Duration: 26 November – 29 Decemember 2015
Venue: Galeri Chandan
ROAD TO ARTISTIC DIVERSITY
Malaysia and Indonesia share many things in common especially culture. Superficially, these two nations might be viewed as a cluster of people who share almost common language, culture, ethnicity, descent and/or history. However in a more current and open definition, it is put into much consideration that many factors such as migration and multiculturalism, which is simply, a shared common territory 1 .
With the long history of art and culture in Indonesia, NAFAS Residensi has taken a step in making connections by building bridges between these two countries through art. The residency works as a catalyst to connect artists from many countries. This is done by offering a month of residency to selected artists through applications from various countries. This residency also happened to be the melting pot for artists to expand their networks and exchange ideas. In each cycle, the program acquires artists to seek knowledge that they might have overlooked and explore potential ideas. This establishment plays an important role in encouraging new discussions among artists. Through a fluid edification approach, each program is structured according to the artists’ developmental requirement. This was done with the intention to expose young artists to unlimited possibilities in expanding their career in the artistic world. Last year NAFAS had offered residency to artists from Singapore but for the year 2014, only Malaysian and Indonesian artists made it to the annual selection. This residency is a place where young artists meet and build a networking through creative cultural exchange.
Location and momentum
The residency is located within Kraton’s (a grand complex/palace) vicinity in Yogyakarta where it is a strategic location to serve as a cultural centre. Art has played an important role in Indonesia for centuries. This city is also known as a Special Region and it is the only region in Indonesia that is still governed by pre-colonial monarchies where the Sultan of Yogyakarta sits on the throne and also holds the position as governor. Rich with ancient heritage going back to hundreds of years, this city was promoted as the city for art by the Indonesia Culture and Tourism.
Yogyakarta holds the baton in democratization of the arts within its society at large. According to Dr. Rizki A. Zaelani through his lecture in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, he stated that Yogyakarta is the leading city in promoting art and holds a number of international exhibitions and events such as Yogya Biennale and Yogyakarta Art Fair which is also known as ArtJog. It is a place where there are several notable art schools, including the renowned Indonesian Institute of Art also known as ISI Jogjakarta and Modern School of Design. It is the home to thousands of artists, art galleries and alternative space. Most of the streets in Yogyakarta are filled with large public sculptures and amazing murals. Besides the frequent change in the art exhibition concepts, the art community rapidly offers critical discourses and seminars to feed the curious minds where to them art is the medium to study contemporary culture and history documentation. The uniqueness of the development of Indonesian art is more closely allied to social history than art history 2.
“Contemporary art in Yogyakarta is naturally beyond their range of interest. Because such alternative art in Yogyakarta abounds with social criticism, its relationship with power is distant”.
Sumartono (The Role of Power in Contemporary Yogyakartan Art)
From the statement above, Yogyakarta is indeed the best place for young burgeoning artists to experience the rigorous Indonesian art scene and to discover art beyond art per say.
Going into our three year of operation, NAFAS Residensi has been giving many opportunities to emerging artists from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore; giving artists the chance to enable them to focus more on their practice and research. The selection process goes through several stages and will be reviewed together with Galeri Chandan, a Kuala Lumpur based gallery and is also responsible for application submissions from Malaysia. NAFAS Residensi offers many facilities throughout the program to ease the artists’ learning process.
Artists are paired according to their similar interests at every periodic beginning April, August, September and November. 7 artists participated in this program. They are Alfin Agnuba, Arikwibowo Amril, Ahdiyat Nur Hartata, Iyok Prayogo, IBK Sindu Putra, Hafidz Shabri and Nurrachmat Widyasena and myself. I am truly very lucky to be selected into their program under writer’s category. Throughout the residency, NAFAS gave full freedom for artists to tailor their own program according to their needs.
For the year 2014, the program began in April by uniting Hafidz Shabri and Nurrachmat Widyasena in their residency program. Both artists had requested to join NAFAS as they wish to meet Yogyakartan artists and to be able to experience the art activity in the city. Both artists began their artistic exploration by visiting cultural spots and monuments; it is an important activity for Hafidz as he needs the exposure on Indonesian art, history and heritage.
Hafidz is a Kelantan born artist and currently lives in Meru, Selangor. He graduated from UiTM Shah Alam in Art and Design program, majoring in Painting. He is keen in reviewing current issues in his milieu. By using carving techniques in printmaking as a serious approach in his art, Hafidz’s works discusses on historical values in the local context. As for Nurrachmat, he graduated from Graphic Arts studies at the Faculty of Art & Design, ITB.
His general idea in art is ‘retro-futurism’. This is where he plays with the notion of modernism through his sarcasm in humoristic suggestions. Through the images of juxtaposition, viewers are able to see Ito’s interest towards popular culture from the 60s-90s; as an artist, Ito sees himself belongs to the intersection of reality and fantasy, which he portrays in his works. He is always serious in every execution, and Ito’s body of work does not restrict to only one technique or medium. He would rather work on a variety of forms such as sculpture, painting, printmaking and multimedia to achieve his ideas. During their residency in Yogyakarta, both artists received a warm welcome by the artist community that they had visited and through these many studio visits that their eagerness to make art was at its peak. It was indeed a memorable experience for these two men.
Ida Bagus Komang (IBK) Sindu Putra who is also known as Sindu is a Balinese, whom has decided to live in Yogyakarta after he completed his degree in Fine Art from Institut Seni Indonesia in Yogyakarta. Sindu did his residency in August, accompanied by a guest artist from Bandung, Indra Wirawan (Morrg) where his residency occurs mainly in Bandung. His wish for a better exposure and interest towards hard core metal music and art mainly originated from there. Sindu’s previous body of work mingles with past memories that hold his childhood moments. Sindu is a skilful artist in drawing especially in transmitting his ‘crumpled’ looking images onto surfaces. As an award-winning artist, he is always involved in many community activities especially in Bali and Yogyakarta where such activity is important for him to educate and embrace the importance of art in the society.
Arikwibowo Amril and Iyok Prayogo took their turn in September, where both artists work together during all of the sessions. Their journey began with vital visits to prominent artist’s studios, art exhibition openings and discussions; followed by historical visits to museums and monuments.
Arikwibowo is a Malaysian artist based in Meru, Selangor; had attained his degree in Fine Arts from MARA University of Technology, majoring in Painting. He was listed as a finalist in the prestigious Malaysian Emerging Artist Award competition in 2013, and his paper collages and charcoal works were astoundingly well accepted in the Malaysian art scene. Arik is always experimenting between mediums and is very particular with what type of chemical he uses in his work. His works are monologue about his past experiences and a self-react on his current, past and future moments. According to Arikwibowo, throughout the residency; Yogyakarta has given him a lot of opportunity in building networks and he was able to see art beyond his comfort zone. He learnt a lot from Iyok Prayogo, where Iyok was always open to discussions and taught him new techniques in art making.
For Iyok, NAFAS is the place where he first associated with a Malaysian artist. Through this residency, he was able to know more about Malaysian art through Arikwibowo. The exchange of stories and ideas has made Iyok interested in learning about the market trend in Malaysian art. Iyok is an art member of the Ace House Collective, where he had joined from way back. Iyok received his Bachelor from Institute Seni Yogyakarta, majoring in Painting. Born in Soroako Sulawesi, his early works were very much influenced by the western ideas and approach (mainly from music). As time goes by, his works start to deal with more of his life experiences, where he is surrounded by popular cultures such as movies, music (rock) and fashion that are juxtaposed with traditional values, myth and other paradox beliefs from the traditional culture. His concern and curiosity towards mixed pop cultures (western, eastern and Southeast Asia) very much defined him as an artist in his contemporary work. For Iyok, “Art is his life and passion and he will continue with what he likes”.
Alfin Agnuba, Ahdiyat Nur Hartata and I attended the last session, which was held in November; the method of learning in NAFAS was slightly different as there were some improvements made in the residency by adding an artist advisor into their program. Gintani Nur Apresia Swastika (a multidiscipline artist from Ace House Collective) was invited and each week she will hold discussions with us to discuss about our research progress.
With the assistance of Gintani, each of us had a clearer direction on which topic to focus on. During the residency, not only we visited art galleries, historical places and attended art talks; but we also had the opportunity to go to Bandung and experience the event of ‘Pasar Seni’. From various visits, each of us learnt not only how to work as an artist but also about artistic diversity and uniqueness (since my purpose of going to Bandung was to understand the pattern of Bandung’s and Yogyakarta’s art in general).
Alfin Agnuba is a Yogyakarta born artist and is currently in his final year in Institut Seni Indonesia. He is majoring in Printmaking and has participated in many exhibitions. Although he is still studying, Alfin has never restricted his ideas in exploring forms and mediums. This is to always challenge himself to produce beyond his normal practices; Alfin has proven that his discipline has characterized his art; he is well organized and always accepts challenge and always held on to the thought of ‘there is always room for change’. As a printmaker, a fusion between conventional and unconventional printmaking techniques is unyielding but interesting. He finds each process quite therapeutic where between these combinations, every process is done part by part to achieve a satisfactory juxtaposition; while each progression takes a solemn attention in detailing. Alfin’s intention in participating at NAFAS Residensi was to gain as much exposure as he could, as it was meant to be a platform where he could find his identity in art making.
Ahdiyat Nur Hartarta, is a Yogyakarta born artist and is currently living in Bandung and Jakarta. He had attained his degree in graphic arts studies from Faculty of Art & Design ITB and in less than a year he has become a full time artist whose art has travelled throughout Southeast Asia and has participated in many international exhibitions. Ahdiyat works around contemporary culture and religion bewilderment in the local context. He received his early exposure in art from his grandfather, Edhi Sunarso, a notable Indonesian sculptor; thus his concern towards current issues carries a distinct identity and maturity in his body of work. Throughout the residency Ahdiyat’s study scope narrows down to his family, where he is able to be closer to his grandfather and study the importance of public sculpture in the local context according to the years it has been made by his grandfather. Ahdiyat is an artist who is always open to suggestions and improvements. His positive attitude makes it easy for him to adapt to new ideas. His concern on socio-politics has driven him to be not just an artist but also a researcher.
Juxtaposed Experience and Knowledge into Ideas
An artist’s outing is not only restricted to just art galleries (private, institutional and commercial) but also includes artist’s studio visits, library, museums, historical site-visits, meet-greet curators/art manager, art and cultural festivals, and also ceremonies. Thus, the field trips were vital in all the artists’ exploration and research process and they enable the artists to understand the art and support system within.
Although all of them went through the same experiences, each artist adapts and learns differently. As a result, their individual concern, research and experiences are displayed in this exhibition. NAFAS has observed rapid improvements in an artist’s development of ideas through crucial and productive discussions with an invited advisor on a weekly basis. It is an effective method, where artists are able to be more focused in manoeuvring their research in the right direction and also in the hope to continue this enhancement from positive feedbacks of the artists. The program hosted by NAFAS Residency, overall has met their objective, which is to support and assist artists; and it has become a place to nurture young talents and open up their world view. The best way to learn fast is to travel where one could view past perceptions differently.
The NAFAS establishment exclusively supports residential exchange programs, and plays a role like in an institution, where they provide time for reflection for an artist to research, produce and present. The residency carries an important significance in a multi-layered cultural exchange and an immersion into another culture for the artists.
Nadia Zawani Hussin
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Jegadeva A. 2012, This is Where We Live-The Ongoing Search for a National Narrative (vol 1, p 123-134)
- Supangkat J, 2001, Yogyakarta’s Place in Indonesian Contemporary Art, Outlet, Yogyakarta within the Contemporary Indonesian Art Scene (vol 1, p.11)
Following the work process in Nafas Residensi has made me more aware on how the empirical approach is quite dominant in art. In this residency, I understand how the artists placed their sensing experiences forward as the source of knowledge by putting forward the facts found in the field. Detached from the limited senses ability to report the “fault” objects, the art has its own truth; the world of art is a world of its own. This is where the artists are able to see the reality aspects behind the surface of each case and events that are obtained empirically. Of course this is merely my perspective, set out from the unwillingness of being trapped in the intrinsic value of art. Objects have the right to be independent, but they are always inseparable from the cultural background. For that, here I am trying to interpret with a constructive approach, on how an object appears as something ethnographic and has the effort to inform its socio-cultural background.
The information of socio-cultural background can be obtained from Iyok’s work that tries to address how people in life are inseparable from identification. The Identification occurs in a person under unconscious imagination of himself/herself as an impressed gure (whether actual or imaginary) by emulating their behaviour. It is shown in the Javanese’s tradition to have a leather puppet gure displayed on the walls of the house as an interior aesthetic element. Many of them display the protagonist character from the leather puppet story of Purwa, such as gures in Pandawa legend. The Javanese people identify themselves on Pandawa gures and expect to “emulate” the gure. The narration of puppet stories that were a battle between good and evil, creating norms construction of good and bad in the society was formed and produced by the processes of power mechanisms. One of the stories is “Chandrabirawsky” which is in Iyok’s gure, where he tries to embody anger with the stocky and fat posture, big fat nose, open mouth, fitted with rows of teeth and fangs. Iyok then sprinkles symbols of sub-culture with a slicked back hairstyle. According to him, this is a psychobilly gure in the era of the Javanese ancestors.
By imitating the past, Iyok tries to reinterpret the furious puppet gure to raise and appreciate, that there are no longer as something bad / evil but rather a reflection of apolitical attitude, criticism to the ruler and emancipatory efforts to question the discourses of truth which was formed and manufactured through the process of power mechanisms.
In Wayang Kulit (Javanese leather puppet) mountain gure or Kayon is a conical shaped as a symbol of human life which highlights the heightening and growing age of science. People are increasingly “converging” (golong gilig), which is a Javanese idea of manunggalingjiwa, rahsa, cipta, karsa and karya (a single entity, sense, creativity, initiative and work.) In short, human life is going towards transcendence. In puppetry story, Kayon is used in the opening and closing segment. It is a parable of a human life drama which means “from God, to God we return”. Another of Iyok’s work is titled “Ndhas-an”, where he replaces the mountain gure or Kayon into the form of human skull which is the abode of intelligence. It appears that Iyok has a criticism towards the rationalism, considering that the intelligence and mind are the sole basis to solve the truth and put more concern about the subject rather than the object so that the idea emerges from the mind is most true, regardless a mindful thought of the object, which leads to exploitation, an absence for transcendence, to defy the mind’s capability in achieving the needs of life.
Still in regards to the annoyance of the cultural tradition, Alfin Agnuba’s work titled “Brebeg” tries to portray the existence of Sekaten (a celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in Yogyakarta), which was initially held to invite the public to follow and embrace Islam using the appeal of the gamelan orchestra and performing arts. In the present context, the title of harmony, religion and economics were imprinted in a Sekaten celebration. The hustle and bustle of commerce and entertainment hysteria became the colour of Sekaten. However, Alfin does not wish to criticize, as he feels that this is not a matter of right and wrong or good and bad, he would just say that “this is the age of movement”. Through “Brebeg” he made bold of the senses in bringing out the consciousness in human relations with culture. Culture develops wildly and has passed through many revolutions and beyond the evolution of its organism, technology, social organization, and its spiritual life where it has become so complex, that the humans themselves are hardly able to control and put power upon it. It is the awareness of a super-organic progress from the culture.
The culmination of Sekaten celebration is marked with Grebeg Muludan (Maulud – Prophet Muhammad’s birthday celebration), where the people joyfully snatches parts of the mountain shaped offering (the offering contents are rice, vegetables, traditional cakes, fruits) that had been pray upon. These parts, considered to bring blessings, are taken back home and planted in the elds, with hopes of a fertile soil and a release from disasters and calamities. Seen are blessings and cheerfulness. Alfin sensed this moment and tries to see the reality aspect behind his work titled “Berkah Ria”. In accordance with Iyok, Alfin reproduces the story from the past to raise and appreciate it in the present context. The reproduction can be seen from the mountain-formed puppet in Iyok’s work within personal stylization as a symbol of blessing and a tin boat in Alfin’s work as a symbol of a simple happiness. I think Alfin wants to make bold of the senses to bring out the awareness from social control function of religion / beliefs system that forms the adherents to be more and more sensitive to the social issues, poverty, justice, well-being and humanity. Also in the function of solidarity religion / beliefs, which if it is built seriously and generously, it would stand upright to be the pillars of the society of Mataram (Yogyakarta’s past ruling kingdom).
Incapable of dodging the exoticism of Yogya, both Malaysian artists, Hafidz Shabri and Arikwibowo Amril also brought up the local themes. Both of their works are responses to the disclosure of urban socio-cultural engagement in Yogyakarta. Hafidz uses Yogyakarta’s iconic objects such as Plengkung Gading, Tugu Monument, Banyan Tree Twins, carts of street food, crackers cans, and Prambanan Temple in his works. As a symbol, they were referred as places where people refer as places for holidays, in other words, they are tourist attraction. Exoticism and viewpoint of “tourists” which appeared in his works reminds me of the mooi indie paintings in another visual form, there is a juxtaposition that brings up the irony, monarchy exoticism and the intertwined needs in life. What we found in Arikwibowo’s painting would seem to be very emotional and lyrical in his technical achievement. For him, the contiguous response with reality from the outside and within himself during his time in Yogyakarta does not have to be expressed through symbols that are directly connected to the identity of being-Yogyakarta.
Lastly, in Ito’s (Nurrachmat Widyasena) works we will see a more character based narrative as seen in “Cintaku Tergusur Alien (My Love Ousted by Alien)”. In his work, Ito discusses about space age technology in the context of third world countries. With retro-futurism style, Ito invites us to reminisce, to look at how people describe the future and the space age era in the past. It is interestingly enough how his works show gures from Indonesian movie, where the actors acted as a warrior and a popular Dangdut singer in the 80s. It is done as if to show how the innocence of the third world people in the midst of the threat of star wars, a tumultuous ideology, where technology is racing between the West block (the rest world) with the Soviet block (the second world) alongside the Cold War. It remains contented in its simplicity, opting out from both sides with all the consequences and stereotypes attached on the “third world country” label. What is uttered by Ito in his works is that science which is free of value often got rid by ideology, where the third world has now become the object of science and technology. And it has run out of breath because of the running around chasing the changing times. Ito’s hopes are shown there, of the winds of change, attitude and perspective which are to be the subject of science and technology.
There is nothing else, be it the subject or the object, as what Sartre has to say on the inter relation between human beings when the conflicts are risen continuously in an unconditional society or human relations. In the end, the “conflict” arises within Sindhu when he has to face a different reality of his habitus during his interaction with Morgg and the hardcore music community in Bandung. Sindhu feels isolated and distant but he tries to open himself inclusively by addressing a “compromise” space to allow a dialogue with the obtained empirical reality. Empiricism thickened in our eyes when we see Ahdiyat’s work which tries to review the visual language tendency of Edhi Sunarso who is a master of art sculpturing in Yogyakarta and is Ahdiyat’s grandfather. He reviewed art with art to produce a concept or art theory in order to use as one of the “materials” that are developed into his video art works.
Perhaps some of the matters above have made me come to a conclusion about the empirical approach which is quite dominant in the working process at Nafas Residensi at this period. This also has made me believe on the inseparability of art with the reality in a community, since for me it seems clear that the artists have attempted to arouse reality in public awareness. As far as my exploration is concerned, these are the possibilities that I could speak about, hoping that it might be able to react to various kinds of “meaning” in artworks. Welcome to senses!