Con­sumerism, in­ter­na­tional bor­ders, hu­mour and po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence are themes six In­done­sian artists ex­plore at the sev­enth Asia-Pa­cific Tri­en­nial, writes Brid­get Cor­mack

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - The sev­enth Asia-Pa­cific Tri­en­nial of Con­tem­po­rary Art, Gallery of Mod­ern Art, Bris­bane, De­cem­ber 8 to April 14, 2013.

HAHAN’S early artis­tic en­deav­ours in­cluded draw­ing on walls and copy­ing car­toons from tele­vi­sion. In the small In­done­sian town where he grew up, there was no pub­lic art mu­seum, he says, and cer­tainly noth­ing like Bris­bane’s Gallery of Mod­ern Art, where we have met. This month chil­dren will come to the gallery to par­tic­i­pate in art ac­tiv­i­ties he has de­signed for the sev­enth Asia-Pa­cific Tri­en­nial of Con­tem­po­rary Art, the 20th an­niver­sary of the Tri­en­nial se­ries. Hahan will ig­nite their fer­tile imag­i­na­tions with a new book about his life, the life of an artist.

To­day he has ar­rived wear­ing a T-shirt with the de­sign of a car­toon duck snooz­ing in a sphere of stars. ‘‘ It’s a dream­ing duck,’’ he says, point­ing to the dol­lar signs on the duck’s cap. ‘‘ He’s a dreamer like me.’’

Hahan’s de­sign says a lot about his views of In­done­sia. Hahan (real name is Uji Han­doko Eko Sa­pu­tro) grew up in a small town out­side Yo­gyakarta, one of Java’s three main artis­tic cen­tres. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from art school he was swept along by the Asian art boom that saw the Yo­gyakarta art scene ex­plode in 2008. Now 29, he has ex­hib­ited in South Korea, Hong Kong, Sin­ga­pore and Cuba.

He is one of six young artists and art col­lec­tives from the bur­geon­ing art scene in the In­done­sian cities of Jakarta, Yo­gyakarta and Ban­dung ex­hibit­ing in APT7. Of­ten draw­ing on pop cul­ture such as comics, zines, graf­fiti and mu­sic in their work, they deal with punchy themes such as con­sumerism, glob­al­i­sa­tion and mi­gra­tion.

The APT has al­ways fea­tured In­done­sian artists. But ac­cord­ing to GoMA cu­ra­tor Rus­sell Storer, the six ex­hibit­ing at this Tri­en­nial are ‘‘ quite dif­fer­ent to an ear­lier gen­er­a­tion of In­done­sian artists who emerged in the 1980s and early 90s in the Suharto era, who worked in a more con­cep­tual and more ob­vi­ously po­lit­i­cal way’’. And, he adds, they are more ac­ces­si­ble to a broader au­di­ence.

But that’s not to say th­ese artists aren’t po­lit­i­cal. Wed­har Riyadi’s graphic car­toon im­agery painted on to his­tor­i­cal pho­to­graphs al­ludes to po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence, while Tintin Wu­lia taps into con­ver­sa­tions about bor­ders.

Their work also makes use of cross-cul­tural themes. Jakarta artist col­lec­tive Ruan­grupa, for ex­am­ple, has cre­ated a fic­tional band in­spired by In­done­sia’s 70s rock mu­sic scene and the par­al­lel pe­riod in Bris­bane un­der pre­mier Joh Bjelke-Petersen. An in­stal­la­tion will fea­ture the band’s fic­tional mem­o­ra­bilia, in­clud­ing posters, T-shirts and al­bum cov­ers. Bris­bane mu­si­cians per­son­i­fy­ing the band will per­form at the APT open­ing week­end.

As well as his work in the chil­dren’s gallery, Hahan will show two works that chal­lenge the struc­ture of the art world. His sculp­ture The New Prophet ques­tions the way cu­ra­tors do busi­ness in In­done­sia and features the faces of two cu­ra­tors: one of them is bit­ing an art jour­nal and the other is eat­ing money. He says: ‘‘ Some busi­ness­men think if we hire a big cu­ra­tor to do art, many hot artists will be in­ter­ested in the fa­mous cu­ra­tor. But be­cause they’re do­ing lots of ex­hi­bi­tions, some of the cu­ra­tors are not mak­ing good ex­hi­bi­tions.’’

Deal­ing with gal­leries is just one of the chal­lenges on the swampy jour­ney to artis­tic great­ness in Hahan’s The Jour­ney.

This comic-in­spired paint­ing, de­pict­ing the art world as a jun­gle, features a small sign say­ing ‘‘ Long way jour­ney to Guggen­heim’’, sug­gest­ing young In­done­sian artists have in­ter­na­tional as­pi­ra­tions. ‘‘ I talk about the con­di­tion and the ex­pe­ri­ence from my life,’’ Hahan says. ‘‘ You must work hard to make the dream come true.’’

Part of the chal­lenge for artists in Ban­dung, the most laid-back of the three art cen­tres in In­done­sia, is a lack of ex­hi­bi­tion space.

The elo­quent Fe­bie Baby­rose, 27, is onethird of artist trio Tro­marama, which she formed with friends Her­bert Hans Maruli and Ruddy Ha­tu­mena at art school. She says Ban­dung has a good art school but only six com­mer­cial gal­leries and no pub­lic art mu­seum, mean­ing there are lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties for show­ing new work.

‘‘ In Yo­gyakarta you can go to an ex­hi­bi­tion ev­ery week,’’ she says. ‘‘ In Ban­dung there is maybe one ex­hi­bi­tion in three months . . . Our [art] com­mu­nity tries to make an alternative space and an art dis­cus­sion.’’

When cu­ra­tors come to town scop­ing out artists for in­ter­na­tional shows, Baby­rose and her friends get to­gether to make pre­sen­ta­tions of their work. Tro­marama was in­cluded in the Sin­ga­pore Bi­en­nale in 2008 and the Asian Art Bi­en­nial in Tai­wan last year, but the three artists still have day jobs.

The grass­roots art scene from which they have sprouted is em­bod­ied in the DIY aes­thetic of their work. They use stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion to make videos with ev­ery­day ob­jects such as table­ware, ap­pli­ances and shoes. Start­ing out mak­ing pop-mu­sic videos, they have broad­ened their prac­tice to com­ment on so­cial is­sues.

Happy Hour, show­ing at the APT, is in­spired by the 2009 In­done­sian bank­ing scan­dal and features singing ban­knotes. Ev­ery­one is Ev­ery­body is about con­sumerism and brings to life ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions such as high-end hand­bags be­long­ing to a suc­cess­ful ca­reer per­son.

‘‘ It’s about how peo­ple iden­tify or con­struct their iden­tity through ob­jects,’’ Baby­rose says. ‘‘ In In­done­sia ev­ery­body likes to wear branded stuff. They want to build their iden­tity to a new so­cial class.’’

Bali-born Tintin Wu­lia, 40, is also pon­der­ing iden­tity in her new work at the APT about im­mi­gra­tion and bor­ders. The Mel­bournebased artist, who lived for a pe­riod in Jakarta, says her work is in­flu­enced by her mem­o­ries of grow­ing up in the Suharto era and guard­ing a fam­ily se­cret.

‘‘ My fa­ther told me sto­ries about my grand­fa­ther,’’ Wu­lia says. ‘‘ All of the sto­ries al­ways ended with, ‘ he was miss­ing in 1965, but you can’t tell this to any­one out­side of this fam­ily’.’’

Wu­lia — who is of the view that art in In­done­sia ‘‘ is al­ways some­how po­lit­i­cal’’ — says it’s as if there was a war in In­done­sia in 1965. ‘‘ When think­ing about wars, there is usu­ally some kind of a bor­der or des­ti­na­tion that peo­ple want to change and that’s why they go to war,’’ she says. ‘‘ Po­lit­i­cally, they want to change a des­ti­na­tion.’’

In her work Flow, she has set up four skill-tester machines filled with pass­ports that vis­i­tors can try to claw. Wu­lia has in­cluded replica pass­ports from 10 coun­tries with the high­est gross domestic prod­uct and 10 with the low­est GDP, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund. The work ques­tions the ar­bi­trary na­ture of cit­i­zen­ship, which was driven home for Wu­lia when she started to con­sider leav­ing In­done­sia.

‘‘ I started to get really in­ter­ested in how I was dis­crim­i­nated [against], based on my pass­port when I was trav­el­ling,’’ she says. ‘‘ I wanted to not be lim­ited by such a thing.’’

The Tri­en­nial will fea­ture 75 artists and artist groups from 27 coun­tries across the Asia Pa­cific re­gion.

Main pic­ture, In­done­sian artist Hahan; above, an im­age from the video Ev­ery­body is

Ev­ery­body, by Tro­marama, which com­ments on high-end con­sumerism

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