ROOTS. Indonesian Contemporary Art

Group Exhibition
Curators: Asikin Hasan, Franziska Nori, Rizky A. Zaelani
Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany
25/09/2015 - 10/01/2016

Starting in 1998, after 30 years of Suharto's autocracy, this era is characterized by a new found freedom of expression and experimental liberties. The artistic practices of the artists invited root in the awareness of Indonesian culture and range between the poles of tradition and participation in modern life. Indonesia's contemporary art production expresses the multidimensional aspects of the country's history, its relationship with nature and spirituality in conjunction with contemporary pop culture, political attitude and public life.

In the exhibition, Nugroho uses the floor, wall and ceiling to juxtapose symbols, visual ideas, patterns and forms that go beyond the boundaries of art or design and reach into political and socio-critical realms. He incorporates text into his artwork to satirize the meaning of common Indonesian sayings. The symbols are anomaly images about the hurly-burly of politics.

“I’m the generation of the post-Reformation 1998, the event drawing people’s attention, and I note it as our journey to find out the Democracy that we have designed, we have found, we have talked, we have hit, we have destroyed, and we have built again. Indonesian people learn a lot from all the process.” Roots also presented a key sculpture work, The Traveller , who has since become a key character, motif and metaphor in Eko's work. The Traveller uses the figure of a tukang dholan or traveller. Eko describes this traveller as sumega (adj. bahasa Jawa) someone who is always travelling, always wandering, easily distracted and drawn to new places or possibilities with surface level appeal. This figure becomes metaphoric of Indonesia – always on the move, easily distracted, yet to find its place or its destination, that of a true democracy.

The figure has many faces, and many sets of eyes –eyes always wandering in new directions in pursuit of new possibilities, the beaks representing all the chatter and talk about these new directions, but no ears – nobody is listening to these ideas, it becomes noise. Post-Reformasi noise. Eko believes this too is the situation in Indonesia, easily distracted and excited by new ideas but very little dialogue, enquiry or even listening. The beaks are not only talking too much, but also eating too much! The Traveller carries a bundle of worms on its back – metaphoric of greed and that democracy in practice is not being about universal freedom but about individuals feeding themselves. The Traveller also holds a book representing the burden and struggle of the people attempting to bring knowledge, history, religion and teaching to the people. How will their teachings ever be heard amongst all this chatter?

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