GRAFFITI STREET URBAN ART ARTISTS INDONESIA TOURING EXHIBITION
The first Kosmopolite Art Tour to be held in Asia took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, a city that is fast becoming known as a hub for graffiti art in Southeast Asia. Art Radar caught up with co-founder Kongo to bring you more on this unique tour and the ambitions that drive those that run it.
The Kosmopolite Art Tour (website in French only) has taken its time getting to Asia. Jakarta is the first stop in the region, despite the fact that the event has been travelling across the globe for more than ten years. Held in December 2011, the Jakarta leg drew a number of Indonesian ‘bombers’, or graffiti artists, to the city including Darbotz, Kims, Nsane5, tutu, Shake, Hest1, Koma, Wormo, Netic and Older. The list of international participants included Kongo and Lazoo, from France, and Besok, from the Netherlands. The exhibition was designed to introduce local audiences to the world of graffiti art through a number of different programmes which culminated in the painting of large wall mural, a collaborative effort between local and international artists.
According to Kosmopolite Art Tour co-founder and French-Vietnamese graffiti artist Kongo, the event began all the way back in 2002 with the seed of an aim to create an exhibition that represented the organiser’s idea of what a “town” should contain.
[A ‘town’ is] a place without borders, where the works from big graffiti capitals are displayed so people can see that graffiti is a universal language, despite the different characteristics and the uniqueness of each culture.
Kongo and the Kosmopolite team consider Jakarta to be the Southeast Asian capital for graffiti art, and one that closely resembles their idea of a “town”, and it is because of this that is was selected as the first Asian destination for the Tour.
The graffiti scene in Indonesia is amazing because you can feel the cultural Indonesian background [coming through], which creates a graphic vocabulary that is different to the one we know in Europe or in the US. Graffiti really makes sense in Jakarta because it’s such a huge and vibrant city.
Kims, the project manager for the Jakarta leg of the Tour and a well-known graffiti artist in his own right, stated in an interview with Jakarta Globe that it is important to hold events such as the Kosmopolite Art Tour in Asia as there is not a lot of awareness or support within the region for the work that street artists do. Despite this, he considers the Jakarta’s urban atmosphere to be the perfect place for graffiti art. “The city is always bustling, with a touch of chaos here and there,” he explains. “Graffiti is a form of street art, and the graffiti style in Jakarta is a bit rough, which I think matches the surroundings.”
According to Alia Swastika, the Indonesian curator of “Wall Street Arts”, a Jakarta-Paris graffiti art exhibition held in 2010, Jakarta is a dynamic “non-linear” city in which public space has been filled up with billboards and advertising posters, just as it has in other parts of the world. Graffiti is therefore found in transient spaces such as flyover pillars, the enclosing walls of construction projects, or walls on streets at the margins of the city. As Swastika states in her curatorial essay, called “Cities & Anxieties“,
Compared to French graffiti artists who revisited the painting tendencies in art history, … Indonesian artists have perhaps received greater influence from the pragmatic visual realms which were born out of dialogues with day-to-day existence.
Swastika also mentions in the essay the importance of personal connections between artists to the growth of the graffiti scene in Indonesia, and it seems that Kosmopolite Art Tour is one of the events facilitating this important cultural exchange. Local graffiti artist Kims participated in an earlier Tour in Paris along with two other Asian bombers, Nsane5 and Darbotz, and were give the opportunity to work alongside a slew of top international street artists. In an interview with Jakarta Globe, Kims notes what he took away from the experience.
Street art is very much supported by governments in Europe. They have designed areas for the artists to paint. Some artists even have a studio and an office, provided by their local government. I believe Jakarta is going in that direction. That is why we are having the event [Kosmopolite Art Tour], so more people will appreciate what we do.
When asked about future Kosmopolite Art Tour destinations, co-founder Kongo alluded to plans for trips to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Bangkok in the not-too-distant future.
- Can graffiti still shock and challenge? Top Art Radar posts – October 2011 – further reading on urban art and its development in Asia
- Who is the King of Kowloon? ArtisTree exhibition pays tribute to artist and eccentric Tsang Tsou-choi – May 2011 – a tribute to Tsang Tsou-choi (a.k.a. King Kowloon), a calligraphic graffiti artist who wrote Hong Kong’s woes on the walls of its city
- Galleries provide legal space for Russian street art – New York Times – December 2010 – Russia’s fight for their right to paint on their streets
- Art Radar Asia launches Hong Kong Street Art Series: interview with co-owner of Above Second – October 2010 – Hong Kong sees an ever-growing interest in street art
- What is Street Art? Vandalism, graffiti or public art- Part I – January 2010 – read about the different positions on the value and categorisation of street art
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