Art: Sawing off Distances, Making Differences

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Published by Sugar & Cream, Thursday 24 August 2017

 Text by Lynda Ibrahim, images courtesy of each event

Jakarta’s Current Art Scenes

Whenever we talk about art, what’s one of the most common comments we can find? That art is hard to understand, let alone to do. Many people find art too abstract to understand, often not relatable to their daily life, and worse, a privilege to the elite. When it comes to creating art, most people believe that you must be born with creative talent in your genes for that.
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Edwin Gallery

Considering the flourishing of classical arts centuries ago in Europe came from the patronage of the Church and the bourgeoisie, it makes sense art was considered an elitist world—especially in Indonesia, where art in poorly taught within academic curriculum and most museums are inadequate. Yet the world has long changed, and now artists and art organizers have been diligently building bridges for public at large.
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Kitapoleng, an art performance at Bazaar Art Jakarta

Let’s take the recent 9th Bazaar Art Jakarta and 2nd Art Stage Jakarta as fine examples. Both art fairs took place at hotel ballrooms, each with a direct access from a downtown mall, cutting off possible psychological barrier of entering museum or serious gallery, yet doing so without sacrificing the quality of art presented. Both art fairs also offered many affordable art merchandises or wearable arts from renowned artists, enabling laymen to procure something from their favorite artists that would take less involvement or investment.
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Katre at work, a special graffiti programme from OFF THE WALL

Extra applause is reserved for Art Stage Jakarta that managed to bring private collections of several young Indonesian collectors for public viewing inside the mall adjacent to the main venue. It was heartwarming to watch young professionals returning from work and housewives taking their kids to lunch swung by the makeshift gallery to see the works of renowned contemporary artists owned by our so-called elites that they otherwise wouldn’t have been privy of. That was literally sawing off distance.
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Eddy Susanto – Okultisme, Art Stage Jakarta 2017

A similar move is initiated by the management of Plaza Indonesia, in bringing 45 artists from Jakarta, Bali and Yogyakarta to show public what they see of what Indonesia is becoming in its 72nd anniversary. Fine arts full of social and political critiques in a downtown luxury mall may not sound that much accessible to public, but if you observe Indonesian public’s proclivity to visit museums—except for hugely popular presidential palaces’ collection returning to National Gallery this month– this is quite a feat.
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Faisal Habibi – This Thing #17

What about the distance on the creation side? How many times have you heard the apologetic plea of “But I have no artistic bone in me!”? Perhaps more often than people thinking they don’t understand art is people believing they can’t create art. One of Jakarta’s creative forces, Chitra Subyakto, who started the modern batik label Sejauh Mata Memandang in recent years, decided to share her ideas and skills with the residents of housing projects in Marunda and Rawa Bebek, made possible by Dekranasda (provincial board of handicrafts).
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Special Interactive Art Project – Double Deer, Art Stage Jakarta 2017

Their inaugural collaboration was a batik Betawi inspired collection, and now to commemorate the 72nd Independence Day they decided to create a series of batiks inspired by the city of Jakarta, notably its landmark Semanggi intersection bridge, and exhibited in Senayan City not too far from Semanggi. Beyond cutting off distance, by teaching a skill to earn a living the initiative has indeed made a real difference.
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Djarot Saiful Hidayat

Shaped like a clover, the Indonesian-designed intersection bridge connects directly the Central, South and West Jakarta, and indirectly connects the East and North along the way. It is a sweet gesture made by Jakarta born-and-bred designer with the less than fortunate Jakartans, yet the grander gesture is the fact that by openly sharing her knowledge and skills Chitra proved that anyone could create (textile) art that batik basically was.
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Due praises aside, I lament Chitra’s decision not to entertain possible future collaborations with Dekranasda once the baton is passed to the spouse of the next Governor as the role dictates. Chitra’s involvement here was publicly understood, and privately acknowledged, to be chiefly due to her keen support for the previous governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and his substitute Djarot Saiful Hidayat.
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Mia Egron, Ivan Sagita, Purnomo, Suwarno Wisetrotomo, Zamri Mamat

That Sejauh Mata Memandang would continue their production directly with the housing project residents in the future, as Chitra stated, is great—but I think it’d be for the greater good if someone as creative as Chitra wouldn’t close the possibility of collaborating with the next Dekranasda chairwoman just because their politics didn’t match, however utopic that sounds.

What about you? Will all of these latest endeavors, have you gotten closer to art, and has art made a difference for you?
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Icad 2017