Aside from Jakarta, Bandung is perhaps one of the most tangible symbols of Indonesia’s booming economy, as seen from the flocks of Jakartans who go there on weekends to make the most of its fashion and culinary delights.
But less well known, except for those who studied there, is the city’s vibrant, avant-garde student life, an aspect reflected by the Bandung Institute of Technology or ITB’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Design.
A number of alumni from the faculty have expressed their artistic visions through the joint exhibition “Disthing,” currently held at the Gallery Rachel in Central Jakarta.
“The title of the exhibition is a wordplay that uses the prefix ‘dis’ to lend more meaning to an [ordinary] ‘thing.’ The objects here are basically everyday items, so we aim to elevate them to art,” curator Asmudjo Jono Irianto said.
“The artists here work in the ‘commodity sculpture’ genre, which is both a critique of excessive consumerism and finding the aesthetic in everyday things from furniture, kitchen utensils, to vehicles like cars and motorcycles. But while many ‘commodity sculptures’ are ready-made items that are made for art, many of the things exhibited here are everyday products that are highlighted for their aesthetic values.”
The installation art pieces “Hanky Panky” and “Hanky Panky 2,” created by sculptor Faisal Habibi consists of stools which have been bent and twisted to represent his view of the dysfunctional relationship between people and the commodities that they buy.
“The name of the sculptures indicates there is something deeply wrong in how we view consumer goods or use. Both pieces represent items that are dominated by functions, to the point that our dependence on them deadens our own abilities,” Faisal said. “Our view of the objects almost represent a hyperbolic reality, in which lifeless or inanimate things appear to be more alive than they are.”
Faisal’s message may strike a chord with a public almost hyper dependent on smartphones, tablets and other gadgets.
On the other hand, fellow sculptor Cecilia Patricia “Patrice” Untario’s sculpture “Cautious,” turns the notion of form and function on its head. At first glance, the piece is indistinguishable from any other chandelier, with its shards of downward pointing glass.
A closer look reveals a few surprises, as the patterns are formed from condoms. Patrice seemingly wished to emphasize both items’ fragility, and their grave consequences once they are broken.
However, not all of the pieces are so jaded and cynical. Some, like painter Windi Apriani’s “September Song” and “Afternoon Shadows,” are more intimate.
“The sewing machine is in line with the theme of ‘Disthing,’ which is highlight an everyday item and give it more meaning. But sewing machines mean more to me than just a commodity to make cloth into outfits,” Windi said.
“As a skill passed down by my mother and grandmother, sewing shaped my identity both literally and figuratively.”
Sculptor Bagus Pandega’s work “Remembering and Forgetting” uses mechanics and vintage items to make an impression on the viewer. Featuring vinyl records and the speaker cones characteristic of gramophones, Bagus makes the cones spin instead of the record.
The works in the exhibition immediately made an impact with art buffs.
“I was particularly taken by Bagus’ work, particularly his use of mechanics,” fashion designer Ruth Marbun said.
“His use of vintage items give it a warm, quirky element that also made me appreciate its finer points and details.
“I also like Windi’s use of the multi layering technique in her paintings, because it gave a nostalgic depth than is otherwise possible in a two dimensional painting.”
Originally published in The Jakarta Globe on July 17, 2013