‘Make Humanism Great Again’
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— eko nugroho (@Nugroho11Eko) July 31, 2019
THE ART OF LIBERATION
THE LIBERATION OF ART
The art of liberation is an approach to expression that is grounded in an awareness of the need for the liberation of the definition of art. The forms taken by this expression prioritize declaration and the spirit of exploration, grounded in an aesthetic of liberation.
The liberation of art is the endeavor to change the definition of art. It is conscious of the principle that art is an indicator of plurality, which is grounded in a variety of frames of references. The definition of art that is recognized and in force currently is shackled to: painting, sculpture and graphic design, that is, art that is locked to one frame of reference, namely, that of art as “High Art”.
The definition of art as encompassing expression in only three fields, namely painting, sculpture and graphic design is devoid of a conceptual framework.
The definition of the Indonesian term seni rupa is based on a direct translation of the term “fine arts,” descending from a Latin definition from the Renaissance of la belle arti del disegno.
It is not fully understood that this definition of art is rooted in the principles of artes liberales (Liberal Arts) from the frame of reference of “High Art” elaborated during the Renaissance in the sixteenth century, an outlook that believes in the existence of only one (high) culture and the one type of art which it has produced.
That art is an expression of plurality. That culture has a variety of frames of reference.
The current definition of art is the result of adaptation devoid of conceptual thinking, lacking consideration of the acculturation of aesthetics.
This formulation of the definition of art is trapped. The definition of art with a “High Art” frame of reference has become completely impoverished and specific. This formulation does not see the surrounding reality where a variety of expressions of art based on other frames of reference are found.
Throughout the history of Indonesian art, this groundless and contorted definition has held sway. On the other hand, art grounded in ethnic cultures, popular art from everyday life, crafts and design (art with other frames of reference outside the old definition) stand as phenomena which never gets any attention.
This is an ironic curiosity.
(VI) Paying Attention To:
The only expression of art which is in accord with that definition of art is the only one used by Indonesian Modern Art, part of World Modern Art (derived from artes liberales) in its connection to the principle that “art is universal”.
Due to the inaccurate formulation of its definition, Indonesian Modern Art is also trapped in a narrow circle. Once again there has been adaptation without conceptual thought or aesthetic consideration. Artists and critics of Indonesian Modern Art have in truth become blind and regard modern art – painting, sculpture and graphic design – as the one and only expression of art. Outside this, art does not exist. This attitude has become popular and is seen in the expression: “… is not painting”.
This is not fanaticism for a particular idea, rather a strongly held attitude which is baseless. The reality is truly: confusion. The absence of critical attention to this contorted definition is a sign of this confusion. In fact, there is no awareness of any definition at all. The activities of modern art itself proceed in a fragmented way with painting as the most popular of these.
Modern Indonesian Artists have made an idiomatic error, using the language of Modern Art but without an aesthetic understanding. They base their artistic activity entirely on incomplete fragments of the history of Modern Art, a belief in the history of art and only one understanding of aesthetics.
Modern Indonesian artists have become consumerist. They regard a variety of concepts of style within these fragments of the History of Modern Art as a source which has to be made sacred and embraced unconditionally. A contorted imitation of lifestyle also happens. A romantic lifestyle has turned into epigonic eccentricity. Internally exploratory individualism has been replaced by megalomaniac egotism.
This advanced erroneous adaptation has led critics and modern artists into a preoccupation with matching expressions of modern art with a “dictionary” of art history. Modern artists truly do not practice a tradition of exploration.
Thinking about art in Indonesia is headed for bankruptcy.
Indonesian Modern Art, the only art consistent with the definition, is experiencing a deep stagnation. It is fixed on the early styles of Modern Art. It has stopped exploring, is incapable of reflecting inwardly in search of the basis for other developments.
Art based on other frames of reference has been expunged from thinking about art. The contorted definition of art has relegated this to obscurity. Art with a background in ethnic cultures has without exception been framed as belonging to the past. Graphic design as the product of technological and industrial progress is thought of as crude art regarded only for its surface beauty. Popular art which deals with everyday life is regarded as the product of mass culture and as devoid of value.
What is needed is the liberation of art. A framework of expression that prioritizes the dismantling of a misguided tradition of art. A framework of expression that is rational and which prioritizes expression based on an aesthetics of liberation.
What is needed is a redefinition of art, the liberation of art from the confines of a definition rooted in artes liberales, to search for a new definition capable of embracing every expression of art.
What is needed is the liberation of our thought world from a completely single perspective believing in only one frame of reference which begets one art, only one global community in a cultural form that is complete and integrated.
Jakarta, May 2 1987
(*) 1987 Manifesto of the New Art Movement is partly based on the work of the Digital Archive of Contemporary Indonesian Art and available in the original at Manifesto Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru 1987. It represents the manifesto used by the New Art Movement for the Fantasy World Supermarket: Project 1 (Pasaraya Dunia Fantasi: Proyek 1) exhibition in 1987.
By W.S. Rendra
These are the hands of a student,
My hands. Oh my God.
My hand reaches out,
And what I grab is a beautiful hostess’s petticoat.
What an idiot. My hand goes limp.
My hand knocks on the door,
But no one answers.
I kick the door,
And the door swings open.
Behind the door there’s another door.
There’s a sign with the opening hours,
Which are short.
I shove my hands in my trouser pockets,
And I go out and sojourn.
I’m swallowed by Great Indonesia.
Dozens of hands used in life
Suddenly appear in front of me.
I hold out my hands too.
But they look out of place among the thousands of hands.
I’m worried about my future.
Farmers’ hands are covered in mud,
Fishermen’s hands are covered in salt,
I pull back my hands.
Their hands are full of struggle.
Hands that are productive.
My hands are anxious,
They don’t solve any problems.
But the hands of businessmen,
The hands of bureaucrats,
Are calculating, nibble, and very strong.
My anxious hands are suspected,
My hands close into a fist.
And when they open again are transformed into claws.
I reach out in all directions.
At every desk in every office
Sits a soldier or an old person.
In the villages
Farmers are just laborers for landowners.
On the beaches
Fishermen do not own any of the boats.
Trade goes on without supermarkets.
Politics only serves the weather…
My hands close into a fist.
But there’s a brick wall in front of me.
My life has no future.
For now I have my hands in my pockets.
I sojourn from place to place.
I scrawl obscenities
On the chancellor’s desk.
Jakarta Arts Center
23 June 1977
Poem on Hands (Sajak Tangan), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 34.
Image comes from https://www.instagram.com/p/BZYRUiSBrrtd13aM9EKfg8l9E5nrXfm3pJFNys0
By W.S. Rendra
Taking a drag on a fat cigar
Gazing over Great Indonesia
Listening to 130 million people,
And in the sky
Two or three businessmen squat down
And shit on their heads.
The sun comes up
And the sun goes down
And all I can see are eight million children
With no education.
But my questions
Slam into the desks of bureaucrats like a traffic jam,
And the blackboards of educators
Who are cut off from life’s problems.
Eight million children
Cram down one long road,
With no options
With no trees
With no shady places to rest,
With no idea of where they’re going.
Suck in the air
Full of deodorant spray,
I see unemployed graduates
Covered in sweat along the highway;
I see pregnant women
Queuing for pension money.
And in the sky:
The technocrats sprout:
That the country is lazy
That the country must be developed,
Must be “upgraded”,
Made to fit technology that’s imported.
Mountains tower skyward.
The sky a festival of colors at sunset.
And I see
Protests that are pent up
Squeezed under mattresses.
But my questions
Bang into the foreheads of armchair poets,
Who write about grapes and the moon,
While injustices happen all around them,
And eight million children with no education
Gape at the feet of the goddess of art.
The future hopes of the nation
Stars swirling in front of their faces
Below neon advertisements.
The hopes of millions of mothers and fathers
Meld into a gaggle of clamoring voices
Become a reef below the surface of the ocean.
We have to stop buying foreign formulas.
Textbooks can only provide methods,
But we ourselves have to formulate our condition.
We have to come out into the streets
Go into the villages
See for ourselves all the indicators
And experience the real problems.
This is my poem,
A pamphlet for a time of emergency.
What is the point of art,
If it’s cut off from the suffering around it
What is the point of thinking
If it’s cut off from life’s problems.
19 August 1977
Poem for a Cigar (Sajak Sebatang Lisong) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 12.
07 February 2017Film screening
The first screening of the ‘Framing Asia’ film series will focus on transgender issues in Indonesia. Two short films Renita, Renita and Accross Gender will be followed by discussion with Intan Paramaditha, Indonesian author and lecturer in media and film studies and one of the filmmakers, Anouk Houtman.
Renita, Renita (15min)
Trapped in a male body, Renita wanted to be a doctor and a woman since she was a child but her parents forced her to study at a Islamic school where she was bullied and ostracized. She rebelled by becoming a prostitute in the hope of finding freedom but instead, found that it came at a cost — she experienced brutality and was discriminated against by her family and the Indonesian society in which she lived.
Across Gender (24min)
What is it like being transgender in Yogyakarta? There is no single answer to this question. This film aims to show different ways of negotiating visibility in the Indonesian society when one ‘crosses gender’. The difficulty of this negotiation becomes apparent through the anti-LGBT sentiments and actions in early 2016.
Anouk Houtman is a young filmmaker with an MA in Visual Anthropology of Leiden University. She graduated with a film and thesis researching the visibility of transgenders in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Currently she is pursuing a second MA in Gender Studies and University Utrecht.
Intan Paramaditha is an Indonesian author and lecturer in media and film studies at Macquarie University, Sydney. Focusing on contemporary film practice in Indonesia, her research explores the relation between media, cultural activism, and sexual politics in the convergence and tension between national and cosmopolitan trajectories.Time 19:30- hrs Venue Faculty of Humanities, Lipsius building, rom 028 Cleveringaplaats 1 Leiden Netherlands Google Maps