Prestige Indonesia


Aliansyah Caniago


FOR ALIANSYAH CANIAGO, art goes beyond personal reflection to a tool to raise awareness of social issues. Although he is only 30, he has gained local and internatio­nal respect. His works have been exhibited at Art Stage Singapore, Jakarta Biennale and Bazaar Art Jakarta. Later this year, he will be featured at the 14th Lyon Biennale of Contempora­ry Art in France. He was nominated for a Sovereign Art Prize in Hongkong and a Future Art Generation Prize in London (both in 2016), and won Top Honour at the Indonesian Art Awards in 2015.

His breakout moment as an artist, however, happened through an environmen­tal disaster that broke his heart. “It was 2012, and I was helping out a senior to do a social mapping for his art project,” Alin, who studied Painting at Institut Teknologi Bandung, says. “We went to Situ (Lake) Ciburuy, a 30-minute drive out of Bandung’s city centre, where his project was based. I was shocked to see the amount of waste there. It covered a part of the lake, so that we could actually walk on the water!”

That reality hit hard, since Alin had lived in Bandung his whole life. The waste came from factories based there. “When I discovered that, I realised that it only made sense if I stopped painting. How could I paint beautiful things while knowing the damage to the environmen­t? I promised myself that I would only go back to painting once I could do something for the environmen­t and people.”

While he stopped painting for two years, Alin was not at all unproducti­ve. He spent the time researchin­g Lake Ciburuy. He found out that the problem was a lot more complex than a industry destroying a landscape.

“Lake Ciburuy was known as a fishing village, besides a beautiful landscape. But I found out that the fishermen had stopped fishing because the lake was polluted,” Alin says.

The painting hiatus was also a crucial period for Alin as an artist, as he metamorpho­sed from a painter to a “site-specific” artist who raises awareness about social issues. His works, from paintings to live performanc­es art, helped bring much-needed attention to the lake.In 2015, he held a solo exhibition to showcase his works at Situ Ciburuy, titled Point of No Return.

That being said, Alin is fully aware that eliminatin­g the factories is not a solution. They provide bread and butter for thousands of people. Five years into the project and many artworks later, Alin’s vision has changed from that of resisting a changing landscape into one of preserving a legacy.

His recent work, shown at this year’s ArtJog, is titled Situ Ciburuy: Museum Plan is a “blueprint” of a museum. Instead of using paper, Alin uses recycled wood from a pencil factory. “The museum would tell stories of the fishermen at the village, and how their lives have changed. Besides, I will be displaying 50 fishing boats that once were an inseparabl­e part of their identities.”

While Situ Ciburuy is a long-term project very dear to his heart, Alin is also planning other site-specific projects. The biggest for the year is a project he is planning for Lyon Biennale in September. Alin will be touching upon the issue of immigrants. “Pigeons will be at the centre of my work,” Alin says. “They will be kept in a cage at the exhibition space, and at the end of the biennial, the birds will fly around town with cameras attached to their wings. The images will be live-streamed for the visitors to see.”

The idea stems from the difference in the way Indonesian­s and Europeans perceive pigeons. While the former sees them as a part of their lives, the latter sees them as pests. “Nowadays, some Europeans treat immigrants the same ways they treat pigeons. They treat them as strangers who come uninvited to their countries. By looking at the images from the cameras attached to the doves, I want to show the immigrants’ perspectiv­e, in looking at the new countries they are moving into.”

After all, Alin believes that his art is made for those who is willing to participat­e in it. “At galleries, my works serve the art-conscious crowd. Outside the galleries, they are for locals who live in the areas I do my projects at. Anywhere I go, I try to use language that resonates with the audience.”

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