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After May 20th at Jogja Gallery, Indonesia / 20 May - 12 June 2008

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  • Nunuk Ambarwati
    Dedy Sufriadi, The Story of Broken Text, oil on canvas, 140 x 240 cm, 2008 Visual Arts Exhibition AFTER MAY 20th with the conjunction to celebrate 100
    Message 1 of 1 , May 27, 2008
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      Dedy Sufriadi, The Story of Broken Text, oil on canvas, 140 x 240 cm, 2008
      Visual Arts Exhibition 'AFTER MAY 20th'
      with the conjunction to celebrate 100 years of Indonesian National Revival
      at Jogja Gallery, Yogyakarta, Indonesia / 20 May - 12 June 2008
      Curators: Mikke Susanto & Sri Margana
      A. Pancama Limpad, Abdul Fattah, Abdul Rohim, Aditya Chandra H, Agung ‘Tato’ Suryanto, Aan Gunawan, Andi Prayitno, Andi Hartana, Andy Wahono, Ahmad Sobirin, Aries BM, Asmuliawan, Askanadi, Bibit Jabrang, Cipto Purnomo, Dedi P, Deddy PAW, Dedy Maryadi, Dedy Sufriadi, Deni Junaedi, Endang Lestari, Eko Haryono, Erianto, Evi Sulistyowati, Farhan Adityasmara, Giring Prihatyasono, Harmanto, Herianto Maidil, Herman Lekstiawan, Herry, Hidayat, Hono Sugeng Nugroho [Hono Sun], I Made Kenak Dwi Adnyana, I Made Supena, Iqro’ Ahmad Ibrahim Laili Subkhi, Iwan Hasto, Iwan Sri Hartoko, Jaya Adi, Jemi Bilyanto, Jouhan Jauhari & Mareto Dwi H, Karte Wardaya, Khusna Hardiyanto, Koharelang, M.Khairuddin, Mardiyanto, Masrizal, Midori Hirota, Mufi Mubaroh, Prasetia Fauzani, Rita Dharani, Ruslan, Ruswanto, Robert Nasrullah, Tarman, Saptoadi Nugroho, Seno Andrianto, Setyo Priyo Nugroho, Sigit ‘Blank’, Sugihartono, Sugiyo, Sulung Widya Prasastya, Syamyat Moko, Wayan Kun Adnyana, Wilman Hermana, Wisnu ‘Manu’ Aji, Y. Indra Wahyu, Yudi Sulistya

      When Artists Break through the Polemics of National History and Conflicts
      Curatorial Introduction of Visual Arts Exhibition “After May 20th”
      By Mikke Susanto & Sri Margana
      One hundred years ago – to be exact, in May 20th, 1908 – this nation experienced an important momentum; it was the founding of Budi Utomo, the first nationalist movement in Dutch East Indies. And, in 1948 President Sukarno established the day as the milestone of the commemoration of “National Revival (used to be ‘Awakening’) Day. Accordingly, besides the Independence Day (August, 17th) – this nation had one more important national day at that time. This idea, however, was not easily accepted by some parts of the population of this country. Many people protested against the idea of making Budi Utomo as the milestone of this nation’s revival. Others protested about who the significant individuals behind this movement were.  
      Perhaps, today many people still disagree with it because it indeed has become the subject to polemics since the establishment. Assumptions keep emerging. People assume it should have been for the benefit of the ruling regime, and for some certain interests. Many books and researches have been made, putting out the details of the historical event chronologically and psychologically. Then, debates regarding this subject take place, conflicts break and polemics are irresistible.
                  Today, young generations (young artists) whose lives day by day get farther and farther from this historical event have to receive thousands of stories about it amid the expectation of to keep celebrating it. Not all citizens learn and are interested in their national history. Not all artists with their diverse disciplines, for instance, can stay neutral in expressing their opinions. Many of them get so surprised by the existing postulations about this particular history. However, this has inspired them to create works (not to say their confusion inspires their works). 
      Amid such anxiety, we are trying to offer them an exhibition as a means of expressing their thinking as well as celebrating this historical day.
      From the start we have worked with a fully ’open’ system in selecting participants of this exhibition, given that this national day belongs to entire people of this country. ‘Open’ here means that we have invited public to participate in the exhibition. As a result, we received 520 applications of works from various cities in Indonesia like Yogyakarta, Bandung, Jakarta, Semarang, Denpasar, Makassar, Balikpapan, Padang, Manado, etc. Out of these works, finally our juries have selected 67 works of diverse concepts and types; painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, ceramic, installation, puppet, multimedia, and textile.   
      Out of these 520 proposed works, not many specifically explore (or research) and illustratively visualize this particular historical episode. And, out of the selected 67 works, it can be concluded that they put forward more the efforts of visualizing the conflicts around the history and the current problems of this nation. What is interesting is that in situation like today as the polemics pertaining to the national history remain heated, the approaches that artists use in creating their works are affected by the postmodern ideology. Therefore, many works show new visual icons. 
      In other words, in this exhibition the participating artists seem to try to visualize the sense of nationalism with fresher icons and objects rather than with those usually used by the State and people in general. Viewing these selected works, the artists raise three themes with regard to their interpretation of the Indonesian National Revival Day.       
      1. Cultural Exploration for Establishing National Character
      Within this context, the National Revival has a role as an arena that provides a basis for the spirit of cultural thinking because culture is the seed of nationalism and optimism in raising the national revival. Essentially the qualities of the outcomes of the Indonesian culture have diverse dimensions; one of which is to inspire the people with nationalistic spirit. So, it was not wrong when the historical figures, including the initiators and founders of Budi Utomo, put culture on an honorable place within their political visions.   
      Bibit Jabrang in his work entitled ’Umbul Dandanggulo’, for instance, can give an illustration that both old painting tradition and Javanese songs can be used to teach us about the contemporary problems and weaknesses of this nation. His symbolic sarcasm actually is subjected to the reality of the life during the colonial era, yet it is also relevant to present time. Does it mean that we never move from the colonial era? Leaders and bureaucrats (rat) are corrupt and they waste a lot of money, people (cricket) rebel, while religious scholars/leaders (lizard) are occupied with their prayers.  Do not forget the work of Robeth Nasrullah, ’Indonesia Pusaka’ that optimistically tries to raise Indonesian culture to be a means of reviving the dignity of this nation, and reminding us that the Indonesian National Revival is a union of local “weapons”, which has defeated the sharpness and speed of colonialism bullets.
      The work of Endang Lestari, ’Renungan dalam Rotasi’ (Contemplation within Rotation), visually is interesting too. She takes the soul of this nation by displaying decoration pattern used as a pathway to enter into the crisis Indonesian people has to bear nowadays. In our daily routines, there are many things need to be relentlessly contemplated in order that our nation will not be trapped inside the problems our predecessors have left for us.    
      Evi Sulistyowati in her work entitled ’Ideoplastis’ also uses one of icons of traditional Javanese costume, that is blangkon (hat). She has been inspired by the leading figures of Budi Utomo, who were mostly Javanese. She also wants to illustrate her critical attitude toward military (see the camouflage motive of the blangkon). It is in parallel with Abdul Rohim’s work, ’Gandrung Tarian Perlawanan Orang Using’ (Gandrung Dance of Using People’s Resistance), which tries to raise the nationalism spirit through a picture of a dancer of Banyuwangi Gandrung dance.
      And, Farhan Adityasmara in his ’Negative Series of a Subculture’ tries to see other side of subculture occurring today. He uses neon box as the medium of his work. At a glance, with size of 8 x 48 x 253 cm, his neon box does not look different with other neon box works, but by raising theme of national revival issues, it indeed constitutes a tribute to the revival of a ‘fragment’ of a great culture that still exists today.    
      2. Polemics on the History
      As mentioned above, the National Revival Day has resulted in polemics around the historical discourses. The polemics essentially can give this nation valuable lesson for maturing its people. However, we may see that these also can just exhaust the energy of the people so that they become ignorant of their nation. 
      So far there are many books having been written and researches having been done both by scientists and men of letters. The polemics more or less concern about: first, the different opinions between national leading figures pertaining to whether a special day for commemorating national revival is necessary or not; second, the different opinions between government and some groups of people with regard to the ‘icon’ of national revival, in this case Budi Utomo; third, the different opinions concerning the significant individuals in the struggle and pioneering of Budi Utomo activism or of other nationalism-raising movements – Pramudya Ananta Toer in his books considers a man named Tirtoadisuryo more important than Budi Utomo itself; fouth, that there is a judgment that Budi Utomo as an organization had “physical incompleteness”, this polemic is amusingly visualized by Rita Dharani in this exhibition.      
      Works in this exhibition try to accentuate these polemics. The artists’ attitudes and opinions as seen in their works are appealing subjects to exploration too. For Jogja Gallery, every single work can bring different interpretation and aspiration. Certainly it is not enough to describe them with words on this short introduction.      
      The work of Aan Gunawan, entitled ‘Kacang Lupa Kulit’ (literally, peanut forgets its shell), tries to re-pronounce our attitudes and manners towards the historical matter.  Erianto with his work entitled ’For Us’ implicitly puts forward the indecision of his generation in mediating the matters of history and nationalism. And, the work entitled ’The Story of Broken Text’ by Dedy Sufriadi can successfully make conclusion of these polemics. The works of these three artists seemingly remind us of Sukarno’s message about the importance of history. However, if the polemics do not come to an end, it is interesting to see the works entitled ’Who Cares’ by Deddy PAW and ’Capek deh’ (I am tired) by Iqro’ Ahmad. All seem to be in an everlasting trap. Indeed it is very exhausting.
      The works entitled ‘Titik Terang’ (Enlightening Point) by Cipto Purnomo, ‘Aku di Belakangmu’ (I Am Behind You) by Iwan Hasto, ‘Memahami Yang Ada di Masa Lalu’ (Understand What Existed in the Past) by Sulung Widya Prasastya, and ‘Mencari Kedalaman Teks’ (Seeking the Depth of Text) by Mardiyanto are more neutral in responding the subject of such polemics. They seek the more wise sides in mediating these problems.    
      Whereas, three works like ‘Radikalisme di Persimpangan Jalan’ (Radicalism on Intersection) by Rita Dharani, ‘Antara Dr. Sutomo dan Douwes Dekker’ (Between Dr. Sutomo and Douwes Dekker) by Ruswanto, ‘Kami Pemberontak Bukan Pengkhianat’ (We Are Rebels Not Traitors) by Setyo Priyo Nugroho are other analogies about these seemingly unending polemics. In fact, the artists passionately try to raise alternative figures in these polemics. For example, Setyo thinks that it was Diponegoro who at the first time revived nationalism of Nusantara (Indonesian Archipelago) because in certain chronicle is told that Diponegoro War did not involve only Javanese people but also other ethnics from other islands in this archipelago.
      It is also interesting to observe the work of Dedi Maryadi ‘Evolusi Buto’ (Demonic Evolution). Besides the polemics stated above, he also offer a new approach to them. In his visualization, he describes the leading figures of Budi Utomo having tusks; he tries to confirm that the revival of the Indonesian nationalism was an evolution that frightened colonialism at that time. They were like monsters which were ready to suck the blood of colonialists who had enslaved the indigenous people for hundreds of years. Education for the elites of this country during the colonial era had produced new monsters who dared to challenge the colonialists.    
      Koharelang with his work entitled ‘Ceremonial’ wants to show an irony concerning the history of the Indonesian nationalism, which apparently is getting more and more porous, and perhaps, can run out of gas before reaching the destination. Contemporary Indonesia is like a cake in slices, some pieces of it are gone and nobody knows. Meanwhile, wild ants keep gnawing at the flavors of nationalism and unity of this country. Graciously using toy soldiers, Wilman Hermana, in his work ‘Flag of Our Fathers’ wants to show militaristic approaches that was often used as a part of the struggle done by initiators of this nation.
      3. Problems & Conflicts of the Nation
      A number of artists think that this nation has been full of problems and conflicts. Although it is a fact that every nation must have problems and conflicts of their owns, problems and conflicts have made Indonesia distinctively often labeled as a country that does not quite pay attention to its history and reality with which its people are coping, as well as to their needs. Problems occurring in many fields are indications that this nation has not yet learnt from a wide range of its experiences, including the historical episode that is commemorated as the National Revival Day. The selected works reveal much about these kinds of subjects.  
      The work of Khusna Hardiyanto, entitled ‘Teruuuusss’ is a general image of public opinion. The fact that there are many elites who always vie for lands and power is a reality that present young generations often see. This work also tells that the people are the defeated sides because although they de jure have power, they are de facto powerless.    
      The reality of problems the nation faces is depicted differently by a number of artists. Wayan Kun Adnyana with his ‘Tentang Kursi’ (About Chair), Deni Junaedi with ‘APP’ (Anti Pornography and Porn action) and Askanadi mock the Indonesian’s Broad Outlines of the Nation’s Direction that after all is just an illusion. Herianto Maidil with ‘Garudaku Kini’ (My Garuda today), Wisnu ‘Manu’ Aji with ‘Oh Indonesia ...’ and Y. Indra Wahyu with ‘Asasi Per@ Mudah Pecah’ want to describe the poor condition of this nation. Indra Wahyu appealingly emphasizes that the patriotic idea and attitude of an individual should ruin owing to the problems. Like a human, this nation also has many wounds and sometimes can hardly cope with them.
      The work entitled ‘Generasi Kebangkitan’ (Generation of Revival) by Abdul Fattah interprets that contemporary generation is actually generation that is confused to accept the reality and collisions of conflicts and problems this nation is dealing with. Accordingly it is not wrong if Andy Wahono in his work entitled ’Under Re-reconstruction’ illustrates that this nation is still in the stage of learning, in the stage of never-ending deconstruction, as if it could never be an intact and mature “thing”. Similarly I Made Kenak Dwi tries to depict in his work ‘Damai dalam Imajinasi’ (Peace in Imagination) that prosperity and peace are actually a utopia.     
      In ‘Operasi Semar’ (The Surgery of Semar), Jaya Adi parodies one of Rembrandt’s paintings. He presents images of five former presidents of the Republic of Indonesia watching a surgical process of the body of “Semar” – an important character in pewayanagan epic – who here symbolizes the body of the country. To operate surgically a body is not easy, it needs guts to deal with blood, and a little mistake can be fatal for the patient. Dealing with body and blood, Suharto is the expert. Sukarno is whispering very softly, demanding the surgeon to be very careful. Megawati is being choked with emotion. Gus Dur is trying to clear his sight. Yudhoyono cannot see it instead. Perhaps, Habibie is the only student who is very smart and enthusiastic, his eyes wide open, very enthusiastic following the guru.      
      Perhaps, disasters and accidents have indeed been the most intimate parts of this country. So, where and from where will we revive? The answers lay on your will and integrity as a child of this nation.    
      Information and further contact:
      Nunuk Ambarwati [Program Manager]
      Jogja Gallery [JG]
      Jalan Pekapalan No 7, Alun-alun Utara,  Yogyakarta 55000 INDONESIA
      Phone +62 274 419999, 412021
      Phone/Fax +62 274 412023


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