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Jakarta Post

Street art: More than meets the eye

  • Renno Wicaksono

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, July 14, 2013   /  01:03 pm
Street art: More than meets the eye Indonesia Menangis (Indonesia Cries). (Courtesy of Andi Rharharha)" border="0" height="350" width="512">Indonesia Menangis (Indonesia Cries). (Courtesy of Andi Rharharha)

Salihara Community recently highlighted the influence of street art in society, in a discussion observing works of artists Andi Rharharha and Samuel Indratma.

Titled “Street Art: Between art and politics”, the discussion reveals two different goals and approaches of the two artists in their expression.

Andi said that street art should not be confused with vandalism. The founder of Street Art Protest Rharharha movement greatly opposed pointless vandalism. Thus, Andi chose a medium that’s not quite common in street art practice in Indonesia: duct tape.

While the conventional street art is in the form of murals, his works are in the form of words written out on the ground —and even on people’s backs.

He said that his unconventional art channels a protest, a commentary or a call to action to the government about problems that the country is facing.

“Inspired by chaos and the government’s lack of interest in taking action toward the problems we have, I decided to form the Street Art Protest movement,” said Andi.

One example of Rharharha’s works is through a protest to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for receiving the Statesman award. A work called Indonesia Menangis (Indonesia Cries), bearing the ground with a couple of protesters lying beside it.

Andi said the main concern about street art centers on the ambiguity of who actually have the rights to modify a public space.

“In 2001, many artists came together in decorating public spaces with murals as part of the [email protected] art movement. We had official permits from government officials to execute the project but we still find that the murals have been wiped out or painted in white and replaced with something else,” he said.

Contrary to Andi’s emphasis on the message, Yogyakarta-based Samuel said he aims for beauty.

Through a more conventional method of painting murals on abandoned walls, his fundamental intention is to give Yogyakarta a distinct identity of its own; so that Yogyakarta can one day be celebrated and be famous for its street art.
Gabusan Craft Market in Bantul, Yogyakarta. (Courtesy of Samuel Indratma)

Indonesia Menangis (Indonesia Cries). (Courtesy of Andi Rharharha)

Salihara Community recently highlighted the influence of street art in society, in a discussion observing works of artists Andi Rharharha and Samuel Indratma.

Titled '€œStreet Art: Between art and politics'€, the discussion reveals two different goals and approaches of the two artists in their expression.

Andi said that street art should not be confused with vandalism. The founder of Street Art Protest Rharharha movement greatly opposed pointless vandalism. Thus, Andi chose a medium that'€™s not quite common in street art practice in Indonesia: duct tape.

While the conventional street art is in the form of murals, his works are in the form of words written out on the ground '€”and even on people'€™s backs.

He said that his unconventional art channels a protest, a commentary or a call to action to the government about problems that the country is facing.

'€œInspired by chaos and the government'€™s lack of interest in taking action toward the problems we have, I decided to form the Street Art Protest movement,'€ said Andi.

One example of Rharharha'€™s works is through a protest to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for receiving the Statesman award. A work called Indonesia Menangis (Indonesia Cries), bearing the ground with a couple of protesters lying beside it.

Andi said the main concern about street art centers on the ambiguity of who actually have the rights to modify a public space.

'€œIn 2001, many artists came together in decorating public spaces with murals as part of the [email protected] art movement. We had official permits from government officials to execute the project but we still find that the murals have been wiped out or painted in white and replaced with something else,'€ he said.

Contrary to Andi'€™s emphasis on the message, Yogyakarta-based Samuel said he aims for beauty.

Through a more conventional method of painting murals on abandoned walls, his fundamental intention is to give Yogyakarta a distinct identity of its own; so that Yogyakarta can one day be celebrated and be famous for its street art.
Gabusan Craft Market in Bantul, Yogyakarta. (Courtesy of Samuel Indratma)Gabusan Craft Market in Bantul, Yogyakarta. (Courtesy of Samuel Indratma)
While street murals in Jakarta usually tell a story or have some kind of a message geared toward a specific group behind them, Samuel'€™s works are purely intended for eye pleasure.

'€œI have no intended effect other than to spark reactions from the people of Yogyakarta to participate in making street art,'€ he explained.

'€œThere'€™s an abundance of abandoned walls in Yogyakarta that are only being tidied up and put to use around events such as the Independence Day celebrations in August or Idul Fitri each year. Whenever I see these walls all around Yogyakarta I always wonder, why not make Yogyakarta more beautiful one mural at a time?'€ said Samuel.

The initial doubt in starting the project relies on whether or not such an idea would be welcomed by the public or city officials. But this didn'€™t stop Samuel from making the necessary effort to see his
vision come to life.

He began with approaching inhabitants around the site where a mural would be painted, and asking their permission if it would be OK for him to execute his ideas.

'€œThe people welcomed the idea with one condition: the art must not have any kind of political satire or anything in that nature. They are mainly concerned if they would be held responsible if anyone gets offended.'€

Samuel is more traditional in his methods. He chooses basic paint as a medium of his art and giving it a twist by putting wayang shadow puppet figures that are made of steel over the murals to compliment his pieces.

Samuel said that people would be more welcoming if they see something that'€™s already familiar to them, and this explains the recurring theme of Javanese culture in his work.

With 563 murals already done and more still in the works all over Yogyakarta and its surrounding subdistricts, Samuel'€™s dream may come true really soon.

The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.

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