Art Jakarta: World spirit, Independence Day and Asian Games
Exhibition view: Art Jakarta (2–5 August 2018). Courtesy Art Jakarta.
A four-legged beast with an ornate mirror for a face and the hybridized horns of a Bawean deer stands in the centre of Chan + Hori Contemporary's booth at the tenth Art Jakarta (2–5 August 2018), housed in the Grand Ballroom of The Ritz-Carlton. This contemporary mythical beast is Lugas Syllabus's Wild Legend (2018): a strong teak wood testament to masculinity that stands on legs referencing in the forms of a snake, lion, grasshopper, and bird. (A closer look at the back left back leg reveals a feminine forearm raised up giving the finger.) Behind the animal's mirrored face hides a camera, which broadcasts the visages of those who stare into it on a neighbouring screen.
The endangered Bawean deer, unique to Indonesia's Bawean Island, is one of the three mascots of the Jakarta Palembang 2018, or the 2018 Asian Games, along with two other mascots that are also classified as threatened species: a bird of paradise and a Javan rhinoceros. The Jakarta Palembang opening ceremony will take place on 18 August, one day after Indonesia's Independence Day. Mass-produced and homemade banners and flags already cover the city in anticipation of both events.
At the National Gallery, an exhibition of works by 34 artists drawn from the collection of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno, Indonesia: S (3 August–31 August 2018), looks back on the historical world-building project inscribed into Indonesia's independence. One archival video from October 1945 shows Sukarno refusing to meet with representatives of the Dutch colonial government to discuss issues of independence. In the shot hangs Hendrik 'Henk' Hermanus Joel Ngantung's Shooting an Arrow (1944): an oil on board painting of an Indonesian man pulling back an arrow on a bow, capturing the moment before he strikes. Shooting an Arrow is on view in the National Gallery alongside historical portraiture, rural landscape painting, and several bronze sculptures; including a gift to Sukarno by the Soviet army in 1956 presented as a gesture toward global exchange and the espousal of human values: an edition of Yevgeny Viktorovich Vuchetich's Soviet Warrior the Liberator—a liberator standing atop a fractured swastika.
Art Jakarta could also be read as a gesture of international cultural diplomacy. Celebrating its tenth anniversary as the oldest and largest homegrown art fair in Indonesia, this year's mix of 51 galleries and 21 art projects was composed of a majority of Indonesian galleries complemented by representation from Singaporean galleries, including Element Art Space and White Space Art Asia; four European galleries (Mazel Galerie from Belgium, galerie bruno massa from France, Gallery Khankhalaev from Russia, and Galería El Museo / Fernando Pradilla from Colombia/Spain); and spaces from Southeast and East Asia, including Hong Kong's Art Futures Group and Blink Gallery; Malaysia's Artemis Art, V'Art Space and Wei-Ling Gallery; South Korea's The Columns Gallery, Gallery SUN Contemporary and Iaco Gallery; as well as Mookji Art Collaboration from China, Transwing Art Gallery from the Philippines, CLEAR GALLERY TOKYO from Japan, and Bluerider ART from Taiwan.
Galleries largely brought out a mix of Indonesian and international artists for the occasion. At ROH Projects' booth, Anusapati presented As I Can Recall #1-4 (2018): a series of four electroplated specimens of broken off bronze coloured foliage resting on wooden pedestals. An artist with a preoccupation with trees and the shade they offer, Anusapati's fragments act as shadows of a plant that once was in a world currently in the throes of climatic change. Also presented at Roh Projects was Gregory Halili's Vestige IV (2017): a side profile of a skull painted in yellow tint on a polished mother of pearl shell: symbols of decay halted in their preservation as art forms, and another reminder of man's impotence against a force as natural as death.
Tales of eroding ecologies continued at Semarang Gallery's booth, in Nurhidayat's Erotique, Toxique, Exotique (2011): a photorealist acrylic painting of orchids and tropical fruits, balancing a sense of stillness with traces of toxicity. The lush array appears like a close up of a fruit distributor's van, claiming to come from exotic lands yet its colours are too saturated to be real. In Wedhar Riyadi's painting Master Pieces #2 (2018), four congealed blood-red lace leafs are layered on top of each other over a charged grey backdrop, with a murky plinth holding up a fragment of a marble-sculpted head with a thick swirling beard, from which those leaves emerge. Near the bottom of the canvas, a cartoon of a bearded tiger peeks out.
The landscape as a strange place where realities, temporalities and fantasies collide was a common thread in Art Jakarta—denaturalised first through the artist's hand, then through the setting of the fair itself (set in a high-end mall). Natural and mythical landscapes by Tuan Mami, Maryanto, and Cole Sternberg were shown side by side in a curated selection of works titled Untethered Landscapes at Yeo Workshop's booth. Tuan Mami's 'Mountain No. 1-3' (2018) is a series that translates miniature geological formations into roving studies: three metal plant potters bumble around the booth floor like programmed robot vacuums, each featuring a delicate arrangement of soil, moss, and a large rock. Hung on the walls around this activity were Maryanto's large brooding acrylic on canvas depictions of vast valleys and mangroves rendered in photorealistic form.
Artist and writer Shubigi Rao wrote a text to accompany Yeo Workshop's curatorial arrangement: 'More than borrowed time, our species exists on borrowed lands,' the text reads; 'and though we bury deep that knowledge, instead laying our claims with deeds and records, songs, anthems, pledges and paintings, no land is truly ours, and we are of no land.' This sense of shared global experience was anchored to concrete events at the Element Art Space booth. Here, Ipan Lasuang showed his latest series The Breakin' Journey, where acrylic paintings explore spiritualisms that the artist encountered on a visit to Santorini, Greece. Sekejap sirna ... membagikan Kenangan dan Harapan (2018) pits the tragedies of Greece and Indonesia together with depictions of natural catastrophes and the financial crisis of 1998 and 2008 mixed in a single frame.
Art Jakarta's special programmes also made room for interactions between various contexts and communities. A charity auction of carpets designed by artists with a strong street art influence, including Wedhar Riyadi and Darbotz, was staged; as well as Art Unlimited, a show featuring young artists selected from an open-call presented by BEKRAF and curated by Asmujo J. Irianto, Enin Supriyanto, Irawan Karseno, and Totot Indrarto. A statement about Art Unlimited indicated that, while there are around 2000 people in Indonesia classified as artists, and the numbers continue to grow, there are only 50 commercial galleries in the country.
Highlighting the generations developing forms of practice in response to this contextual reality was Young Artist, Quo Vadis?—presented by ROH Projects in the Art Projects sector. Curated by Axel R. Ridzky, the show featured 16 members of Moving Class, a collective of recent graduates from the Bandung Institute of Technology, and considered the role of the young artist in art history and art markets. The artists participating, largely born in 1994, take an introspective and material approach to the critique of capital. Hilmy P. Soepadmo's It's Neither Artwork, Nor Commodification: Either Way I'm Fine (2018), for instance, is an oil painting of clothing seen up close encased in a Plexiglas box with vinyl lettering indicating where the artwork title should go, a colour chart, and materials used to make the work.
As a whole, the tenth edition of Art Jakarta celebrated its role as a meeting point of modern and contemporary traditions and visual cultures, with works on view meeting at the crossroads. One special exhibition, Metamorphosis of Ay Tjoe Christine, was curated by Art Jakarta Creative Director Rifky Effendy, and consisted of three plinths holding up a narrow glass box with a composition of mixed media in between the sheets. Tightly bound bundles of cloth and tangles of wire are presented as a contemporary derivation of the drypoint technique employed in flat works hung behind them, where Christine's signature washes of black and earthly toned colours hint at an underlying spiritual force. Combining methods of abstraction with the contemporary, Christine's works attest to the conditions of transformation at large as a common experience: a reminder of the proposal for another kind of world spirit that haunts Indonesia's history like a friendly ghost.—[O]