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RALLY: Indonesian Contemporary Art

Regina Karis

Tue Oct 23 2012


THE National Gallery of Victoria brings a taste of Indonesian contemporary art to Melbourne with this free summer exhibition. Regina Karis has the story.

RALLY is an exhibition of contemporary Indonesian art on at the NGV until April 2013, combining the work of Indonesian artists Jompet Kuswidanato and Eko Nugroho.

Kuswidananto is famous for his sound works, installations and videos, while Nugroho does murals, paintings and embroideries. Together their work provides a very unique perspective on the complex realities of contemporary life in an increasingly globalised and interconnected world. The pieces also reflect on the rapid and dramatic changes in Indonesia’s cultural, social and political landscape in the past decade.

“Both Kuswidananto and Nugroho grew up in post-reformation Indonesia, a period of great transition following the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998,” says NGV’s Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Kelly Gellaty.

“This era saw a push within Indonesian society for a stronger democracy and more open political environment and it is this social-political commentary that appears in the works in RALLY, often in a playful yet powerful manner.”

Strongly influenced by Indonesian street art, Nugroho draws on elements from both traditional and modern Indonesia, integrating popular culture with traditional embroidery techniques and the Javanese wayang kulit – a form of shadow puppet.

From the specially commissioned mural of the NGV’s iconic water wall to the machine-embroidered rayon threads in the gallery space, many of Nugroho’s works feature characters from comic books and graffiti found in his hometown, Yogyakarta.

His sculpture “Be proud of your flag” depicts four hunched figures brandishing flags of different symbols. It acts as a social satire playing with the rigid concept of nationalism and the “Indonesia” label.

Kuswidananto, meanwhile, works with installations and performances through musical instruments, video recordings, LED headlamps, electrical cords and other objects from everyday life.

Interested in the nation’s history and the hybrid relationship between its culture and colonisation, Kuswidananto’s works are inspired by the narratives of Indonesian political and cultural identity. They act as bridges to understand the shape and face of contemporary Indonesia.

“The political landscape in Indonesia is often much too occupied by itself that it forgets about the everyday, leaving society to solve its own problems,” Kuswidananto says.

“In RALLY, we hope to address this collectivity in the society and the strength of communities.”

As the NGV’s first Indonesian contemporary art exhibition, RALLY combines Nugroho’s dynamic, lively brand of humour with Kuswidananto’s careful, thorough investigation of history and identity to bring to the table an idiosyncratic snapshot of contemporary Indonesia.

Threat As A Flavour installation view, Courtesy of the artist © Eko Nugroho and ARNDT, Berlin. Photo: Bernd Borchardt

This is the first time either artist have had their works displayed in the Victorian art scene. As well as making a stand on Indonesian culture, RALLY also raises money for charity Fight for Rice.

Fight for Rice is an effort started by Nugroho to assist local Yogyakarta artists practice art.

At the NGV shop, you can buy bags and patches produced with Indonesian craftsmen, as well as clothing, stickers, clocks and magazines by Indonesian comic collective Daging Tumbuh.

An e-book, RALLY: Contemporary Indonesan Art – Jompet Kuswidananto & Eko Nugroho,  is also available as a free download on the iTunes Store.

RALLY: Indonesian Contemporary Art is on from 18 October 2012 to 1 April 2013 at NGV International, 160 St Kilda Road. Entry is free. For more information, visit the National Gallery of Victoria website