The 9th edition of the Adelaide-based festival spotlights contemporary Indonesia.

With a new director at the helm, the 2015 OzAsia Festival is bringing some of Asia’s most experimental and genre-bending performance and visual artists to Adelaide. For the first time, this year’s festival is also focusing on the emerging practices of Indonesia.  

OzAsia Festival Artistic Director Joseph Mitchell. Image courtesy OzAsia.

OzAsia Festival Artistic Director Joseph Mitchell. Image courtesy OzAsia.

The annual OzAsia Festival has released its 2015 programme, revealing a wide range of events spanning theatre and dance, music, film and visual art. Running from 24 September to 4 October 2015, the ninth edition of the Festival is under the artistic direction of Joseph Mitchell.

Quoted in the press release, Mitchell said:

2015 OzAsia Festival gives Australian audiences an insight into the vibrant contemporary arts scene from across Asia. There is a generation of young, bold, risk-taking artists who are creating genre-blurring performances that celebrate the immediacy and fast-paced culture of Asia in the 21st Century.

Teater Garasi, 'The Streets'. Image courtesy OzAsia.

Teater Garasi, ‘The Streets’. Image courtesy OzAsia.

Spotlight: Indonesia

Since its inception in 2007, OzAsia has brought into focus the diversity of the performing and visual arts of Asia, from places like Cambodia, Tibet, China, Bengal and Vietnam. While the first three editions (2007-2009) did not have a specific regional focus, following editions have spotlighted the Chinese province of Shandong (2014), Malaysia (2013), India (2012), Japan (2011) and Korea (2010).

The 2015 iteration highlights the art and culture of Indonesia, Australia’s closest neighbour. The programme includes 20 events with more than 90 artists from Indonesia performing in Australia, and will be the largest showcase of arts and culture from Indonesia ever presented in Australia, with artists and performances from Jakarta, Bandung, Cirebon, Yogyakarta, Solo and North Maluku.

Talking to Art Radar, Mitchell explains why it is important to highlight Indonesia at this point in time:

Focusing on Indonesia will help facilitate an increased presence of contemporary Indonesian performing arts in Australia, and lead us to a more comprehensive understanding of Indonesian contemporary culture. […] I have seen some excellent person to person exchanges around arts, education, business and government between Australia and Indonesia and these are vitally important relationships that breed positive influences.

Melati Suryodarmo. Image courtesy OzAsia.

Melati Suryodarmo. Image courtesy the artist and OzAsia.

A performance art premiere

Internationally acclaimed artist Melati Suryodarmo will present the world premiere of Twenty Four Thousand Nine Hundred and One Miles, a live durational performance art event across two days in Adelaide at Artspace Gallery (25 – 26 September), with a post-performance conversation with the artist at Art Gallery of South Australia (27 September). A collection of her iconic live performance works and video artworks will be shown at both Artspace (9 September – 4 October) and at Contemporary Art Centre of SA (CACSA) (9 – 30 September).

Suryodarmo has been described by The New York Times as “Indonesia’s maverick performance artist” and by Mitchell as “one of the most significant performance artists in the world”, who has so far been underrepresented in Australia. Coming from a family steeped in dance tradition from Java, she studied contemporary performance art in Europe under Marina Abramović. Her practice weaves together the contemporary and the traditional, exploring some of the oldest cultures.

Melati Suryodarmo, 2015. Image courtesy the artist.

Melati Suryodarmo, 2015. Image courtesy the artist.

Mitchell tells Art Radar why he thinks that Suryodarmo’s performance work is so relevant today:

Over the past 15 years she has developed a major body of performance art work that draws on both her western influences and her Javanese roots. And this is so interesting to me because performance art is often aligned with the 20th century contemporary art movement. However, the very roots of Melati’s performance art and the principles it explores as an art form are drawn from some of the oldest cultures from around the world, including many aspects of Javanese culture. Melati takes these dualities of East/West and tradition/contemporary and makes work on her own terms, fuelled by so many perspectives that are particular to her own experience.

MES 56, 'Blank Julius and Cici', in "Alhamdulillah, We Made It".  Image courtesy the artists and OzAsia.

MES 56, ‘Blank Julius and Cici’, in “Alhamdulillah, We Made It”. Image courtesy the artists and OzAsia.

Journeying through the visual arts

MES 56, a contemporary art collective at the forefront of Indonesia’s contemporary photography movement, is also showing in Australia as a group for the first time. “Alhamdulillah, We Made It”, at Artspace (9 September – 4 October), is an exhibition specially commissioned for OzAsia Festival that draws on the visual rhetoric of post-WWII immigration posters.

Eko Nugroho, 'Spyder face', 2014, Indian ink, ecoline on pape, 200 x 150 cm. Image courtesy the artist and OzAsia.

Eko Nugroho, ‘Spyder Face’, 2014, Indian ink, ecoline on pape, 200 x 150 cm. Image courtesy the artist and OzAsia.

Eko Nugroho will create a new work at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA). The bold and colourful large-scale, outdoor installation entitled Mooi Anomaly will hang across AGSA’s colonial façade entrance on North Terrace, while a display of his work from the permanent collection will be in Gallery 21.

Jumaadi, "Landscape of Longing" at The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre’s Kerry Packer Civic Gallery. Image courtesy the artist and OzAsia.

Jumaadi, “Landscape of Longing” at The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre’s Kerry Packer Civic Gallery. Image courtesy the artist and OzAsia.

Australian-Indonesian artist Jumaadi’s multimedia internal and external landscapes exploring themes of collective memory and universality will be on show at The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre’s Kerry Packer Civic Gallery (9 – 30 September) in “Landscape of Longing”. Meanwhile, at Nexus Arts Gallery, “Beyond Identity” (10 September – 2 October) will present the work of Indonesian FX Harsono, engaging with themes of displacement, identity and his twin Chinese and Indonesian heritage. Included are works depicting the erasure of Chinese deaths in mass graves throughout Java, and the artist’s own struggles with his family heritage.

Tok Basuki, 'Quiet Dripped from the Shadows', in "Inter Section" at Prospect Gallery. Image courtesy the artist and OzAsia.

Tok Basuki, ‘Quiet Dripped from the Shadows’, in “Inter Section” at Prospect Gallery. Image courtesy the artist and OzAsia.

Indonesian born, Australian artist Tok Basuki’s “Inter Section” at Prospect Gallery, Nailsworth (30 August – 30 September) looks at the Australian landscape with a fresh gaze and presents a contemporary interpretation of the Javanese belief that the power of the natural world is there to guide us if we actively engage with it. Chinese-Australian Hong Tong will be joining the ranks of contemporary Indonesian artists at OzAsia with her exhibition “People’s Presence” in the Festival Theatre Foyer (2 September – 4 October). Her paintings are the result of her travels through the Beijing subways.

'Panji', in "100 Masks of Cirebon" at The Maj Gallery. Image courtesy the gallery and OzAsia.

‘Panji’, in “100 Masks of Cirebon” at The Maj Gallery. Image courtesy the gallery and OzAsia.

The wide array of contemporary visual art exhibitions is somewhat balanced with a return to tradition. The Maj Gallery will unveil “100 Masks of Cirebon” (9 September – 3 October), featuring a collection of elaborate masks used in traditional Topeng dance performances – unique to the historic Indonesian city of Cirebon in West Java. Mitchell tells Art Radar:

While the majority of work in the festival has a contemporary edge, it’s important to recognise the ongoing influence and power of tradition. […] I was very taken by the idea of exhibiting art works which reflect over 600 years of history and still hold a fundamental place in the daily lives of people from Indonesia.

Ryoji Ikeda, 'Superposition'. © Ryoji Ikeda. Photo: Kazuo Fukunaga. Image courtesy Kyoto Experiment.

Ryoji Ikeda, ‘Superposition’. © Ryoji Ikeda. Photo: Kazuo Fukunaga. Image courtesy Kyoto Experiment.

Japan’s new media, digital pioneers

Japanese electronic composer and visual artist Ryoji Ikeda will present Superposition, a sound and music event at Dunstan Playhouse (29 – 30 September) inspired by mathematical notions of quantum mechanics. A combination of synchronised video screens, real-time content feeds, digital sound sculptures and human performers will “explore the way we understand the reality of nature on an atomic scale”. As Mitchell explains:

Ryoji Ikeda has carved out such a unique position as an artist who is coming from a background in experimental sonic sound and is now engaging with the full spectrum of the performing arts to explore not just the outer edges of digital sound, but the infinite possibilities of quantum mechanics. Ryoji’s work in sound comes from an interest in the rawest forms of pure tone and how this can be manipulated into composition. Therefore one can see how he has found a natural allegiance with quantum mechanics, which is rawest state of the universe that we know.

'Spectra', with Tatsuo Miyajima's digital artwork. Image courtesy OzAsia.

‘Spectra’, with Tatsuo Miyajima’s digital artwork. Image courtesy the artists and OzAsia.

Japanese digital art pioneer Tatsuo Miyajima’s electronic creations will be part of the set design for a world premiere of Spectra at Space Theatre (29 September – 1 October), a dance work blending contemporary dance, Japanese Butoh, live music and digital artwork, in a collaboration between Australian and Japanese artists. Mitchell explains:

Tatsuo’s rotating digital numbers will hang through the set and at the same time become a point of contrast to the long thick lengths of rope and bodies across space. Complimenting Tatsuo’s design along with the dancers is a sound design that involves live guitar performance that will be digitally manipulated and distorted. So, the entire production will place Tatsuo’s work into a live performance perspective, creating fascinating tensions between the organic and digital.

FX Harsono, "Beyond Identity" at Nexus Gallery. Image courtesy the artist and OzAsia.

FX Harsono, “Beyond Identity” at Nexus Gallery. Image courtesy the artist and OzAsia.

Asian-Australian arts and culture exchange

This year’s OzAsia Festival is bringing in a wave of highly experimental, genre-smashing and thought-provoking works. As Mitchell points out: “There is no other major annual arts festival in Australia that exclusively focuses on contemporary Asia.” There are existing festivals such as Parammasala in Paramatta, New South Wales, which highlights South Asia through food, culture and art, and the Darwin Festival which features some collaborations with Asian artists and cultural practitioners, however the focus there is on Australian art and culture. Mitchell is keen to ‘fill in the blanks’ and foster a more thorough and active engagement with the contemporary arts and culture of the Asian region in Australia.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia


Related Topics: Indonesian artists, Japanese artists, performance art, gallery shows, museum shows, art festivals, events in Australia

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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