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National Gallery of Australia launches 'Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia' exhibition

Wening Gitomartoyo
Wening Gitomartoyo

The Jakarta Post

Canberra, Australia  /  Sun, June 23, 2019  /  08:00 am
National Gallery of Australia launches 'Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia' exhibition

'Art as Purifying Dialogue' by Tisna Sanjaya. (JP/Wening Gitomartoyo)

“Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia” art exhibition was officially launched at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA), Canberra, on Saturday.

It showcases the work of 24 established and emerging Indonesian artists, with topics that range from the art market, sexuality and gender roles to the environment in the 21st century in the form of paintings, sculptures, installations, moving images, photography, textiles, live performances and a film series.

The exhibiting artists include Tisna Sanjaya, FX Harsono, Melati Suryodarmo, Entang Wiharso, Eko Nugroho, Duto Hardono, Tromarama, Tita Salina, Zico Albaiquni, Uji ‘Hahan’ Handoko Eko Saputro, Adi ‘Uma Gumma’ Kusuma, Octora and Albert Yonathan Setyawan.

'Carnival Trap' by Eko Nugroho.'Carnival Trap' by Eko Nugroho. (JP/Wening Gitomartoyo)

“What the National Gallery of Australia is trying to achieve by this exhibition is to amplify the voices of Indonesian artists as loudly as we can,” said NGA director Nick Mitzetvich on Friday.

“I think what this exhibition says is that Indonesia is an incredibly diverse country that gives you an insight that the eccentric archipelago is alive and dynamic. It’s a country of sophisticated ideas and thoughts. I think Indonesian artists speak about life in Indonesia, but what’s even more significant is that they speak about life in the world today,” he added.

The Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Kristiarto Legowo and the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Gary Quinlan were present at the opening ceremony on Saturday, and both shared the belief of art’s important role in diplomacy and the countries’ relations.

“[Art] reflects the innermost feelings, tensions and debates the country is having among themselves,” said Quinlan.

Kristiarto expressed his appreciation for the prestigious gallery recognizing Indonesian artists. “Culture is widely acknowledged as a form of diplomacy. And through this exhibition, the artists’ work becomes the media to transfer messages to the Australian audience,” he said.

Read also: 'Intention, Please!' highlights purpose in contemporary art

At the start of the exhibition, visitors will first see a wooden swing boat (known as the kora-kora fairground ride in Indonesia) by renowned contemporary artist Tisna Sanjaya. It was made from a metal boat that once sailed the polluted Citarum River in Bandung, West Java, and will serve as the stage for a series of public discussions on a range of political and environmental issues.

'Gazing on Collective Memory' by FX Harsono.'Gazing on Collective Memory' by FX Harsono. (JP/Wening Gitomartoyo)

In Canberra, the wooden boat is marked by Tisna’s visualization of Pancasila and Khilafah. A number of performances by the artist with participants and audiences in the following days aim to forge a cross-cultural dialogue.

“Indonesia — represented by the boat — is currently swinging from one point to another, but it’s good to have a break, as now it’s resting in the gallery,” said Tisna at the NGA on Friday.

“With the boat and the performance, my message is to have a clear dialogue, instead of debates. We already have enough of those on Indonesian television. I’d like instead to listen to dialogues on religions and the diverse cultures we have in Indonesia.”

Other highlights include Melati Suryodarmo’s four-hour performance set that includes the repeated shooting of 800 arrows, Uji "Hahan" Handoko Eko Saputro and Adi "Uma Gumma" Kusuma’s neon exploration of the machinations of the contemporary art market, Duto Hardono’s exploration of sound with vocal improvisation and Zico Albaiquni’s vibrant paintings specially created for the exhibition.   

'Transaction of Hollows' by Melati Suryodarmo.'Transaction of Hollows' by Melati Suryodarmo. (JP/Wening Gitomartoyo)

“Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia” is jointly curated by the National Gallery’s Asian Art and Contemporary Art curatorial teams, and involved Indonesian curators such as Alia Swastika, Enin Supriyanto, Agung Hujatnikajenong and Grace Samboh.       

The exhibition is open until Oct. 27, 2019 and entry is free.