The young emerging artists selected for the Bandung Contemporary Art Awards (BaCAA) are all young, creative, intellectual, educated, critical, sensitive, and imbued with the spirit of the time.
TEXT: Carla Bianpoen
IMAGES: Courtesy of Bandung Contemporary Art Awards (BaCAA) & the artists
Their conceptual artworks were visible at the fifth BaCAA edition October/November 2017 that Dr Andonowati initiated in 2011 and has organised ever since. The jury selected 4 artists out of 15 nominations for 3 art awards. Cynthia Delaney Suwito, Deni Ramdani, Etza Meisyara were the award winners, and there was also a special mention for Ricky Janitra.
The works by this new generation of exciting, upcoming contemporary artists in Indonesia are conceptual and based on actual issues that relate to changing patterns in today’s life, and are infused with a deep sense of human interest and compassion.
Cynthia Delaney Suwito (b. 1993) studied at Lasalle Singapore. One of her teachers said she was an inquisitive student that was always eager to know more. This is evident in her winning work, Holding Breath (2016-2017), which is the result of a year-long search for the relationship between humans and the environment.
She makes use of the theory that the suspension of oxygen intake equates with the donation of oxygen to someone else. Therefore, by holding your breath, you are withholding the oxygen you are supposed to use.
This is a participatory artwork that started with data collection. After asking volunteers to hold their breath in front of a video camera for as long as they could, she measured the time taken, and then divided it by 7.4 billion, the estimated number of people on Earth. The result is the amount you have donated to every single person on Earth.
The installation includes a video of the people holding their breath, her calculation formula and a wall of oxygen donation certificates, which show how many nanoseconds they held their breath for.
Cynthia says it has taken a lot of time and experimentation to create the work. “It took me a year to achieve this work,” she said, adding that there were many ‘misses’ before it was finished. She was being too humble, however, as is evident from an earlier work of hers where she literally performed knitting with noodles.
Obsessed with the notion of time and mobility, she wanted to contrast the idea of time by knitting very slowly something very quick, the instant noodles.
This was a subtle critique of today’s fast-paced living and the ‘culture’ of fast food. She wants people to slow down and take a break from all the haste of this instant world.
Also touching on the issues of today is Deni Ramdani (1985), whose interest in the changing topography of his village and its environs has led him to carry out serious research into the perils of urbanisation. Remembering his home village as an idyllic place with shadowy trees, clear water streams and fish ponds, tiny woods and hills, he was appalled when foreign developers spoilt the land and changed the landscape with their construction work.
His installation 0° (Zero Degree 2017) is a metaphor for the negative impact of the development. It features a plastic bag suspended over a brown mound of soil. The big is filled with water and small fish, which represent both himself and the villagers – the marginalised who hover over the soil.
Water drips from the punctured bag, changing the shape of the soil mound. Over the course of the exhibition, the water drips out of the bag and onto the mound, lowering the water level. The bag would eventually dry out if no intervention occurred, leaving the fish to die. It is a simple but powerful portrait of what can occur when development constructions are allowed to happen without control.
Deni presented an installation of a suspended plastic bag filled with fish and water, which was suspended over a piece of soil shaped like his village in its topography.
The fishes represented him and the people living in the village being oblivious of the critical condition of the land. From his research, Deni discovered that current land conversions are related to procurements by developers that have been occurring since 1994.
After Zona Merah, his site-specific performance in 2011, Deni has continued to explore the issue of environmental damage and the conflicts surrounding it, as he slowly starts to understand the configuration of the northern Bandung landscape today.
Deni reveals he has drawn numerous topographical maps that follow the stages of the changing topography. He has also staged various protests, and once covered a constructors’ excavator with red adhesive tape. But he has come to understand that these were all futile efforts and the only thing that gives him peace of mind is making art like this installation.
Deni continues to stage performances that are mostly related to activism because he has found Art to be a positive outlet that relieves his frustration.
Ricky Janitra’s (1985) work considers the danger that advanced technology poses us and the speed with which excessive information can overwhelm people. He warns of such viral ‘waste’ as hoaxes, hate news and fake news. His seven channel video installation, World Wide Web Waste (2017), is meant as a warning about the
excessive information that has been made possible by advanced technology. Each of the seven channels carry imaginative, poisonous images and surreal situations. Ricky warns us that that we are being surrounded by such waste and it will never go away. He considers hoaxes, hate news, untrue messages and the like to be even more dangerous than food garbage or any industry on the ground. When it’s mixed with political ‘waste’, informatics technology can be a danger, he states.
‘We all know what happened in the recent Jakarta governor’s elections,’ he reminds us, hinting at the unprecedented impact of the dangerous mix of virtual waste with politics. Janitra is a graduate from the Graphic Art department of the Jakarta Arts Institute (Institute Kesenian Jakarta).
Born into an artist’s family, Etza Meisyara (1991) was already into music when she entered the Fine Arts department of the Bandung Institute of Technology as a student. A multidisciplinary artist and composer who plays the piano, violin, and bass, her art installations reveal a deeply personal contemplation on human interaction in which sound always plays a connecting role. Her winning work, How Does It Feel? (To be a refugee), is based on intense personal interaction with ‘the other’, in this case the refugees she met in Germany. ‘For me, Art is a form of dialogue,’ she states.
Her sound installation is a large musical composition on stainless steel with dining cutlery used to make out the musical notes of the score. The cutlery refers to home – an essential place that the refugees sorely miss. An accompanying book narrates her travels in Germany, as well as her own experiences and the personal emotions she felt.
While meeting refugees from Syria, Africa and Pakistan at bus stops and train stations during an art residency in Germany, she sensed the tragedies they had all faced. This evoked a deep compassion in her and a desire to talk to them. ‘I tried to understand what it feel like as a human being who needs a safe place and security, to have no home (country),’ she explains, adding that she also wanted to know about what impact the immigrant question had on their lives.
So she followed up her encounters with meetings in a café and even followed them to their camp. While talking to them, she felt their work resonated with hers as she was a single Indonesian student in residency in Germany, far from her home.
Her work is a personal contemplation on the situation of the refugees, their feelings and the refugee issue in Germany. It is a chronicle of their experiences, which she documented with musical notations that highlighted the high pitch of their emotional revelations. Etza reveals that the making of the artwork made her understand herself better and inspired her role as an artist in society, i.e. what she calls purifying the evils of conflicts and imbalances through art and culture rendered transcendental.
Meeting with others is basic to her work, as is the inclusion of sound. For instance, an earlier installation work of hers, entitled IQRA-baca (2016), resulted from her intense contact with blind people. Deeply touched by their condition, she stayed in their dorm and became friends with them. Etza taught them how to make art with clay, and while working together, they spoke about their memories, dreams and desires. She turned their dialogue into Braille and made musical notations. Braille points were then transferred to form portraits made out of charcoal.
Etza remembers engaging with music from a very young age, and so it could be said that music is inherent in her being. She formed a rockabilly band while at junior high school, becoming both the drummer and violinist. She went on to form more bands at high school, as a singer, guitarist and bassist. Currently, she is in the last stage of her Master’s degree in Fine Art from the Bandung Institute of Technology.
Carla Bianpoen has been a freelance journalist for culture and contemporary art since 1989. Her reviews have appeared in such publications as The Jakarta Post, The Indonesian Observer, Asian Art News, C-Arts Magazine, Visual Arts Magazine, Harpers Bazaar Art Magazine, Tempo, Jakarta Globe, Esquire Indonesia, and Art Republik. She co-authored Indonesian Women Artists: The Curtain Opens, and has also written ‘Revealing Sakti’ to introduce Sri Astari Rasjid oeuvre. She was the Artistic Director and Co-curator for the Indonesia National Pavilion, Venice 2013 and 2015. She has been a juror for the Bandung Contemporary Art Awards since 2009. She is a recipient of the Visual Art Magazine’s Award (2011), and the Government of Indonesia’s Contemporary Art Award (2014).