Bali & Beyond - - CONTENTS - By Wi­win Wir­widya www.catao­

Meet Ratna Odata, founder of Cata Odata

The above sen­tence best con­cludes our first en­counter with artist and owner of Cata Odata, an Ubud-based house of art, Ratna Odata. Grad­u­ated from LaSalle Col­lege of the Arts in Sin­ga­pore in 2013 where she ma­jored in Tech­ni­cal The­atre, Ratna broke all stan­dards and started pur­su­ing her big­gest dream by es­tab­lish­ing Cata Odata, right when the art in­dus­try in Bali was tum­bling down. But that did not stop her from mov­ing for­ward. To­gether with her artist part­ner Dju­naidi Kenyut, they are com­mit­ted to el­e­vat­ing the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of In­done­sian art. To Bali & Be­yond (BB), Ratna Odata (RO) shared her story…

BB: What do you love about art?

RO: My ‘love-at-first-sight’ with art ac­tu­ally be­gan when I joined a high school of per­form­ing art. Then, dur­ing my col­lege years in Sin­ga­pore, I drowned my­self into the­atre study, and that was when I be­gan to ad­mire and see art as some­thing that is not frag­mented be­tween fine arts such as paint­ing, sculp­ture, carv­ing and mo­tion art. I see art as a whole com­plete el­e­ment that can be in har­mony with ev­ery­thing. That is what ‘in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary’ the­ory is, which we now im­ple­ment as our ap­proach in Cata Odata.

Art for me is a medicine that can cure so many pains. That is also the rea­son why I named it Cata Odata, which means “white heart” in Pali lan­guage.

BB: What brought you to the art world?

RO: When I was al­most grad­u­ated, I spent my fi­nal years in col­lege fig­ur­ing out how to con­tinue ex­press­ing my love and pas­sion for art. While most peo­ple who study abroad choose not to go back to their home coun­try be­cause they have a per­ma­nent promis­ing ca­reer in their study des­ti­na­tion, I strug­gled hard enough in my mind and heart to go back to In­done­sia and do some­thing. Not be­cause I wanted to con­trib­ute some­thing, but be­cause I feel more com­fort­able be­ing in the coun­try where I be­long.

When the day ar­rived, I took any risks nec­es­sary. I promised my­self to be per­sis­tent al­though many peo­ple didn’t be­lieve in what I was plan­ning to do, in­clud­ing my mother who ex­pected her daugh­ter to be suc­cess­ful by her own def­i­ni­tion. But still, I went to Ubud and bought this beau­ti­ful old build­ing at quite a rea­son­able price. Here, I built a new dy­namic artsy am­biance with my fel­low tal­ented artist, Djuanidi Kenyut.

BB: Why Ubud?

RO: Be­cause Ubud is the cen­ter of art in Bali. Cata Odata is also com­mit­ted to pro­mot­ing Ba­li­nese and East-Ja­vanese artists, so we con­sider Ubud the per­fect place for us to ex­plore and ex­press our love for art. We con­duct ex­hi­bi­tions to pro­mote art­works and hold many reg­u­lar dis­cus­sions, and we pro­vide a space for ev­ery­one who wants to study and learn more about art with­out any lim­i­ta­tions or bound­aries.

We pre­fer to de­fine Cata Odata as an art house. There are four per­ma­nent res­i­dents here in­clud­ing my­self. Our rooms and of­fice are on the third floor, the gallery on the sec­ond floor and the art stu­dio on the first floor, right be­side a small stream.

BB: What is the big­gest ob­sta­cle for Cata Odata?

RO: The main chal­lenge is the lack of pub­lic ap­pre­ci­a­tion to­wards art. The sec­ond, from what I mostly hear from fel­low artists, is the dif­fi­culty to trust art gal­leries, which hap­pens af­ter an un­pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence

be­tween some artists and cer­tain gal­leries. For ex­am­ple, there is of­ten in­con­sis­tency be­tween the agree­ment and the im­ple­men­ta­tion. Other cases also in­clude when a gallery takes art­work by force. To be hon­est, when I first started Cata Odata, I was still pretty naive and ide­al­is­tic. I did not have any prej­u­dice to any­one but as the art house pro­gresses I un­der­stand more about the pol­i­tics be­hind the art in­dus­try.

BB: How do you and your team in Cata Odata build their trust?

RO: Trust from the artists is the big­gest ab­sence that we ex­pe­ri­ence as a gallery. Some­times the re­ac­tions we got from artists are also quite painful. We were once ig­nored, af­ter we ap­proached them and ex­plained that we had an art space. Fi­nally, to elim­i­nate any prej­u­dices, we de­cided to make ev­ery agree­ment writ­ten in de­tails, in­clud­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion cash flows. Mak­ing a de­tailed agree­ment is ac­tu­ally time-con­sum­ing, but we need to be re­ally trans­par­ent and hon­est from the be­gin­ning.

The ab­sence of fair­ness be­tween in­sti­tu­tions and artists is still a main con­cern as well. Per­haps, what is promised is not given, and artists have al­ways been the one to blame. That is why Cata Odata al­ways pri­or­i­tizes trans­parency in the agree­ments. We have to make sure that there is a mu­tual un­der­stand­ing be­tween us and the artists, and that both sides agree on ev­ery point in the let­ter of agree­ment.

BB: Do you se­lect artists to col­lab­o­rate?

RO: For now, we are fo­cus­ing only on artists who re­side in East Java and Bali. They come from many art dis­ci­plines such as vis­ual art, street art, the­atre, in­stal­la­tions, dancers, graphic and print­mak­ing. Since we love to grow and learn to­gether, we pre­fer to col­lab­o­rate with emerg­ing artists as well as mid-ca­reer artists be­cause they are still in search of iden­tity and char­ac­ter, so they ex­plore so much. Cata Odata has al­ways been hon­ored for ex­plor­ing many things to­gether, shar­ing knowl­edge be­tween one an­other so that we can grow side by side with the artists.

Since 2014, Cata Odata has been work­ing to­gether with 92 artists, all from East Java and Bali. We have also col­lab­o­rated with other gal­leries, art com­mu­ni­ties and or­ga­ni­za­tions, and have been in­volved in Fes­ti­val Tepi Sawah last June.

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