Yogyakarta will always be special to us. We first visited in 2016 and were thrilled and excited to meet amazingly talented artists, visit cool indie art spaces, see the magnificent ancient temples of Prambanan and Borobodur, eat all that delicious food and, of course, go to Art Jog! Our Jogja Joget series, among the earliest pieces up on the site, was all about what we saw and did (and ate!) in Yogya – you can revisit some of our articles here and here. Art Jog 2018 ends in a few days’ time, on 4 June, so if you didn’t make it to Art Jog this year, here’s a quick rundown of our favourites from the show!
Mella Jaarsma, Binds & Blinds, 2017
Navels a.k.a belly buttons – we (like other placental mammals) all have them – with the exception of supermodel and Victoria’s Secret angel Karolina Kurkova, that is (yes, it’s true, go ahead and Google it!). For a body part that serves little or no function once we are born, the navel is an object of considerable interest and fascination. Midriff-baring attire that exposes the navel, while long de riguer in Indian culture (think the saree), was considered indecent in the West until relatively recently when it’s become not just acceptable, but even fashionable, to expose the belly button and decorate it with jewellery and navel rings.
Dutch-Indonesian contemporary artist Mella Jaarsma, who often creates body-coverings and costume installations made of diverse and unusual materials such as animal skins, horns and human hair, focuses her attention and ours on the belly button in her latest work, Binds & Blinds. More than 600 individuals responded to the artist’s call for selfies of their belly buttons. Jaarsma then printed them – innies, outies, large and hairy or small and dainty – onto wooden discs which she fashioned into the wearable installations seen here.
And here …
Jaarsma has said that her intent, in creating this work, is to question the increasingly widespread tendency to impose “moral values” on others, leading to greater intolerance. The work is an invitation to celebrate our individuality and our weird and wonderful differences through the act of “navel gazing”!
Strangely enough … or perhaps not so strangely, given our well-known obsession with food here in Southeast Asia, the next three works at Art Jog that we found particularly interesting all deal with the subject of food or use food as material.
Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo, Feast and Feast (Leftover), 2017
Instant noodles, coffee, chocolate, chilli powder, sugar, milk, batter crumble, corn, parsley – imagine pulverising these disparate elements and combining them with organic food colouring and resin to create artworks. What a feast for the eyes and the senses! In Feast and Feast (Leftover), Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo creates abstract works that evoke memories of tastes, sensations and feelings associated with that ” … first bite of a cupcake, drinking a cup of one’s neighbourhood corner café latte, and the preparation of off-the-counter instant noodles as it enters boiling hot water …”
Impatient with the prolonged drying time of oil paint, Sunaryo has, for the past decade, been experimenting with pigmented resin, which has become his signature material. Motivated, in part, by his concerns about the waste products of the processes by which he creates works like Feast, Sunaryo began to repurpose remnant resin as material for sculptures like Feast (Leftover) below.
We were mesmerised by these evocative works and confess to spending an inordinate amount of time gazing at the cookie crumble encased in resin!
Fajar Abadi, Everlost, 2018
No meal in Indonesia is complete without accompanying servings of a variety of krupuk-kripik, the ubiquitous and delicious crunchy crackers and crisps made from shrimp, fish, onion, garlic, peanuts and other tasty things. (Did you know that the etymology of the word krupuk is an onomatopoeia in the Indonesian language and comes from the sound made when one crunches on this snack food?)
One of the three Young Artist Award winners at this year’s Art Jog, Fajar Abadi‘s work, Everlost, is a punching bag made of a variety of krupuk in a miniature boxing ring (the name of the work, Everlost, is a play on the well-known American boxing equipment brand, Everlast). The work draws attention to the losing battle fought by local small businesses with international food brands for market share in the snack food industry.
It reminded us of yet another work involving krupuk, by eminent Indonesian contemporary artist FX Harsono, that we saw in 2016 at Cemeti Art House, in the Yogya iteration of the exhibition Concept, Context and Contestation. The humble krupuk, so ubiquitous in Indonesian daily life, appears to be an important signifier of Indonesian identity and a popular symbol used by artists to highlight contemporary social and political issues in the country.
Bakudapan Food Study Group, Re-Plating Mooi Indie, 2018
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, European painters who came to the Dutch East Indies created highly romanticised and idyllic landscapes depicting the beauty of the land, its culture and exotic peoples. As this style of painting became increasingly popular, many Indonesian painters, too, began to paint in a similar style. This genre of painting, which came to be known as Mooi Indië (Beautiful Indies), was, in the immediate pre-independence era, disparaged as being mere souvenir paintings pandering to the tourist market. They remain, however, an important part of Indonesian visual art history and are often referenced by contemporary artists as they are in this work, Re-Plating Mooi Indie, by the Bakudapan Food Study Group.
The group has appropriated the classic Mooi Indië style, right down to the ubiquitous mountain in the background, and created a foodscape comprising various foods like broccoli, corn, mushrooms, ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and tempeh. The artists’ intent, in this witty work, is to question the romanticism with which we regard food which, they say, makes for a new kind of Mooi Indië. The Bakudapan Food Study Group is a collective that seeks to use food to consider various global, social and political issues and to raise awareness about global food problems like hunger, unequal food distribution and genetically-modified foods through art.
Meliantha Muliawan, Vague Shapes in the Light #1 – #9, 2018
The theme of this year’s Art Jog is Enlightenment, alluding to the intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in eighteenth-century Europe. Many of the artist’s statements in the show strained to make linkages between the artworks and the ideas and philosophies of the Enlightenment era – to varying degrees of success.
This work, by another Young Artist Award winner, Meliantha Muliawan, refers to French philosopher René Descartes’ dictum, Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) and presents a series of canvases that are covered in white sheets. The artist suggests that Descartes’ philosophy is expressed in how viewers are able to imagine, envisage and be convinced that there are works of art behind the white sheets without having to remove them.
Without delving into Descartes’ ideas and pondering too deeply as to whether or how Muliantha’s works relate to them, we really liked this series and thought it was beautifully and effectively executed.
So there you have it – our five favourites among the many artworks presented at Art Jog 2018. There were many other interesting and excellent works and we hope that this teaser inspires you to make a trip out to Yogya, if not this year (there’s still time!) then next year, for Art Jog 2019.
(Featured Image: Detail of this year’s Art Jog Commissioned Work, Mulyana’s Sea Remembers, 2018)