Interpreting Society Through Sculpture


“Rekonstruksi” by Hari Susanto (Photo courtesy of Tunggul Wirajuda)

The likeness of Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo still makes an indelible impression, even when set in stone, or to be more exact, fiberglass and electroplating.

Even perched on a pedestal, one can almost expect Joko to set off on one of his popular visits around the capital. The lines on his forehead seem to hint at his thoughts, while his expression portrays his readiness to utter yet another sardonic remark.

Such is the figure of Joko, as captured by sculptor Beby Charles in his work “Wi&Wikojo,” an anagram of Joko’s nickname “Jokowi.”

Joko’s disproportionately large head is a medium made all too familiar through the satirical cartoons featured in Indonesian newspapers such as Kompas and Suara Pembaruan.

While Beby’s take on Joko can be viewed as jaded satire, its just as feasible to see it as a metaphor for his larger-than-life stature for millions of Indonesians. The effect is reinforced by the laurel wreath on Joko’s head. The golden snail on wheels seems to convey the public’s hopes for better times in the future under him, while the heavy metal salute in his left hand symbolizes his love of the music genre as well as his populist appeal.

However, the small size of his angel wings might be a warning against putting too much hope on him. But for the Indonesian Institute of the Arts alumni, the work reflects his artistic vision.

“[Wi&Wikojo] reflects how contemporary sculpture transcends cultural differences between East and West,” Beby said.

“The symbols of East and West are universal, as they touch on values and feelings like longing, sadness, or gratitude. I try to be as consistent as possible to convey dynamism, illusions and tragedy in the work.”

Beby is one of 40 sculptors from the Bandung, Jakarta and Yogyakarta branches of the Indonesian Association of Sculptors, or API, to show their art in “Trax 13,” an exhibition at the Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural center.

Taman Ismail Marzuki director Bambang Subekti said the exhibition, which is the second of its kind, touches on the sculptors’ intent to affirm their artistic stance, consistency and determination to rise to any challenges.

Sculptor Agus Widodo got the message with his work “Balada Setompret KPK.” The fiber sculpture is, in Agus’ words, his attempt “to respond to sociopolitical trends in society, to find a balance in life.”

Like Beby’s take on Joko Widodo, the wings on the figure might indicate how the public pin their hopes and dreams on the KPK, while the flute signifies its efforts to disseminate its anti-corruption agenda.

The ball and chain on the sculpture’s leg symbolizes the political constraints faced by the KPK, the menacing dinosaur figures reflects the threat the commission faces and the rolls of rupiah and US dollar bills indicate the temptations that KPK investigators face.

Fellow sculptor Hari Susanto took on a different angle with his installation art “Rekonstruksi.” The work is as much about rebirth as it is reconstruction, seen in the alternating circle between normal faces and those of skeletons.

Jakarta Arts Institute Sculpture alumni Yani M. Sastranegara also tackles the subject of rebirth and growth in her work “Bertumbuh Dalam Berkah” (“Graceful Growth”). Featuring a tree that outgrew the frame its placed in, the sculpture reflects Yani’s notion of “growth and expansion as a gift and a blessing.”

The piece is an apt metaphor for individuals who continue to expand beyond their comfort zone and get past the limitations that society might impose on them.

Originally published in The Jakarta Globe on November 11, 2013

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