Category Archives: Visual Arts

Poem for a Student Meeting

Poem for a Student Meeting

By W.S. Rendra

The sun rose this morning
Sniffed the smell of baby piss on the horizon,
Looked at the brown river snaking its way to the sea,
And listened to the hum of the bees in the forest.

And now it starts to climb into the sky
And it presides to bear witness, that we are gathered here
To investigate the current situation.

We ask:
Why are good intentions sometimes no use?
Why can good intentions clash with good intentions?
People say: “We have good intentions.”
And we ask: “Good intentions for who?”

Yes, some are mighty and some are humble.
Some are armed and some are injured.
Some have positions and some are occupied.
Some have plenty and some are emptied.
And we here ask:
“Your good intentions are for who?
You stand on the side of who?”

Why are good intentions put into practice
But more and more farmers lose their land?
Farms in the mountains are bought up by people from the city.
Huge plantations
Only benefit just one small group.
Advanced equipment that is imported
Doesn’t suit farmers with tiny pieces of land.

Well we ask:
“So your good intentions are for who?”

Now the sun is rising high in the sky.
And will indeed be enthroned above the palm trees.
And here in the hot air we will also ask:
All of us are educated to stand on the side of who?
Will the knowledge taught here
Be an instrument of liberation,
Or of oppression?

The sun shall soon go down.
Night will arrive,
The geckos chatter on the wall
And the moon sail forth.
But our questions shall not abate.
They shall live in the people’s dreams,
Grow in the fields that recede into the distance.

And on the morrow,
The sun shall rise once more.
Evermore the new day shall incarnate,
Our questions shall become a forest,
Transform into rivers,
And become the waves of an ocean.

Under this hot sun, we ask:
There are those who scream, and those who beat,
There are some with nothing, and some who scratch for something.
And our good intentions,
Stand on the side of who?

Jakarta
1 December 1977

This poem was presented to students at the University of Indonesia, and performed in the film “Yang Muda Yang Bercinta” directed by Syumanjaya.


Poem for a Student Meeting (Sajak Pertemuan Mahasiswa), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 38.

The featured image is from Yang Tegak Berdiri Kokoh dan Yang Lunglai Meleyot-Leyot: Tentang Patung, Ruang Publik dan Kekuasaan.

Tugu Tani Today

Tugu Tani Today (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BXhI9dYAb9J)

For background on the history and controversy surrounding Tugu Tani see Matvey Manizer, Kisah Di Balik Tugu Tani: Patung Pahlawan, Banyak Ormas Menuduh Patung di Tugu Tani di Jakpus and the following article from The Jakarta Post ‘Tugu Tani’ a hero statue, not farmers statue: History book .

National Peasants Day 2017

National Peasants Day 2017 (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BZarEQAnIRt)

Shu Li Peasant Heroes 1945 NGA

Shu Li, Peasant Heroes, c. 1945 NGA

Exhibition: NGA Contemporary Worlds Indonesia

New Exhibition: NGA Contemporary Worlds Indonesia

21 June – 27 October 2019

This exhibition looks at the creative practices of Indonesian artists working since the fall of President Suharto in 1998, an event that marked the end of three decades of the repressive, discriminatory New Order regime. (Find out more here.)

Contemporary Worlds Indonesian NGA Exhibition Neon

Contemporary Worlds Indonesian NGA Exhibition Arrows

Life Is Not For Corruption

Image credit https://merchandise.sahabaticw.org/merchandise

DGTMB | Daging Tumbuh

https://dgtmbproject.com/

The Art of Liberation & The Liberation of Art

Manifesto of the New Art Movement 1987
1987 Manifesto of the New Art Movement

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 Art of Liberation The Liberation of Art
The Art of Liberation, The Liberation of Art

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”.

(I) Observing:

The definition of art as encompassing expression in only three fields, namely painting, sculpture and graphic design is devoid of a conceptual framework.

(II) Considering:

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.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987 Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Sticker Car
New Art Movement 1987 Exhibition, Fantasy World Supermarket: Project 1 Sticker Car http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14

(III) Concluding:

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.

(IV) Declaring:

That art is an expression of plurality. That culture has a variety of frames of reference.

(V) Declaring:

The current definition of art is the result of adaptation devoid of conceptual thinking, lacking consideration of the acculturation of aesthetics.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987 Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Documentation
1987 New Art Movement Exhibition, Fantasy World Supermarket: Project 1 Documentation http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14

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.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987, Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Supermarket
New Art Movement 1987 Fantasy World Supermarket: Project 1 Exhibition http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14

(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.

(VII) Declaring:

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.

Project 1 Supermarket Fantasy World Exhibition 1987
1987 Fantasy World Supermarket: Project 1 Exhibition

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.

(VIII) Declaring:

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.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987, Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World "No 1 in America"
New Art Movement, 1987 Fantasy Word Supermarket: Project 1, “No. 1 in America/Here” http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14

(IX) Proclaiming:

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.

(X) Proclaiming:

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.

(XI) Proclaiming:

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.

Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru at the Digital Archive of Indonesian Contemporary Art.