Benny Adrianto

In­done­sia, with a lit­tle daz­zle

The Jakarta Post - JPlus - - News - + Sudibyo M. Wi­radji

Dis­play­ing tra­di­tional In­done­sian ar­ti­sanal pieces like wayang golek wooden pup­pets is easy. Just put them on the table and that’s it, right? For Benny Adrianto, how­ever, the ques­tion is more com­plex: How can he make peo­ple say wow when look­ing at such beauty. Benny is an ar­ti­san and an art di­rec­tor who has thought deeply on the sub­ject. “Ex­hibit­ing craft items re­quires knowl­edge, ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence on the part of the ex­hibitor,” he said. Benny fre­quently dis­plays his batik-based crafts in coun­tries such as Aus­tralia, France, Ja­pan, Korea, and the US. At­ten­tion to de­tail is key. Cit­ing light­ing as an ex­am­ple, Benny says a spot­light should have a pow­er­ful ef­fect on the items on dis­play to make them the cen­ter of a vis­i­tor’s at­ten­tion while ac­cen­tu­at­ing the de­tails of the prod­ucts, such as the beauty of the fab­ric or its ac­ces­sories, to arouse cu­rios­ity. Vis­i­tors, es­pe­cially high-end col­lec­tors, who are amazed by the crafts on dis­play will even­tu­ally de­cide to buy. For them, money is not an is­sue, Benny says. “But in­ap­pro­pri­ate dis­play of the crafts lets them go un­no­ticed and ne­glected. Benny was also in the UK for the Art & Cul­tural Trip, where he spoke on trans­form­ing In­done­sian crafts­man­ship from the tra­di­tional to the con­tem­po­rary at Ox­ford Univer­sity. His skills are in hot de­mand: Benny has fre­quently been hired to de­sign dis­plays for lo­cal ar­ti­sans at the re­quest of or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Trade Min­istry. How­ever, Benny is still wor­ried that In­done­sians give short shrift to such dis­plays. It’s a pity, given the huge rents paid for booths at shows and the time and ex­pense that goes into the pieces. “They can­not up­lift the value of their works, which they ac­tu­ally could–if they had the will.” While In­done­sia has myr­iad cul­tural riches that can be show­cased to the world, tex­tiles of­fer the best op­por­tu­nity, Benny says. “Tech­ni­cally, th­ese can be eas­ily found in a coun­try that has abun­dant sources of fab­ric, from Sa­bang to Mer­auke. Our task is now to find ar­ti­sans who can keep tra­di­tional ways of fab­ric mak­ing alive.” Al­though the dou­ble wo­ven tech­nique used to cre­ate many of Bali’s most fa­mous tex­tiles can also be found in China and In­dia, the lo­cal prod­uct re­mains unique, he adds. “What dis­tin­guishes In­done­sia from other coun­tries in terms of its tra­di­tional fab­rics is that they are made by us­ing ‘heart’, with uniquely typ­i­cal tastes as the re­sult.” Al­though many lo­cal batik mak­ers have adapted tra­di­tional tech­niques and mo­tifs to meet mar­ket de­mands, there are those who still main­tain the old ways, al­though their num­bers are de­clin­ing. Benny, who pre­vi­ously worked as com­puter pro­gram­mer, be­came a batik ar­ti­san in the 1990s to ex­plore the tra­di­tional tex­tiles role in In­done­sia’s cul­tural legacy. His works are based on tra­di­tional tech­niques, such as paint­ing and hand em­broi­dery, and use tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als, such as leather, nat­u­ral fibers, sil­ver and wood. “Batik mo­tifs as a highly re­spected clas­si­cal legacy are sources of in­spi­ra­tion that I still main­tain, Benny says. “But to make my batik ac­ces­si­ble to con­tem­po­rary peo­ple, I re­com­pose it by, for ex­am­ple, avoid­ing too com­pli­cated de­signs and us­ing a max­i­mum of three col­ors.”

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