Tunggul Wirajuda (The Jakarta Post)
Wed, November 23, 2022
Indonesian contemporary artists scrutinize the country’s present and future through their work in the Fragmenting Today, Reshaping Tomorrow exhibition.
The monkeys converge in a concentric circle, reminiscent of the stupas that make up Borobudur temple. Titled Monkeykineko, the art piece by the Wanara Studio art graphic design studio shows that the primates and their gestures—whether beckoning or waving, depending on one’s perception—take a page out of the Maneki-neko, the Japanese cat figurine symbolizing luck.
While the installation art’s name owes something to felines, the resemblance of their slate gray colors to the volcanic stone used to make Borobudur temple leaves little doubt about their inspiration.
“Resembling stone stupas, 40 small figures are arranged around a QR code. Through this QR code, visitors may discover a gigantic Maneki-neko in the form of augmented reality [AR],” said Wanara of Monkeykineko.
However, the Maneki-neko’s frivolous, lighthearted touch belies its take on COVID-19 and the pandemic’s toll on our physical, emotional and mental well-being.
“One of the impacts of social distancing and staying at home since the [COVID-19] pandemic is the limited interaction among human beings,” said Wanara Studio. “This evokes a different type of interaction, which is the interaction between human beings and non-humans, such as with plants or pets at home.”
Looking inward in isolation: Sarita Ibnoe’s piece titled “Unaccustomed” from her “Conscious Being” triptych is one of three pieces intertwining social distancing with getting in touch with the self. (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda) (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda)
An artistic rethink
Monkeykineko is one of the dozens of works highlighted in the 12th edition of the Indonesian Contemporary Art and Design Exhibition at the Grand Kemang Hotel in South Jakarta’s Kemang district.
Themed Fragmenting Yesterday, Reshaping Tomorrow, the event features the work of over 50 Indonesian artists. They include fixtures like the mechanized installations of Heri Dono, Titarubi’s glittering insights into Indonesian history, collaborations between the French Cultural Institute (IFI) and Erasmus Huis with Indonesian artists, and up-and-coming movers in Indonesian arts.
Fragmenting Yesterday, Reshaping Tomorrow “aims to understand how our society evolves while tracing the blurred lines between what belongs to our past and future,” noted curators Amanda Ariawan and Prananda L. Malasan. While the art might be inspired by themes ranging from Indonesian history to social media, COVID-19 still cast its shadow over the exhibition.
“The past three years [of the COVID-19 pandemic] have allowed deeper reflections on various events and how our world will take shape going forward.”
Contemporary artist Sarita Ibnoe captured this sensibility with her weaving triptych Conscious Being, Unaccustomed and Daily Weaving: Pandemic. The Middlesex University alumnus in the illustration uses her weaving abilities to portray lockdowns and social distancing akin to a caterpillar cocooning into a butterfly, not least in her work Daily Weaving: Pandemic.
“[In] Daily Weaving: Pandemic, Sarita creates a daily weaving routine during the pandemic, which produces a meditative effect due to the repetitive nature of the activity,” noted the curators.
They pointed out that the weave’s measured length is a means to cope with COVID-19 and measures relating to the pandemic. Add to that social distancing, which they describe as “a moment to look inward to get to know ourselves better”.
The notion of repetition is also explored in Conscious Being, where Sarita “highlights the importance of being conscious of our repetitive gestures. Breathing, for example, is the closest repetitive act that human beings perform,” noted Amanda and Prananda.
“Stillness is also considered one of these repetitive gestures […] All these have contributed as a bridge to reach [Sarita’s] meditative state.”
Juxtaposing the old and new: Wanara Studio’s “Monkeykineko” combines a take on Japanese Mankei-neko lucky charm cat figures with the concentric patterns of Borobudur temple. (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda) (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda)
COVID-19 and fickle public trends
Painter Dwi Sutarjantono uses his media background to observe fickle social trends with Citayam Fashion Week? Slebeew!, a painting that takes on the eponymous impromptu fashion show held by young people from Citayam, West Java, and other areas that make up the outskirts of Jakarta.
“Citayam Fashion Weak? Slebeew! […] discusses the rise and fall of fashion and celebrity phenomena in the digital era. Dwi concludes that today’s fashion world is fragile; trends are always in constant flux, and the figures that represent them will also continue to change,” said the curators.
This is shown in the pose of the girl in the foreground. Sporting a tank top and a cigarette dangling carelessly from the corner of her mouth, she strikes a nonchalant pose as she prepares to take her peers by storm by strutting down the zebra crossing that made up an impromptu catwalk. But the gaze behind her shoulder might belie her concerns about the future, even as she keeps an eye for any admirers who might see her strike a pose.
Dwi’s work Aku Kena Efek Pandemi (I am Affected by the Pandemic) drives home the effects of COVID-19 on the Indonesian public, particularly women and children, by portraying early 20th century Indonesian feminist pioneer RA Kartini in a contemporary setting.
“Aku Kena Efek Pandemi […] presents RA Kartini in the modern world; the mask that she is seen wearing identifies life during the current pandemic, which he explores through the online world and Tiktok trend, and also a woman’s silence,” said the curators of the Pati, Central Java native’s work.
Whether the artist’s notions of the future will come about as they predict remains to be seen. What is certain is that their mash-up of eclectic styles is a worthy spectacle for the senses and food for thought.
Fragmenting Today, Reshaping Tomorrow exhibition
Until Nov. 27
Grand Kemang Hotel 1st and 2nd floors
Jl. Kemang Raya no. 2 H, Jakarta 12730
Open daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.