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ARTJOG 2018: Embracing diversity through arts

Bambang Muryanto
Bambang Muryanto

The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta | Wed, May 16, 2018 | 08:55 am
ARTJOG 2018: Embracing diversity through arts

Part of me: A visitor interacts with Mella Jaarsma’s artwork titled Binds and Blinds. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)

Mella Jaarsma, a female artist who hails from the Netherlands, has created an installation entitled Binds and Blinds for this year’s ARTJOG, which is being held at the Jogja National Museum (JNM) until June 4.

She created the artwork to criticize the moral authority that makes the social situation in Indonesia less and less tolerant. Using 650 pictures of navels printed on wooden plates, she created two big cylinders that she hung from the exhibition room’s ceiling.

Among the visitors to Mella’s exhibition room was a woman who opened her shirt to show off her navel. “Take my picture, please,” she told her husband.

For Mella, the navel represents the “center” of a human being. In order to create the artwork, she asked Indonesians on social media to send pictures of their navels to her.

“This is like a monument of humanity. We can see the navel of a newborn baby, navels with scars, navels belonging to adults with big and small bellies,” said Mella who is also a co-founder of the Cemeti Art Gallery.

She wants people to contemplate, and at the same time, criticize the social order that is controlled by the moral norms emerging from government regulations, religious and mass organizations. She said such a phenomenon does not just occur in Indonesia, it is becoming a global trend.

Yogyakarta, the heart of ARTJOG, has been witnessing a number of acts of intolerance. 

Read also: How Yogyakarta preserves discrimination

Mella said she believes that unless something is done, this “moral authority” can affect diversity that has been one of Indonesia’s attractions, a value that made her fall in love with the country. “We have to look into ourselves to prevent becoming hypocrites. Why should we judge others?”

Celebrating its 11th anniversary this year, ARTJOG 2018 has taken “Enlightenment: Toward Various Futures” as its theme. The theme opens spaces for the participating artists to create artworks that enlighten people so that they will have the awareness to preserve universal human values, including diversity.

In a mixed-media work entitled Tandure Wis Sumilir (The Plants are Blooming), for example, artist Afdhal presents images of beautiful, fertile agricultural land in five panels, critizing the use of pesticides that threaten biodiversity.

Through his work, the artist reminds people that they are the ones who have instigated intolerant acts and other problems.

“It can destroy the whole civilization,” he said.

Franziska Fennert from Germany tries to convey Afdhal’s message by presenting installations entitled Social Synthesis and Power of Synthesis I, II, III. Using various materials such as artificial leather, metal and magnets, Fennert unites different bodies wrapped in skins with a repetition of colors.

She wants to convey a message that humans have to be tolerant about diversity because diverse religions, races, ethnics and thoughts are elements that form societies.

Questioning limit: Visitors take a look at Handiwirman Saputra’s Toleranintoleransi installation. Questioning limit: Visitors take a look at Handiwirman Saputra’s Toleranintoleransi installation. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)

Artist Handiwirman Saputra tries to open a dialogue about the force to become tolerant that can backfire and turn into intolerance. To describe his concern, Handiwirman created an installation work entitled Toleranintoleransi. He said it was the result of a dialogue about a rubber band that can be flexible following the shape of an object, but at the same time it can also break when it is forced beyond its flexibility.  

Handiwirman narrates the message by visually creating rubber bands from fiberglass. Some are big and some are hung until they touch the floor of the exhibition room, following the contours of the room. Some are broken ones attached to the walls or to the air condition units.

Fly me to the sky: A woman looks at an art installation by Kexin Zhang from China, who uses traditional Chinese kites in the artwork.Fly me to the sky: A woman looks at an art installation by Kexin Zhang from China, who uses traditional Chinese kites in the artwork. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)

A work by Chinese artist Kexin Zhang reminds us of the importance of deep-rooted cultural identity as reflected by kites with strong control ropes, which prevent them from being cut off and swallowed by the sky because of strong winds.

The artist’s series of installations were created by adapting three traditional kites from China, namely a new bird-style kite, a new butterfly kite and a new leading centipede kite.

By becoming a kite, Zhang presented an art performance by “flying” to other cultural heritages such as Borobudur, a pesantren (an Islamic boarding school) in Lasem and a number of temples in Central Java, Malaysia and Thailand. The footages of the performances are also on display at ARTJOG 2018.

A visitor, Nieke Jahja, said by observing some works exhibited at ARTJOG 2018 she learned about the importance of preserving diversity although she added that she found it difficult to understand the curatorial narration of each work she described as complicated.

“There should be a forum for the audience to also give their opinion,” she said.

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