As we collectively stay at home during these turbulent times, how are artists coping, and what are they brewing up at home? Artists @ Home is a series of email interviews with artists where we find out what they’ve been up to, as all of us, voluntarily or not, embrace the home as work and studio space.
For this edition of Artists @ Home, we ventured (virtually, of course!) beyond Singapore’s shores to Indonesia to speak to independent curator and art writer Mira Asriningtyas and her partner, visual artist-curator Dito Yuwono, of LIR space, an art-institution-turned-curatorial-collective based near Yogyakarta.
LIR has been both home and work space for the both of you, even before the Covid-19 pandemic – has the current situation made a difference to the way you live and work?
In 2019, we decided to change the format of LIR Space into a movable institution. We bid farewell to our physical art space in the city of Yogyakarta, where we have been since 2011, and moved back to our hometown at the foot of Mount Merapi volcano. We converted our garage into LIR’s office/residency space and it became the public area of our home – where people work and artists in residence stay – and a common room where we host social gatherings, screenings, and small presentations.
When we have people around, we usually move through the house following the sun’s path – having our morning briefing at the kitchen table , then the two of us moving to our smaller living-room-turned-private-workspace to work until the sun goes down, while everyone else would remain in the common room. Three to four days a week, we would normally go into the city for meetings, studio visits, or just to run errands. The house is usually pretty lively but, since the pandemic, it is just the echoes and the two of us.
We have nine pet rabbits, but they live in the backyard and they are relatively quiet. The government has not imposed any lockdown but the community independently chose to close the area where we live to the public in mid-March and it remains closed. Located North of Yogyakarta, our hometown is generally quiet on weekdays but now the silence is so thick we can almost hear it! We’ve started paying attention to the different bird-calls and realise that we have another ‘pet’ living in our ceiling (a Javanese ferret-badger)!
We have not met any friends from the art scene since mid-March and all work meetings are done online. We still soak up the morning sun at our kitchen table over breakfast – but instead of work, we are catching up on whatever weird vivid dream one of us had the night before. Dito is more disciplined and consistent with his routine – making coffee, feeding the rabbits, nurturing and watering his new edible garden, eating fruits for breakfast, and moving to the small workspace until midday. After lunch, he moves to the common room that now functions as his studio. He is enjoying the abundance of online classes, live artist talks, and cultural webinars that pop up every now and then. Mira is a little bit slower to adapt to the ‘new normal’ so she takes the longest time to drink her coffee and even longer to finish her breakfast – sometimes while reading, other times while planning what to do that day – baking her anxiety (resulting in enough cookies to last through the month), initiating new garden/house-cleaning projects, texting friends, and once in a blue moon, actually working.
What has changed a lot for us is mobility. Usually, there is feeling of temporality in the house – as if it is just a transit area, in-between work trips and residencies. That is our excuse for the messy backyard, us forgetting the last time we deep-cleaned our windows (did it last week), and never getting round to fixing the broken kitchen shelf (until yesterday). Just like everyone else, all mobility plans after the global pandemic occurred have been postponed – as if the year stopped in March and now it feels like time has dissolved and the days bleed into one another. So we take it slow. We are following the rhythm of the day, observing the lyrical environment, and embracing this weird moment when the world is being put into collective pause. For us now, replying to two emails, having one long meeting, and reading a few chapters is already a productive day. Writing, is considered ambitious. The rest of the day is meant for learning how to be self-sufficient and mindful. Suddenly, we have all the time in the world to dig down into those forgotten skills we learned in school – how to start an apotek hidup (medicinal plant garden), building things from scratch, gardening, and foraging, among others.
What art (or non-art related things) are you working on right now?
An art-related thing we are working on together as LIR (curator collective) is the 3rd edition of Pollination – a project initiated by The Factory (Vietnam) in 2018 to provide emerging curators and artists in Southeast Asia with the opportunity to co-produce and collaborate, to mutually benefit from this region’s private arts infrastructure – platforms recognising the value of sharing (pollinating) critical ideas and activities.
Aside from that, we just celebrated LIR’s 9th birthday (on May 9th) and our show at ISCP – New York is going to be extended until July 25th, 2020. We’ve also started working on the 3rd edition of 900mdpl’s biennial site-specific project for 2021 (check out www.900mdpl.com/ instagram: @900mdpl for updates)
In each of our personal practices, Mira is working on some essays and publications while Dito is finishing a new series of artworks and also performing his role as the new co-director of MES56 contemporary photography collective in Yogyakarta.
A non-art-related thing we are doing is starting a small edible garden, while also supporting and archiving the neighborhood’s collective effort to anticipate food insecurity. The crisis has got us questioning the system in general and it is reassuring to be part of a close-knit community and re-learn how to be together as neighbors and citizens of the world, even without physical proximity.
What’s one thing (poem, artwork, song, movie etc) that’s been on your mind and why?
Mira: Strange how this essay from few months ago has suddenly been answered and, to quote Emeric Lhuisset, ‘now the world is round again, the far is far again, and time is long again’. After this, I hope we don’t just rush back to how we used to do things but will be more concerned about environmental sustainability in every aspect of our lives. When I’m feeling down, there are two songs playing in my mind – Italian protest folk song Bella Ciao and Do You Hear the People Sing? from Les Miserables – both never fail to lift me up. I’ve also been re-reading The Lonely City by Olivia Laing because now, more than ever, we all seem to be living in an Edward Hopper painting. I’ve also been watching reruns of Li Ziqi’s YouTube channel because, seriously … whose life better exemplifies sustainable and self-sufficient country living, while looking as if it’s straight out of a fairytale?
Dito: The Beach House’s Space Song sticks in my mind because we played it on heavy rotation during the last inter-continental trip we took in February before world mobility stopped. I’ve also been thinking a lot about this essay.
LIR is an art institution turned curator collective consisting of Mira Asriningtyas and Dito Yuwono. Mira was a fellow in the De Appel Curatorial Program 2016/2017 at De Appel Art Center – Amsterdam. Dito is an artist/curator and RAW Academie 6: CURA fellow at RAW Material Company – Dakar. Since 2011, LIR’s program has ranged from exhibition laboratories and research-based art projects to public programs, residencies, and alternative art education platforms | @lirspace