For artists Yoshi Fajar Kresno Murti, Mizan Allan De Neve and Sir Dandy, what is old is new again. The trio combined their respective expertise in urban design, automotive design and sketching to shed new light on the becak, that iconic Indonesian mode of transportation that can be found in cities throughout Java except for the capital.
“The becak can still be a viable form of transportation for Indonesia as a hybrid vehicle. It is designed in accordance with the latest technological developments in Indonesia, yet still take into account the differing technological proficiency of different parts of the nation,” the artists said of their work, also called “Becak.”
“As such, the becak is versatile enough to be manufactured in large numbers, but simple enough to be made by villagers.”
The trio’s creation sports front wheels connected to BMX style handlebars and brakes instead of using the driver’s strength to stop or make a turn. Gone also are the becak’s overhead canopy, while the seat gave way to a more plush, roomier arrangement instead of the familiar, yet more cramped setup.
The design is part of the “GeoEtnik: Biennale Desain dan Kriya” (GeoEtnik: Design and Decorative Biennial) exhibition that is currently held at Jakarta’s National Gallery.
“The works in the exhibition pays tribute to the decorative arts and designs of more than 600 Indonesian ethnic groups. But while the designs are a nod to their heritage, they also take into account current trends,” says the event’s curator Irvan Noe’man. The event is the first of its kind to be held since 1958. “We hope that the exhibition will reflect and raise awareness about current developments in the creative industries. I’m also certain that their creations will highlight Indonesia’s unrivaled cultural diversity.”
Like “Becak,” some of the art highlight the fusion of form and function, among them the “Rumah Kucing” or “House for Cats.” Featuring a look similar to bird houses with its foundation of metal struts and multi-level wooden floors, the structure is designed to optimize the cats’ lithe physique and love of climbing.
“[‘ Rumah Kucing’ ] is designed as a place where stray cats can shelter, eat and play. It can also be for people who want to be close to cats without keeping them in their own home,” said its creators, architects Andra Matin and Hermawan Tanzil. “The structure is made to incorporate cats in an urban streetscape. It’s also designed to bring humans and animals closer together in their urban habitat.”
The fusion of nature and man-made structures is also highlighted in “Cocoon: Menetas Di Alam” (“Cocoon: Hatching in Nature”).
“[‘Cocoon: Menetas Di Alam’] is intended to emulate how cocoons float in space. It’s designed to be suspended from trees and high ceilings. Even when it’s on the ground, the spherical space is designed to be supported by small supports,” the creators, Rina Renville, Yu Sing and Adi Panuntun explained. “The cocoon is also versatile enough to fit in crowded kampungs or wide open urban spaces,” added the trio, who have long been advocating the better use of urban spaces.
The theme of enclosed spaces is also explored in works like Titiana Irawani and Ayu Joddy’s similarly outdoor oriented “Children’s Nest” and “Untitled,” by Budi Pradono, Adelinah Chandra Rahardja and Abie Abdillah. The former is a particularly Indonesian take on the domed structures so often found in playgrounds. Resembling a bird’s nest, the structure is designed as a labyrinth of sorts where children can enter and sleep — or at the very least get away from the hustle and bustle of their surroundings.
On the other hand, rattan designers Adhi Nugraha, Ahmad Sofiyulloh and Ilhamia Nuantika sought to take the material into the future with their “Transforattan” set. The futuristic, undulating forms of their lazy chairs, benches, coffee tables and partitions give the notion of infinite possibilities. Rudy Dodo similarly explored the notion of taking traditions into the future with the more decorative “Mejejahitan and Metanding” (Palm Frond Weaving and Decorating).
Made of a traditional Balinese designs that use only knives, leaves and twigs, Rudy hopes the work’s traditional functionality inspires designers.
Originally published in The Jakarta Globe on January 1, 2014