The Jakarta Post
Behind the art: Participants of the night curatorial tour also learn about the artists involved in ARTJOG 2018. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)
It was 10 p.m. on Saturday when a group of some 30 people gathered in front of the Jogja National Museum (JNM) in Gampingan, Wirobrajan, Yogyakarta, to join a curatorial tour of ARTJOG 2018.
A moment later, the event’s curator, Bambang “Toko” Witjaksono, opened the tour by explaining why the country’s biggest art bazaar was themed “Enlightenment: Toward Various Futures” this year.
“This is the first time that a curatorial tour of ARTJOG is conducted at night,” Bambang said.
He created the program to offer an exclusive experience to ARTJOG visitors and help them better understand the artworks on display outside the exhibition’s opening hours.
The ARTJOG committee has organized nine curatorial tours for the month-long event, which kicked off on May 4. Of the nine, only two are scheduled late at night. The remaining seven take place in the afternoon and have so far attracted up to 1,500 participants a day.
“Night curatorial tours have become a trend abroad. Visitors are willing to pay a lot to just enjoy an exclusive tour conducted after the museum is closed,” Bambang said.
Upon entering the exhibition space on Saturday night, the group first observed a piece titled Sea Remembers by Mulyana, also known as Mogus. Bambang said through the knitting work, Mulyana wanted to dig up the mystery of coral reefs at the bottom of the sea.
Underwater: Bambang “Toko” Witjaksono (second left) explains the Sea Remembers by artist Mulyana during a night curatorial tour at the Jogja National Museum (JNM) in Yogyakarta. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)
The visitors then came to the work of noted artist Nasirun titled Hutan Dilipat (Folded Forest), which occupies half of the first floor of the JNM building.
Nasirun created a long, giant roll of tissue paper depicting bright colors to criticize man’s wasteful behavior in using tissue paper. A female participant asked Bambang the reason behind the bright colors.
“Whether you like it or not, a piece of art has to be eye-catching and interesting at first glance,” Bambang replied, adding that Nasirun’s newer works tended to be brighter than his previous offerings.
Bambang also told the group about the dialog between the curator and Nasirun on how to display the latter’s work in the exhibition venue. The two parties had to communicate in order to present artworks that provide comfort for the visitors.
The tour ran “democratically” as Bambang also gave participating visitors the freedom to choose which works they wished to discuss.
That night, the visitors chose to explore Heri Dono’s Smiling Angels From the Sky; Eko Nugroho’s Carnival Trap, Respect to be Respected, Ancient Mentality and Garden Full of Democracy; and Agung Toto Suryanto’s The Heart of Stone.
“Literally, Agung Toto Suryanto’s work is just a chunk of rock, but it was further processed […] to describe a hard heart,” Bambang said.
He then took the group to observe artworks he believed conveyed interesting ideas. One of them was Bandung, West Java-based artist Fajar Abadi’s Everlost.
The participants had to take turns entering the room because of its small size.
Fajar had created a small boxing ring, in the middle of which hung a punching bag containing homemade snacks. Bambang said Fajar, who liked eating snacks, had asked his audience to hit the punching bag as a symbol of the homemade snack industry being defeated by big corporations.
“Fajar’s unique idea earned him the ARTJOG Young Artist Award,” he said.
Everlost by Fajar Abadi (JP/Bambang Muryanto)
Bambang also provided information about the backgrounds of the participating artists. He knows them well because they live in the same city, Yogyakarta.
When discussing Eko’s work, Bambang said that the popular artist used to belong to the same comic-appreciation club as him called Apotik Komik.
“Now, he is a young artist who has a very well-managed team.”
He then explained that Heri, meanwhile, liked to add elements of movement and sound in his artworks. The artist, he said, is a pioneer in mechanical installation art.
Tour participant Almas Fildzah from Cirebon, West Java, said she made an effort to come to Yogyakarta every year for ARTJOG. She said by joining the curatorial tour, she learned a lot about the artists on display this year, especially photography artist Davy Linggar, who collaborated with singer Tulus to present his work Yang Juga Mendengar (They Who Also Listen).
“I have followed the artist through social media for a long time,” she said.
Fellow visitor Annisa Margi, a university student in Yogyakarta, said she joined the curatorial tour because sometimes she found it difficult to understand the meaning behind the artworks on display.
“I still cannot understand the meaning of the work that uses PVC pipes,” she said, referring to Reflex by Setu Legi and Gatot Danar Sulistyanto.
For Bambang, the night curatorial tour was more fun compared to the afternoon tour, when most regular visitors were occupied with taking selfies with the pieces on display.
“We will evaluate [the night tour] to decide whether we should have it again next year,” Bambang said.