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Jakarta exhibition seeks contemporary values by transcending limitations

Tunggul Wirajuda
Tunggul Wirajuda

A media practitioner for over 10 years in both TV and print.

Jakarta | Thu, March 30, 2017 | 02:30 pm
Jakarta exhibition seeks contemporary values by transcending limitations

Pemikir Bertopeng (The Masked Thinker) by Agus Widodo (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda)

A 23-centimeter copper-plated figure sits deep in thought; a silver mask rendering him oblivious to the throng of people at the Cipta 2 Gallery in Jakarta’s Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) cultural center. Titled Pemikir Bertopeng (The Masked Thinker), the work of veteran sculptor Agus Widodo has drawn viewers with its Indonesian sensibilities, despite being a scale model paying homage to 19th century French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s iconic sculpture, The Thinker. 

Three masks with somber, amused and smug faces lay beside the sculpture, poignantly depicting how individuals put up fronts or roles in society, a fact that often hampers them from keeping in touch with themselves or their integrity.

Pemikir Bertopeng is one of the artworks in the Indonesian Sculptors Association’s (Apindo) annual exhibition of contemporary Indonesian sculpture at Taman Ismail Marzuki. Taking the theme “Tanpa Batas” (Without Limits), the art in the exhibit seeks to make an impact out of proportion to their size. “While ‘Tanpa Batas’ seems limited by the small size of the sculptures, this is a contrast to the freedom to explore, to seek and find contemporary values,” explains curator Benny Ronald Tahalele. “At up to 30-cm, their size is a challenge in itself. The small dimensions break out of their limitations, and instead take on the meaning of ‘Tanpa Batas’.”

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Gerak Tubuh (Body Movement) by Budi L. Tobing epitomizes this need to transcend limits. Vigorous movement can be discerned in the curves and undulating lines of the sculpture’s 30-cm by 22-cm dimensions, reminding one of the National Monument (Monas) and Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni’s vigorous Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. A sense of restlessness fills the work, as does the yearning to break free.

A similar need to break free and transcend limits can be felt in his fellow sculptor Darwin’s artwork, Menuju Langit (Reach for the Sky), with its powerful imagery of a spiny anglerfish breaking out of the deep and emulating a flying fish in flight. “The Earth where we stand is an ocean of life. ‘Swim’ on land so we can easily reach for the sky” cryptically notes the veteran artist, whose previous credits include the TRAX 14 and TRAX 15 exhibitions at TIM. The sculpture’s imagery affirmed one of the exhibition’s aims, namely that “the artist’s freedom to create is a human right that needs to be maintained in their artistic life, as well as a fundamental right for humanity in general”.

On the other hand, Kupang-born artist Egi Sae’s Uniform and Diverse takes on the Indonesian dichotomy between conformity and diversity, with its depiction of a graceful ballet dancer leading the way ,while a pack of dogs following suit toes an invisible line. Keseragaman [uniformity] and keberagaman [diversity] sound similar,” a tongue in cheek Egi says of his work, which might touch a nerve for anyone living under forms of repression ranging from the Soeharto era to increased religious orthodoxy. But the sculpture makes an eloquent point about humanity and its follies that surpass its 30-cm size. “Uniformity looks beautiful and makes us feel safe, whereas diversity seems challenging but is actually full of life. Sometimes we can just laugh at the two conditions”.  

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Waktunya Telah Tiba (The Time Has Come) by Henry Kresna(JP/Tunggul Wirajuda)

Henry Kresna’s Waktunya Telah Tiba (The Time Has Come) is just as discerning. While its depiction of a worn out pair of shoes topped by a smaller, sturdier pair of baby or toddler footwear might seem an allegory of parenthood, the 26-year-old thinks otherwise. “A strong pair of shoes will fall apart sooner or later,” he says, which might strike a chord among those familiar with Soeharto’s seemingly invincible New Order regime or the vested interests that permeated former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s 10-year administration. “A successor should be brave enough to step up and replace its predecessor, whether it’s ready or not.” The sense of an oversized ego is sensed in the resin work, which at 40-cm by16-cm is one of the bigger sculptures in the exhibition. 

Fosil Sepeda (Fossil of A Bicycle) by Hilman Syafriadi(JP/Tunggul Wirajuda)

But Waktunya Telah Tiba is still surpassed in size by Fosil Sepeda (Fossil of A Bicycle), fellow artist Hilman Syafriadi’s ode to a long gone, simpler way of life before smartphones, traffic and other collateral effects of development irrevocably affected life in Jakarta. “[My] work makes use of found objects as a way of getting myself to nearer to life,” notes Hilman of his artwork, which at 100-cm by 80-cm tops off the other sculptures at the exhibition. The fossilized mixed media bicycle might strike a particular chord among older residents near TIM from areas like Menteng, Matraman or  Senen Market. Unlike most people, they still remember a halcyon time when bikes were their transportation of choice to plow through Jakarta, as the capital then still retained much of its colonial order and languid charm.
 
“Tanpa Batas” runs until April 5. Until then, get off the beaten path to TIM to immerse oneself in an artistic take on life as we know it.
 
“Tanpa Batas” APINDO Sculpture Exhibition
Date: Until April 5
Place: Cipta II, Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jl. Cikini Raya 73
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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A media practitioner for over 10 years in both TV and print. Tunggul Wirajuda found a niche in the latter, particularly as a features writer. He often writes about visual or performing arts, but just is at home in writing about automotive, culinary and film, among other things. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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