The sprawling quilt blankets the wall, filling the horizon as far as the eye can see. Taken individually, the bright colors like yellow and orange, as well as shades ranging from checked to floral patterns are beautiful enough in a mundane sort of way. But taken as a whole, the quilt is overwhelming, dwarfing passersby who see it.
Titled “ Selimut ” or “Blanket,” the installation art piece by Valasara epitomizes late pop artist Andy Warhol’s notion that “everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Valasara’s work and Warhol’s adage defines “Manifesto No. 4, Keseharian: Mencandra Tanda Tanda Masa” (“Manifesto No. 4 on Daily Life: Finding the Signs of the Times”).
Featuring nearly 200 works by young Indonesian artists and collectives like Recycle Experience, Sutra Djarot and M. Zico Albaiquni, the art represents the latest in contemporary Indonesian art.
“[‘Manifesto No. 4, Keseharian’] seeks to convey that the inherent complexity of Indonesian culture doesn’t just lie in the nation’s cultural diversity. It’s also shaped by global trends that influence Indonesian culture and society,” Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh says of the biennial event, which started in 2008. “The exhibit isn’t just an effort to develop contemporary art, it’s also a way to recognize cultural differences. However, it also considers the potentially damaging effects of the industrialization or commercialization of arts and crafts.”
Recycle Experience’s piece “Hirup Aing Kieu-Kieu Wae!!” echoes Nuh’s words. Featuring a brass robot in a souped-up garbage cart, the installation piece seems a cross between C3P0, the Star Wars protocol droid, and the brass diving suits commonly found in the Jalan Surabaya antiques market. While the crank at the rear of the figure lends it a somewhat farcical touch, its impersonal features and assertive pose, which make it seem bent on stepping out from the cart, is an apt metaphor for the enroachment of the outside world in the form of technology.
On the other hand, Sutra Djarot’s 2012 work “Not So Poor Little Rich Girl” is a sharp commentary on pop culture and the use of technology to disseminate gossip. Drawn in a style that evokes teen movies or magazines, the painting says much about pop culture and the central place it takes in some people’s lives.
His painting “Hey Joe,” whose title is probably taken from the Jimi Hendrix classic, takes a slightly different tack. Made in a style highlighting the slim, streamlined movie posters of the 1940s and ’50s, Sutra highlights an element of anxiety or apprehension with the woman. Doubt is also apparent in the woman’s split image and her gaze on opposing sides. Sutra’s use of Chinese ink, coffee and thread on canvas in the paintings gives them a vintage look. The shades from the materials give his works a sense of depth and perspective that skilfully conveys the dilemmas of his subjects or many Indonesians, who might have one foot in the past and one foot in the future.
The work is among those that fit the criteria for the curators of “Manifesto No. 4, Keseharian.”
“The young artists in ‘Manifesto No. 4’ stand out because they know the patterns of contemporary sociocultural communications [like social media, the Internet or smartphones] that are different from those of previous generations,” reads a statement from the curators, among them Rizki A. Zaelani, Jim Supangkat and Asikin Hasan. “The artists have to do more than just observe today’s issues; they have to to show the constant changes in idioms or expressions.”
Another eye-catching feature of the exhibition is Theresia Agustina Sitompul’s variable-dimension work “Mangan.” At first glance, the installation piece of stainless steel hoops and netting seem less a work of art and more like an optical illusion. But a look at either end of the structure tells all that one needs to know about Theresia’s message. The interconnected jar of coins and the set of goblets show the close connection between money and possession, and the public’s preoccupation with accumulating both.
But not all the artists go down this path, among them M. Zico Albaiquni. Instead of addressing trends and tastes, Albaiquni’s work “Artist Studio” takes on the creative process itself. Featuring scaffolding, neon lights and a number of paintings in progress, the installation piece figuratively lets viewers into the artist’s mind. The work also turns the notion of the self-portrait on its head, as Albaiquni seems to portray the artist through his work instead of his image.
“Manifesto No. 4,” which runs through Saturday, is a colorful kaleidoscope presenting the artistic vision of Indonesia’s up-and-coming artists — and therefore an exhibition that is certainly worth a visit.
Originally published in The Jakarta Globe on June 4, 2014