012, Indonesians from various backgrounds were voicing outrage against the Indonesian Government's plan to cut subsidies on the type of fuel used by most of the population, which would directly result in fuel price hike. Hundreds of demonstrations and rallies took place in many Indonesian major cities.
Days before 1 April 2012, the date when the Government's decision is due, the demonstrations escalated in intensity, which culminated in clashes between police and protesters. The situation grew alarming nationwide as conflicts between people and the Government were in the rise. Finally, after an intense plenary session, the House rejected the fuel price hike proposal. Shortly afterwards, the issue of fuel subsididies removal gradually went out of public attention. The general public were pleased and soothed.

Nevertheless, isn't it the truth that our dependence—and the rest of the world's dependence—on unrenewable fossil fuel has grown to such a large extent? Isn't it the truth that fuel prices will continually increase as supply grows scarce? Also, how long can the Government keep subsidizing fuel with its ever-increasing price? At the moment, with fuel subsidies in place, the important, urgent matters of fuel availability and fuel dependence are gone from public discussions; not deserving of public attention, let alone thoughts.

Amidst such circumstances, the House of Natural Fiber (HONF, Yogyakarta, Indonesia) have been cooking up ideas and experiments to discover alternative ways of obtaining alternative energy sources, which comprise the substance and the socio-economic-political context of the MICRONATION/MACRO-NATION project development.

HONF's presentation at Langgeng Art Foundation (LAF) is their starting point to introduce these ideas as well as the technical-practical implementation possibilities. The presentation—as a sustainable design prototype—consists of 3 core components: a) Installation of a fermentation/distillation machine to process hay (raw material) into ethanol (alternative energy to substitute fossil fuel); b) Satellite data grabber: to obtain data related to agricultural production (weather, climate, seasons); c) Super-Computer: to process data (weather, seasons as well as ethanol production capacity), which is also capable of predicting when Indonesia can reach energy and food independence if this MICRONATION/MACRONATION sustainable project design were to be implemented as a public strategy and policy to achieve the condition of energy and food independence in Indonesia.

This presentation is a good opportunity for us to reassess basic performative premises of various practices combining science, technology and arts. HONF's project—as with their previous projects—actually blurs the boundaries that have thus far been setting apart science, technology and arts. They combine all three, which to us brings home the question: where is the boundary between aesthetic experience and function? What possibilities could the relationship among science, technology and arts bring when confronted to actual problems in today's communities?

Compared to various other fine arts practices involving elements of social activism which have hitherto been tested and conducted by a number of artists in Indonesia, HONF’s current project actually proposes something new and different. They no longer practice the “taking to the streets” or “teaching/utilizing arts to raise mass awareness” kinds of activism, nor do they practice arts that involve local environmental/community issues . Instead they view social-political issues by assessing various strategic areas, which are not solely based on the “people versus corporate” or “people versus the State” axes.

By widening our acceptance of various dimensions of relationship which exist between the artists and the public today, we can see that HONF still employs ‘aesthetics’ in their work, although their chosen strategy of visualization naturally no longer focuses on the ‘fine arts’ conventions. For instance, data processing and presentation in their work—be it related to nature, environment or various calculations—will be shown in various forms of visualization. But this time we need to take it as visualization that may not necessarily always serve as representation (art).

Faced with ecological issues, HONF choose to activate their creativity to render such ecological issues more open and accessible by the public (creative ecology). Data which are unfamiliar—or perhaps even concealed and made secret from the general public’s knowledge—are presented in an easy-to-undertand visualization. In other words, data pertaining to public interests and public life are returned to the public (hacktivism, open-source, democratization of information dan knowledge).

Furthermore, the use of science, technology and arts in HONF’s projects should no longer be viewed through a conventional formalistic aesthetic perspective. If we can accept that this project is a design which involves a number of systems (physics, biology, mechanics, digital data-processing, and so on), what HONF have been doing is equal to the system aesthetics once proposed by Haans Haacke, a German-born artist who used to focus on issues of environmental system and social system in his works.

That way, MICRONATION/MACRONATION is a practice which may possibly bring various new elements into the practices of fine arts that have been taking place in Indonesia. Through HONF’s works so far, we are in fact presented with the opportunity to re-formulate basic relationships which can exist between the art(ists) and the public. Is this not a truly relevant issue, considering how the faster, more complex public (social, economic, politic, cultural and global) reality keeps on changing?


Event at Jatiwangi Art Factory.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Graffiti: street art or vandalism?

Above work is by Stereoflow's Day Sleeper, a member of the Bandung-based FAB family (a review of their work was published in the Jakarta Globe).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Entrapment is a solo exhibition by Tanapol Kaewpring organized by VWFA in Jakarta.

Crafty Days in Bandung

Tobucil organizes once again Crafty Days, 5-6 May 2012.

A defense of my plea for an art museum in Indonesia: A rebuttal to (hypothetical) criticism

Recently I gave a talk on ‘Curatorial and Art Practices in Indonesia’ at Studio Bibliothèque at the invitation of the artist Michael Lee, Singapore, 13 March 2012. A short version of this talk was published in the Pocket Arts Guide (“Building a state of the arts in Indonesia,” the Pocket Arts Guide 30 (April 2012): 22-5). And a longer version was published in C-Arts Magazine (“A right to art: a plea for an art museum in Indonesia,” C-Arts Magazine (see here)). I will not reiterate the arguments I made in the talk and in the two essays. Instead, I focus on three (possible) arguments against my plea: no art museum is needed, all is well, so leave the Indonesian art world alone and it will develop even further; second, my plea is supposedly Eurocentric; and, third, no public art museum is needed, because Indonesia has already private museums.
First, no art museum is needed, all is well, so leave the Indonesian art world alone and it will develop and grow even further in qualitatively interesting directions. However, this amounts to the invisible hand theory favored by laissez-faire, antigovernment rhetoric of neoliberals (although, Adam Smith – and even Milton Friedman – stated that parameters should be set by society and its laws). Moreover, what is good for individual artists, curators, critics, collectors, gallery owners, etc., is not necessarily beneficial or constructive for the art world as a whole. For structural sustainability – financial sustainability, organizational sustainability, and sustainability of practices and ideas – an infrastructure for the arts is needed (of which a public art museum could be one, important, component).
Second, my plea for an art museum in Indonesia is supposedly Eurocentric as it relies on a model proven to be successful in the West (Eurocentrism is a normative approach: others should follow the models developed in Europe to attain the same level of assumed success). I certainly do not hope that I must be Eurocentric simply because I am from Europe. Certainly, I learned to appreciate art in the many art museums of Europe (I did not have the money to purchase catalogs and art magazines at that time). However, I never stated that Indonesia should copy the museum model from the West simply because there is no such one model (from the gigantic MoMA in New York to the more modest Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, Esche, the director of the latter, once wrote: a museum can be a “mix of community centre, club, academy and showroom”). Moreover, it could very well be the case that this form of criticism is Eurocentric as it could very well be influenced by institutional critique of the museum as developed since the 1960s by Broodthaers, Buren, Haacke, Fraser, et al. Institutional critique of the museum does not make sense in a country that does not have an art museum with the authority Broodthaers, Buren, Haacke, Fraser, et al, are critical of. And to be critical of institutions and their power, in the tradition of Foucault, is one thing (I don’t deny the importance of institutional critique), but if the focus is solely on critique it could very well take a turn for the anarcho-cynical by those with less talent than Broodthaers, Buren, Haacke and Fraser: institutions can never be good (as a consequence, it seems to imply that we should relate to art in an unmediated way). Therefore, it could very well blind us for the merits of an art museum and the possibilities to change such an institution for the better through criticism, i.e. that through criticism a museum can come closer to living up to the dream of becoming a genuine and active public space.
Third, no public art museum is needed, because Indonesia has already private museums (particularly OHM in Magelang). However, a private museum, which collection is based on that of one collector, is not a public museum. Even when their collection is substantial – qualitatively and quantitatively – it is based on the taste of one person (do private museums employ art historians or curators or at least have a curatorial board?). This could lead to lacuna and thus questions of legitimacy. If private collectors would collaborate to open a museum this could perhaps be avoided (which would also avoid the problem of succession in case the founder passes away). An art museum is public not because it is publicly (thus state) funded, but because it is responsible to the public (what a public constitutes is an important question and, I admit, a question I (and others) struggle with).
Without question, art in Indonesia is thriving; there are many interesting artists, artist initiative spaces, galleries and private museums doing wonderful things. However, if this success is to be prolonged, discussions on the sustainability of ideas and practices, financial sustainability and infrastructure are vital. And a (hypothetical) art museum could function then as a starting point for these discussions.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Panorama @ SAM

'Panorama, Recent Art from Contemporary Asia' is an exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum, 20 April - 25 December 2012. Among many others, participants from Indonesia are Agus Suwage, Albert Yonathan, Nasurin, Erik Pauhrizi, and Entang Wiharso.

But what is the adjective 'contemporary' doing in front of 'Asia'? Does it somehow come as a surprise that Asia is contemporary (and to whom?)? What is then the target audience of this exhibition? Is it speaking to the West (look, we are with you...)? Perhaps, I am reading too much into this title...

However, SAMs press release states (see here): “Works by Albert Yonathan and Om Mee Ai integrate deep-seated cultural traditions and ritualistic elements, and those by artists such as Agnes Arellano have directly tapped the forms and images of traditional fables and myths, reminding us of their power and role in constructing tradition and identity.” Does art made in Asia really needs to say something about Asia? Albert's work, for example, can be seen in a far more universal light (in the tradition of, say, Philip Glass).

Spectacle of Culture

Ivan Karp and Fred Wilson write in ‘Constructing the Spectacle of Culture’: “The first rule for understanding the human condition is that people live in secondhand worlds and are aware of much more than they have personally experienced. […] Our own experience is always indirect. The quality of our lives is determined by ‘received’ meanings […]. What we know about the world is not only conventional, it also appears to us to be natural [in/by museums] (in Thinking about Exhibitions, p.187).”

Bandung Contemporary Art Awards: A response to a review by a juror

Lawangwangi Art and Science Estate organized the second edition of the Bandung Contemporary Art Awards (BaCAA for short; These awards give young and emerging artists from Indonesia (below the age of 40 and with some exhibitions under their belt) the opportunity to gain a head start in their professional careers as artists by providing financial rewards and the opportunity to participate in residencies abroad and make an exhibition.

Carla Bianpoen reviewed the exhibition of the 24 finalists in the Jakarta Post (“Art awards break new ground once more,” 13 April 2012; However, sometimes questions are raised by what is not stated. A member of BaCAA’s jury wrote this review essay, which Bianpoen and her editor did not mention, and a disclaimer could have avoided questions.

Bianpoen writes that Lawangwangi appointed “a Board of Jurors, deviating from the usual format of curators only, and consisting of a mix of artists, curators, collectors and a journalist.” Bianpoen is this juror cum journalist. That we play many different roles in society is one thing, but it raises questions if we try to combine those different – and perhaps conflicting – roles at the very same time.

In her review essay, Bianpoen-the-writer seems to say something different from Bianpoen-the-juror. The jury awarded Yusuf Ismail’s video installation ‘Eat Like Andy’ the first price. However, in her essay Bianpoen dedicates far more space to the runner-up: Eddy Susanto and his work ‘The Java of Dürer’, which could very well imply that she actually favored the latter over the former.

Bianpoen’s essay does not mention if the BaCAA jury published a report for the public to read how the decisions had been justified and if some jurors had dissenting opinions. Bianpoen’s dual role raises further questions. Did any of the collector-jurors have a stake in who would win this competition? One curator-juror on the board – Rifky ‘Goro’ Effendy – had made a solo exhibition with Yusuf Ismail (’Like’ at Platform3 in Bandung) just prior to BaCAA. Did any of the collectors who bought Ismail’s work at this exhibition serve on the jury?

I am, of course, not implying that a jury for an art award can ever be neutral. However, if the jury does not communicate its motivations properly it could cause resentment among participating artists. It is neither in the interest of BaCAA nor in the interest of participating artists if the impression arises that awards go to those artists with established links and who have assumedly marketability.

Moreover, Bianpoen does not mention the criticism Ismail’s artwork received after he was announced the winner. Ismail implies he appropriated an artwork by Andy Warhol. However, it was not Warhol who made this particular work. It wasn’t even a work of art. Warhol merely participates in a documentary by the Danish filmmaker Jørgen Leth (‘66 Scenes from America’, 1982), information Ismail did not mention.

The contemporary art community is relatively small in Indonesia; it is, therefore, out of necessity that individuals in this community have to improvise and perform several, different roles. That being said, it is important to disclose information about overlapping roles to avoid the notion that conflicts of interests could be at play. This is vital since contemporary art is starting to have a certain image: it is supposedly all about the money, so it is often claimed.

The exhibition of the 24 finalists will be shown in Ciputra Marketing Gallery, Jakarta, on April 17 before the works will be auctioned the next day to be able to finance the next edition of BaCAA. The works on show give a very good indication of the recent developments in the contemporary arts in Indonesia. This exhibition certainly provides confidence in the future. And while financial sustainability is important to be able to continue BaCAA, we should not forget that these awards are about the artists and their artworks. And finally, if BaCAA aims to provide opportunities to artists it should also be in the form of increasing general appreciation for the arts, which means that we should deal honestly with issues of jurors’ multiple roles, artists’ work ethics and the art market.

The public relations officer of the gallery should announce the auction through a press release. This is not the job of an art critic when writing a review of an exhibition. Carla Bianpoen, though, champions a passion for the arts through her many writings for, among many other publications, the Jakarta Post, C-Arts Magazine and Tempo Magazine, a passion we all should share. And to increase the audience for exhibitions, the media in Indonesia should dedicate more space for contemporary art without seeing art merely as a form of entertainment or life style (and not every art review needs to be polite or positive).


I sent an email to Carla Bianpoen asking her why she did not mention that she served on the jury and she replied (15 April 2012): “no reason, it just happened.” I sent an email to Bianpoen’s editor as well, Deanna Ramsay replied (16 April 2012): “I was unaware she was on the jury. Of course we try to avoid conflicts of interest like this at all times, sometimes things slip through the cracks...” And I also sent an email to Lawangwangi asking for the jury’s report, I have not yet received a reply. Images of the artworks can be seen here:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

postcard from Gilbert & George

why write?

Daniel Buren writes: “all the talk in the world, all the possible texts, will end up saying very little about what is essential to the visual domain. […] Because if we admit as a possible axiom that to be an artist means showing the invisible, we can also claim that as soon as the invisible is seen it becomes unsayable. We can also admit that if visual ‘saying’ is fundamentally and essentially ‘silent’, that doesn’t stop us talking about it […] (Daniel Buren, “Why Write?, Art Journal 42, no.2 (Summer 1982): 108-9; see here).”

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Loud Mouth - solo exhibition by David Armi Putra

Selasar Sunaryo Art Space presents, in collaboration with Valentine Willie Fine Art, David Armi Putra's solo exhibition Loud Mouth curated by Agung Hujatnikajennong from April 20 to May 11, 2012.

E-catalogue can be downloaded here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Territories by Mark Salvatus

Territories was the recent solo exhibition by Mark Salvatus in Quezon City, Philippines. An essay by Patrick D. Flores:
Found in the City
The artist Mark Salvatus leaves Lucban of the province of Quezon that faces the Pacific to go inward. He travels to Manila to go to school and study fine arts in a 400-year old institution run by friars whose instruction the National Hero Jose Rizal had earlier deemed a travesty. He teaches in the same classrooms where he had sat as a student, and he is banished from its halls for being himself.
Salvatus finds in the city the ruins of a fantasy that had originally animated it as a site of the future. The theorist Boris Groys states that “cities originally came about as projects for the future” and that they possessed “an intrinsically utopian dimension by virtue of being situated outside the natural order.”[i] It is in the city that the artist loses his provinciality and it is here in the same vein that he recovers it. For it is in this place that he is able to salvage whatever is left of the “aesthetic” in the simulacrum of a highly aestheticized everyday life.
In this project of finding, he cuts through several process of walking the city. He engages in a pilgrimage of sorts, a peregrination from his hometown to the metropolis. He also lives out flanerie at a time when this form of foray is itself restricted by the controls, the custom-made selections, of a supposedly liberating and permissive cyberspace. Then, he condenses these rites of passage to critically reflect on the intimacy and the vastness of the current condition of the world, or better still, of worldliness. He returns to the street and the expressions it rears, and he recuperates poetry from tags in the form of a haiku. He surfs the net and purloins self-produced performances of lip-synch acts disseminated virally and he reciprocates the gesture by inviting people to do the same and make their stints available for the multitude. And he gathers handbills advertising real estate and condominiums, fabricates them into a maquette of a city, recording its illusory dimensions through closed circuit television camera and transmitting the images on a screen.
In many of these instances, some modernist or postmodernist verities may be reconsidered. For instance, the Warholian 15 minutes of fame dissolve into 24/7news media, reality television, and the alacrity of the social network, with the consumers of the system becoming the producers of the substance at the same time. The typical graffiti of the street are parsed as verses and admitted into a white cube for their poetic happenstance. And the skin of the city becomes a moving image, mingling with the music of a band.
The artist’s insight into the culture of the youth of contemporary vintage was honed by the residencies he recently carried out in diverse places such as Bandung in Indonesia, Bendigo and Melbourne in Australia, and in upstate New York and by his other commitments in Massachusetts and Yokohama. In these artscapes, he was infected by the energy of a transdisciplinary sensorium of music, design, retail, leisure, lifestyle, sport, gaming, and so on. He thought of this emergence as spatial, a reclamation of the urban space, which relates well with his long-running fascination with the signs of the city and the idiosyncrasies of survival amid the poverty, the density, and the breathtaking inequity. This sense of the territorial might resonate with the impulse to “occupy” public space like squares and parks and summon a sphere of communication and community that are strata of technology, punk, activism, radical democracy, and hipster culture.
In many ways, Salvatus tracks this wave, this weather of the young. Broys would probably view this as a form of documentation of art, a category that is as fraught as the sensuously particular agent that intuits it. For him, “art becomes a life form, whereas the artwork becomes non-art, a mere documentation of this life form. One could also say that art becomes biopolitical, because it begins to use artistic means to produce and document life as a pure activity. Indeed, art documentation as an art form could only develop under the conditions of today’s biopolitical age, in which life itself has become the object of technical and artistic intervention.”[ii]
What is interesting in light of the lessons gleaned by the artist as a “temporary resident” in the cities he visited is that he convenes this homecoming project in the first museum of modern art in the country, charting its space as a kindred found space as well, intervening very minimally into its architecture, which used to be a library named after the polymath patriot Rizal. There is a great deal of impersonation of art here, of icon, of structure, of history. And Salvatus marks the aporia of the contemporary, the opportunity to ask: Where is the city and when is the art?

Patrick D. Flores
[i] Groys, Boris. 2008. Art Power. Cambridge: The MIT Press, p. 101.
[ii] Groys 2008, p. 54.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bits and Pix by Om Leo

Bits and Pix: an exhibition by Om Leo at Platform3 (14 April - 5 May 2012).

bits & pix – oomleo at Platform3
Roy Voragen

The rain had stopped and we gathered for an opening at Platform3 on a Sunday afternoon, April 14, to see work by Narpati Awangga, who is better known as oomleo. We come to Platform3 to meet our friends (and their kids) and see art.

Three prominent curators – Rifky Effendy, Aminudin TH Siregaror and Agung Hujatnikajennong – and three successful artists – Ariadhitya Pramuhendra, Wiyoga Muhardentet and Radi Arwinda – founded Platform3 in 2010 to offer artists a platform to experiment. Each year, solo exhibitions are loosely organized around a different theme: art and postcolonialism in the first year, art and religiosity the second, and this year art and global sensibility.

The exhibitions at Platform3 are a wonderful combination of ambition and a good sense of humor. Especially the last two exhibitions attest to that. Like, the previous exhibition, by Yusuf Ismail was a witty appropriation of the history of video art (subsequently, Yusuf Ismail won the Bandung Contemporary Art Award). And oomleo took it a notch or two up on the humor scale. After all, he must have thought, why should art be a serious business? Which doesn’t mean that his works look sloppy, the artworks are all very well executed.

After having completed art school in Yogyakarta, oomleo (b.1978) returned to the city of his birth: Jakarta. And while he was trained as a painter, he got involved in the electronic music scene and he formed the group Goodnight Electric. In Jakarta, he is also active with the prolific artists’ collective ruangrupa.

At Platform3, oomleo shows a different project he has been undertaking over the past five years: pixel art. He said he spent half his time during this period glued to computers and he calls himself “a servant of the digital world.” His pixel art is clearly influenced, as he admitted during the artist talk, by eboy. At first sight, oomleo’s work looks fun and accessible. Only at closer inspection, we see the absurdist twists and turns mixed with sardonic bites in these neatly displayed artworks. As he stated, his work “is a pixelization of imagination, desire, babble, stories, dreams, and so on.” He is the magician of bits and pixels. And during the artist talk, the focus was on the used techniques – probably because his way of working is unique in Indonesia – which had the unfortunate side effect that his absurdist expose of our globalized and mediated culture got somewhat underexposed.

In the meantime, Platform3 has a great year ahead. First, Platform will again join ArtHK. Later this year, Emmitan Contemporary Art Gallery, Surabaya, will organize an exhibition in collaboration with Platform3 with artists who have exhibited at Plaform3. And last but not least, Platform3 is planning to publish a book on their activities spanning the first two years, which, beside exhibitions and artist talks, include presentations and discussions. And it’s places like Platform3 that makes the contemporary art scene in Bandung so electrifying.

exhibition as a dialogue

Catherine Elwes writes in ‘A Parallel Universe’: “The juxtaposition and re-contextualization of individual works can substantially manipulate and alter meanings and the grouping of works into thematic screenings also tends to narrow the attention to particular aspects of a work. A kind of internal dialogue is set up between the works, a dialogue that creates resonances or even dissonances that would not occur under different conditions (Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance, p.110).”

curating doubt

Art critic JJ Charlesworth writes in ‘Curating Doubt’: “If critical approaches to curating today draw on the radical legacies that in their day opposed the hegemony of bourgeois cultural elitism and its discursive and institutional orthodoxies, simply do not hold sway today. Recurrent expressions of reflexive speculation about the nature of curating, the artwork and the institution by those who constitute it become ritual observances, not radical contestation, inasmuch as they might, in reality, only signify this: that uncertainty, provisionality, open-endedness and deferral are now the preferred orthodoxies of contemporary culture. [… In conclusion,] the self-reflexive preoccupation with the identity and status of the artist, curator and institution plays on the symbolic negation of these positions, but paradoxically can only do so only by sustaining them in practice. [… And, therefore,] a less self-reflexive discussion about institutional power, cultural freedom and artistic value is essential (Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance, p.98.).”

infrastructure for the arts

What is good for individual artists, curators, critics, collectors, gallery owners, etc., is not necessarily beneficial or constructive for the art world as a whole. For structural sustainability – financial sustainability, organizational sustainability, and sustainability of practices and ideas – an infrastructure for the arts is needed (of which a public art museum is one, important, component).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

art: practice and discourse

“One of the signs of the decay of culture we have experienced in the recent past is the abnormal growth of art theoretical writing.”
No, I didn’t write this. It isn’t even a recent writing. It was written in 1937. It was written by Adolf Hitler. (A cursory reading of my recent writings could lead to the conclusion that I’m in the same camp with this notorious figure. All I said, to paraphrase the philosopher Richard Rorty, is that philosophy isn’t all that important. Moreover, it would lead to a strange situation if discourse on art would be considered more important than art practices.)
Philosopher of art Boris Groys uses the above quote in his book Art Power. Two pages before the mentioned quote, he writes: “The course of modern art has constantly been fraught with complaints about its dependence on commentary, of its being overburdened by theory. […] In general, however, these unceasing demands to devote ourselves to the pure reception of art leave unanswered the question of what guarantee there could be that this kind of perception of art can take place at all.”