Re-exploring the urban environment: Indonesian artists at Jakarta Biennale 2013 – picture feast

The 15th Jakarta Biennale features works by international and Indonesian artists, exploring the relationship between citizens and the cityscape.

The 15th Jakarta Biennale, from 9 to 30 November 2013, presents the work of international and Indonesian artists who re-examine the relationship between citizens and their urban environment. A project of the biennale focuses on mural art interacting with the urban fabric, with works scattered around the city by Indonesian graffiti artists.

Jakarta Biennale 2013 poster. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Jakarta Biennale 2013 poster. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

The Jakarta Biennale, this year in its fifteenth edition, is an international art exhibition fully supported by Jakarta Arts Council and the Jakarta Tourism and Culture Department. The 2013 event features artworks by 52 international and Indonesian artists and art collectives from eighteen countries, including China, Canada, the Czech Republic, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Germany, South Korea, Malaysia, Palestine, Kenya, Colombia, Azerbaijan, France, Argentina, the Netherlands and Australia, among others. The exhibition showcases a variety of contemporary artworks together with art projects involving and engaging citizens, communities, cultural institutions, as well as, artist groups and activists.

Abdulrahman Saleh alias Maman, 'Manusia Gerobag', 2013, installation view at Ruang Parkir Bawah Tanah Teater Jakarta. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Abdulrahman Saleh alias Maman, ‘Manusia Gerobag’, 2013, installation view at Ruang Parkir Bawah Tanah Teater Jakarta. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Siasat: interacting with the city

Launched on 9 November and running until 30 November, the biennale has the theme of “SIASAT”. An Arabic loanword, siyasah has a wide-spectrum of definitions in Indonesian. It can mean investigation and criticism, as well as politics, trickery and tactics. It can also mean “reasoning” with which people achieve certain ends. Siyasah functions as both a noun and a verb.

The aim of “SIASAT”, as expressed in the biennale’s press release, is

to re-examine the citizens’ position and their artistic practices in dealing with all the limitations, instabilities, problems, threats, potentials, as well as, the opportunities they encounter in the cityscape, and how this siasat [is] organically born and surprisingly grown, forming its own structure and patterns and taking an ultimate role in city life.

This year’s biennale sees the participation of 31 local Indonesian artists and art groups. The programme, which began unofficially in October 2013, has seen the organisation of various projects around Jakarta.

Enrico Halim, 'Taking Shelter in ‘Siasat’', 2013, art project with the people, various locations around Jakarta. Image courtesy Sonang Elyas, Tegar Umbara, Ardilla Thunggal and Jakarta Biennale.

Enrico Halim, ‘Taking Shelter in ‘Siasat’’, 2013, art project with the people, various locations around Jakarta. Image courtesy Sonang Elyas, Tegar Umbara, Ardilla Thunggal and Jakarta Biennale.

Indonesian artists engaging with the citizens

Enrico Halim and Abdulrahman Saleh a.k.a Maman, both from Jakarta, are two participating artists who made workshops for city residents. Enrico Halim featured an art project entitled Adakah Seni di Antara Kita? (Does Art Exist Between Us?), made up of visual art workshops involving residents, street vendors and the public. The project supports Halim’s claim in his artist statement that “art does not live in galleries only, but also amidst people.” Halim built the electrically powered biobemo, an Indonesian traditional vehicle that he used to transport tools and art materials to the various workshop locations. The artist wants to expand the use of this vehicle, originally developed as a cheap and environmentally friendly alternative to other means of transportation, to educational purposes.

Danuri alias Pak Nur, 2013, mural at Tanjung Barat flyover, South Jakarta, 3.5 x 10 m. Photo: Agung ‘Abe’ Natanael. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Danuri alias Pak Nur, 2013, mural at Tanjung Barat flyover, South Jakarta, 3.5 x 10 m. Photo by Agung ‘Abe’ Natanael. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Abdulrahman Saleh, alias Maman, held a workshop titled Manusia Gerobag with junk collectors who use gerobag, two-wheel carts used to carry junk or scrap. Saleh invited them to decorate their carts and express their own feelings through colourful paints and drawings. The result was carts decorated with paintings and phrases that carry frank and, often, playful social criticisms, such as “Your Trash is My Blessing”, “Better Collect Junk Than Be Jobless” or “We Take Society’s Trash”.

Eko Nugroho, 2013, mural at RC Veteran tunnel, near JORR Veteran Gate, RC Veteran Raya Street, South Jakarta. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Eko Nugroho, 2013, mural at RC Veteran tunnel, near JORR Veteran Gate, RC Veteran Raya Street, South Jakarta. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Transforming the urban environment

Street art is in its nascent stage in countries around Asia, where some sectors of society still find it difficult to understand murals and graffiti as an art form rather than mere vandalisation of the urban environment. The Indonesian art scene seems to be at the forefront of promoting street art and its value to the larger community. Taking into account the ephemeral nature of graffiti, the Indonesian Street Art Database started building an online record of street art around the country in 2012, in an effort to create a greater awareness of the art form. In this context, a new programme of the Jakarta Biennale this year titled “Mural” features the work of seven Indonesian mural artists scattered in different locations around the city, bringing street art once again to the fore.

Fintan Magee, 2013, mural near basketball court on PLN station behind STIKOM Interstudy, South Jakarta. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Fintan Magee, 2013, mural near basketball court on PLN station behind STIKOM Interstudy, South Jakarta. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

The Mural Project, as specified on the biennale’s website,

… intends to produce works of street art consist[ing] of stories about how citizens survive in one area. The artists respond to the struggle and tactic of people by identifying the site, environment, political issue[s] and communities in the area. Each work has [a] strong relation with [the] particular condition of each space. Mural Project (Siasat Mural) attempts to offer knowledge for the broader public about hidden narratives in one specific location. Through various elements ranging from literature, history to urban legends, the artists involved in this process are finding and collecting ideas, stories and values ​​of the site for the community.

Guntur Wibowo, 2013, mural at Kampung Ambon, Kedaung Kaliangke Ward, Cengkareng, West Jakarta. Photo: Agung ‘Abe’ Natanael. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Guntur Wibowo, 2013, mural at Kampung Ambon, Kedaung Kaliangke Ward, Cengkareng, West Jakarta. Photo by Agung ‘Abe’ Natanael. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

The seven artists and the locations of their graffiti in the Mural Project are:

  • Danuri a.k.a Pak Nur (Jakarta), at T.B. Simatupang Street’s flyover, South Jakarta;
  • Eko Nugroho (Yogyakarta), at RC Veteran Raya Street’s tunnel, South Jakarta;
  • Fintan Magee (Australia), at the electricity substation of PLN, behind STIKOM Interstudi, South Jakarta;
  • Guntur Wibowo (Jakarta) at Kampung Ambon, West Jakarta;
  • Riyan Riyadi a.k.a The Popo (Jakarta) at Pasar Pagi Asemka’s flyover, West Jakarta;
  • Rizky Aditya Nugroho a.k.a Bujangan Urban (Jakarta) on the wall in front of Wisma BNI 46 in Central Jakarta,
  • Ruli Bandhriyo a.k.a LoveHateLove (Yogyakarta) at under the bridge of Dukuh Atas, West Jakarta.
Riyan Riyadi alias the Popo, 2013, mural at Pasar Pagi Asemka Overpass, West Jakarta. Photo: Agung ‘Abe’ Natanael. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Riyan Riyadi alias the Popo, 2013, mural at Pasar Pagi Asemka Overpass, West Jakarta. Photo: Agung ‘Abe’ Natanael. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Rizky Aditya Nugroho alias Bujangan Urban (Urban Bachelor), 2013, mural on the wall in front of BNI 46 Building, Jl. Jenderal Sudirman, Central Jakarta. Photo: Sonang Elyas. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Rizky Aditya Nugroho alias Bujangan Urban (Urban Bachelor), 2013, mural on the wall in front of BNI 46 Building, Jl. Jenderal Sudirman, Central Jakarta. Photo by Sonang Elyas. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Ruli Bandhriyo alias Rolly LoveHateLove, 2013, mural at Dukuh Atas tunnel, Central Jakarta. Photo: Agung ‘Abe’ Natanael & Sonang Elyas. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Ruli Bandhriyo alias Rolly LoveHateLove, 2013, mural at Dukuh Atas tunnel, Central Jakarta. Photo by Agung ‘Abe’ Natanael & Sonang Elyas. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Agan Harahap, 'Teman-Teman Selebrity' (Celebrity Friends), 2013, Agan Harahap and Rihanna. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Agan Harahap, ‘Teman-Teman Selebrity’ (Celebrity Friends), 2013, Agan Harahap and Rihanna. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Other Indonesian artists at the biennale

A number of Indonesian artists also presented works in various other media, including performance based works, such as Agan Harahap’s photographic series of his performative appearances with celebrities Teman-Teman Selebriti (Celebrity Friends) and Julia Sarisetiati’s video installation Tagline for Artistic Society, presenting a discussion involving the audience.

Julia Sarisetiati, the making of 'Tagline for Artistic Society', 2013, video installation. Photo: Nissal Nur Afryansyah. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Julia Sarisetiati, the making of ‘Tagline for Artistic Society’, 2013, video installation. Photo by Nissal Nur Afryansyah. Image courtesy Jakarta Biennale.

Other artists from Indonesia participating in this year’s biennale are:

  • Ace House Collective
  • Akumassa
  • Anton Ismael
  • Artlab
  • Awan Simatupang
  • Davy Linggar
  • Jatiwangi Art Factory and TROTOart
  • LifePatch Collaboration
  • M.R. Adytama Pranada
  • Melati Suryodarmo
  • Mella Jaarsma and Nindityo Adipurnomo
  • Moelyono
  • Mufti Priyanka alias Amenk
  • Narpati Awangga alias Oomleo
  • Saleh Husein
  • Sanggar Anak Akar
  • Serrum and Dinas Artistik Kota
  • Wok The Rock
  • Yusuf Ismail featuring Labtek Indie

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related topics: Indonesian artists, art biennales, events in Jakarta, art and the community, street art, art and the city, democratisation of art, graffiti art

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