A stretch of sand filled the entire room. The sound of the wrenching music continued to echo in the room. Shards of clear glass with green luster strewn over the sand dunes, a sun-irradiated ocean tub visible from the beach. In another corner, glowing crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Four long lights lit brightly appeared to stick on the body of the skull-headed dog statue. Next to it, a set of crystal chandeliers overwrite a crumbling wooden piano.
The installation was titled Love Is a Many Splendored Thing by artist Jompet Kuswidananto. This installation was one of the works exhibited by ARTJOG on July 8-August 31, 2021, at the Jogja National Museum. ARTJOG this year was finally held offline and online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid the Enactment of Restrictions on Community Activities (PPKM), ARTJOG 2021 continued with all restrictions and limitations. That afternoon (05-08), Balairung had the opportunity to visit ARTJOG in a series of media visits held by the committee. The atmosphere in the building was relatively calm. Only two or three of the committees passed by. That day, only a few people were scheduled to arrive.
This time, ARTJOG raised the Time, with the title Time (to) Wonder. 41 artists were participating in this event. One of them was Jompet, known as an artist who works with various mediums. Starting from installation work, sound, video to theater. Many of his works speak about Indonesia’s history, political issues, colonialism, and the mobilization of the period in post-reform Indonesia.
In his installation, Jompet tried to present the romanticism of history. Through the rubble of glass, he offers a history of images of battle, conquest, destruction, and victory. He wants to present romanticism in the history of Indonesia. This installation hints, perhaps history is indeed composed of the debris of chaos. These wounds continue to be made shiny, glittering, and dazzling. Agung Hujatnikajennong, the curator of ARTJOG, said: “Jompet’s installation is an installation that poetically sees history as a narrative of the fighting and violence of the past.”
In the working, Jompet brings together his experience with stories of struggle and victory. The central installation is in a beach landscape with a stretch of broken glass and sand that he worked on for five months. The fractured glass he got from a glass factory in Jakarta. As for naming the installation, Jompet borrowed the title track of Andy Williams, an American singer. “Love Is a Many SplendoredThing” is a song that is considered to pay homage to love as something glorious and magnificent.
Violence in the past was also present in Sirin Farid Stevy’s Dongo Dinongo Reactor. 65 bamboo stairs bearing the sad stories of survivors of the 1965 tragedy circle part of the room. A black-and-white television, kettle, and glass were placed in the middle of the room. Behind it, there was a stack of books, a typewriter, and two flower baskets sowing. Farid got the bamboos from grants from family, relatives, survivors of the 1965 tragedy, and people who cared about the 1965 reconciliation. “So, it’s a participatory installation work,” Farid said.
Farid complemented it with paintings, drawings, and notes that accompanied the process from Time to Time. “In the search process, I was faced with various events that opened the horizon of Javanese practice and triggered various awareness in recognizing Java,” Farid said. The smell of flowers also spread and ushered in the atmosphere of pilgrimage.
Dongo Dinongo Reactor is a long and ongoing process of tracing the location of the tomb of his grandfather, named Sirin. In the working, Farid Stevy collaborated with his father, Asto Puaso. They traced the location of Sirin’s tomb, up to Grubug Cave in Semanu Subdistrict, Gunungkidul, Yogyakarta Special Region. Farid’s journey with family while traveling to Grubug Cave, recorded in the video, played behind the neatly arranged stairs.
Sirin himself was a Secretary of Pelembutan Village, Playen, Gunungkidul, at that time. Farid and his family sought to restore Sirin’s history, which historically corresponded to the region. “This effort is a small reconciliation, participation, openness of dialogue, prayer, and support from the family,” Farid said. Since 2006, Farid’s family has been searching for the grave of Sirin, who was missing during the 65 massacres. The search ended in 2020 in Luweng Grubug, where people were executed by communist organizations from 1965 to 1966. They believe it is Sirin’s last location.
Nuances of the tragedy of 1965 were also present in the work of Agung Kurniawan. The fate of the survivors of the 65 massacre he represented through chandeliers or chandeliers surrounded by the clothes of former survivors. The clothes are in kebaya, batik, skirt, and kutang that appear to be floating. This chandelier was placed in a room with blood-red walls.
This masterpiece is titled Will You Dance With Me Just This Once? According to him, this chandelier represents people who are forgotten, abandoned, and become scapegoats in conditions that continue to repeat themselves. Generally, chandeliers have always been synonymous with luxury, success, and sustainability. It was usually hung in the living room of the house of the king, duke, or rich man. However, these dim lights hung in the corner of the darkroom. According to Agung, as in the genocide of ’65, these dim lights were hoping. “Expect to be recognized as a victim of genocide in ’65 or be a scapegoat forever,” Agung said.
Meanwhile, The Reckoning seeks to illustrate the dark history experienced by women. Nadiah Bamadhaj collaborated with the music group Senyawa on this piece. Calon Arang from the Kingdom of Airlangga in the 12th century served as inspiration. Aspiring Charcoal is both a widow and a feared witch. The candidate of Charcoal is also considered to bring a plague to the kingdom.
Nadiah considered the story of Calon Arang to be a form of sexism in the past. According to him, an elderly widow will be accused of being a witch. It is seen as a sign of the chaos of social order. “Consistently, Calon Arang is portrayed negatively, for example, because of his age or menopausal sexuality conditions,” Nadiah said. It also seeks to defy patriarchal sexist double standards. The Reckoning, Nadiah describes with the form of an old woman-faced female organ. The old grandmother’s likeness was full of warts and wrinkles. The work is in a black setting with lights that shine into the “organ of womanhood.”
Eko Nugroho, an international-level artist from Yogyakarta, also exhibited his work about Time. Yellow dominates Eko’s Destroyed in Peace. This installation illustrates the phenomenon of the COVID-19 outbreak that is being hit. This work reflects a world that has experienced a breakdown in peace.
Eko’s installation consists of embroidery works, paintings, and several sculptures. Embroidered results reflect a form of a massive invasion of history or man himself. The four panels symbolized the situation and conditions of some figures in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Then, the sculpture work in the form of a skull represents the suffering experienced by humans due to pandemics. “The skull is also a marker that this is the era we face a human battle and destruction,” explained Eko.
The works exhibited by ARTJOG in this edition were the result of curation through invitation and open call selection. Most of the selected artists, displaying works around memory and history. ARTJOG curator Bambang ‘Toko’ Witjaksono considered this an interesting phenomenon. “Perhaps, artists’ imaginations about time are controlled more by the legacy of the past, rather than projections of the future,” Bambang said.
Although dominated by Time in the past, some works tried to take a different approach. For example, Nurrachmat Widyasena attempted to do at PT. Tomorrow Jaya Taimket WP 01. Throughout his career, he tried to play around with imagination about time machines and the future. Suvi Wahyudianto also did different things in his work, “Telepresence after 20years“. He used the Google Maps app to browse Time via a scalable virtual space with uncertain personal memories.
Uncertain things are happening in these situations these days, just like the fate of ARTJOG in times of pandemic. ARTJOG still cannot be visited by the public directly during PPKM. Even so, ARTJOG Director Heri Pemad and the team did not want to back down during this uncertain situation. Heri explained that this series of exhibitions has been prepared for a long time.
Heri acknowledged that this pandemic situation is very unfavorable for events such as ARTJOG. He also did not expect the outbreak to worsen with the transmission of new variants the faster. Policy changes during pandemics challenged him to plan everything in more detail. This Time, he is ready to lose massively because the committee has not been able to get revenue from ticket sales. Even so, “ARTJOG wants to remain consistent in contributing by providing presentation space for artistic exploration of contemporary artists,” said Heri.
Author: M. Rizqi Akbar
Editor: Deatry Kharisma Karim
Photo: M. Rizqi Akbar
Translator: M. Rizqi Akbar