Hokky Situngkir: Promoting Indonesian culture through science
As a scientist, Hokky Situngkir believes in scientific endeavors to reach out for a better living, as human beings have been granted the ability to discover beauty through reasoning. One of his current concerns is the Science of Complexity approach to Indonesian traditional culture and ethnography. The full-time researcher was one of the founders of the Indonesian Archipelago Cultural Initiatives (IACI), a group that maintains the Indonesian Traditional Heritages Open Digital Library (www.budaya-indonesia.org).
His works on the subject of the complexity of Indonesian traditional culture that has been widely implemented for the mapping of Indonesian batik, traditional songs, traditional architecture and the “Physics of Batik”, a popular fractal geometry-based computational software used to design batik motifs. Interested in a diverse spectrum of research work, he reflects the computational model in the theory and practical fields of most of his works.
He has published hundreds of research and conference papers, including in some international journals, such as the Journal of Social Complexity, Physica A and Journal of Literary Complexity Studies. For his works, he has been awarded the Ahmad Bakrie Award 2011 in the category of Outstanding Young Scientist. He is currently also an Ashoka Fellow for his activities in empowering the community through scientific research.
During a recent conference, Nicograph, on computer graphics held in Bali, he presented his paper on Computational Batik: The Deconstruction and Re-generation of Indonesian Batik. The presentation discussed some aspects of the use of the iterated function system in fractal construction, while referring to some interesting points of view on Indonesian traditional batik. On the sidelines of the conference, he spoke to Bali Daily’s Desy Nurhayati about his works and his mission to develop the application of science to improve daily life.
Question: What is the point of your paper on computational batik?
Answer: It is the result of my research on the geometrical aspect of batik, on how the motif was created. Indeed, old people have been able to create batik motifs for a long time without using computers. But with computers, with computer-aided design, we could create more diverse and beautiful motifs using fractal geometry by transforming the basic motifs that were created naturally in the past.
The paper concludes with two points on what we can do further: Enrich our understanding on how human cognition has created such beautiful patterns and designs traditionally since ancient civilizations in an anthropological perspective, and provide us the tools for the empowerment of batik as a generative aesthetic by using computation.
Why use the computational method?
It is a new way to appreciate batik as something more than just art. It is amazing that the computer has a way that we could use to appreciate batik, not only to create new designs, but also to formulate a database on batik motifs, like we have done on the website of the Indonesian Traditional Heritages Open Digital Library (www.budaya-indonesia.org). Thanks to contribution from the public, we have collected more than 5,000 motifs from many areas in Indonesia.
The website also promotes other forms of culture, such as traditional dances, songs, games, herbal drinks [jamu], old manuscripts and so on, with a total of around 20,000 items. It is an open-source website, anyone could contribute by submitting a form of culture through photos and videos, but they should also have the complete information/background about the cultural item they submit. If not, the web system would automatically reject it. We encourage more people to contribute to this website to create the biggest database on Indonesian culture.
Through the website, we also promote what we call the “Million Cultures Movement” (Gerakan Sejuta Budaya), in which we are targeting collection of one million items of Indonesian culture to make a database by encouraging artists, cultural experts, scholars, students or anyone to contribute.
What is your mission in doing the research and work on batik and other forms of art?
I want to encourage more people to conduct research on Indonesian cultures. Culture could only be improved by being discussed, analyzed and widely learned in schools, universities. Since my field is in complexity study, an interdisciplinary study, I would like to be able to make the study more applicable in many aspects of human life. Science could be useful if it is applicable.
Why are you interested in batik?
Batik is interesting, and it is easier to collect more data on batik compared to other forms of art, like gamelan, for example. We cannot do scientific work without data.
We need to develop Indonesian batik using a computerized method.
It is time for Indonesian traditional batik artists to use computer-aided design to create more varied designs and increase their sales. It is time for them to use the Internet, so they can submit their work to websites on cultural matters and to promote their products to the public.
In cooperation with other institutions, we have carried out a lot of training on how to use the software for batik makers. It is also part of the government’s sustainable program on community empowerment.
Why are you interested in using the ‘complexity science’ approach on Indonesian culture?
Complexity Science is the cutting edge of science nowadays. It has become a hot topic among scientists worldwide, and Indonesia has been on the right track in promoting the application of this study, we are even among the first countries in Asia to do that. And I hope that we can apply the study widely to preserve our rich culture.
Besides batik, I’m also doing a study on the diversity of traditional masks [topeng]. Topeng is art illustration on human faces. We have many forms of topeng from many areas nationwide, so we can have a kind of mapping of Indonesian masks. I will also use the geometrical approach, like I have done with batik.