Art-Chipelago: In Pursuit of Identity

03, Jun 2015 | Author: Embassy of Indonesia

Source: The Jakarta Post

he works of more than 100 artists from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are on display at the National Gallery as part of a biennial exhibition seeking to define — and redefine — the self.

Titled “Art-Chipelago”, the exhibition looks at the politics of identity, according to a press release. However, instead of discussing the topic using common political and cultural frameworks, the exhibition has gone deeper — and wilder.

The result is a display of a chaotic, colorful and unpredictable yet liberating artwork, including paintings, graphic arts, clay, comics, art videos, multimedia and art installations that run the gamut from realism to abstraction.

One of the curators, A Sudjud Dartanto, said that the 106 artists involved were selected through a long process. “We received 527 entries from 385 artists from 25 provinces in the selection process.”

From the 106 artists, 97 were chosen from the selection process and nine artists, including Rodel Tapaya from the Philippines and Azzad Diah Ahmad Zabidi from Malaysia, were invited to participate in the exhibition more directly.

The involvement of foreign artists, according to the curators, was done to broaden the scope of the exhibition.

“The archipelago once covered not only the Indonesian islands, but also islands in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and East Timor,” they said in the press release.

Entering the exhibition rooms, visitors may feel that they are being taken on a journey to a fantasyland, where the borders that define individuals as members of state, culture or ethnic group no longer exist.

This can be seen from how rarely state symbols were used by artists to convey their stances on political identity.

One artist was seen to adopt the red and white colors from Indonesian flag in an installation, while others reproduced other national state symbols, such as the president and the mythical bird of Garuda.

Some tried to attach their cultural background to their artwork, resulting in various descriptions of self-identity.

For example an artist from Lampung, Eddy Purwantono, painted an elephant, which is one of the region’s icons, to represent his ideas about identity; while Engky Angriawan of West Sumatra used the province’s traditional houses in his paintings. Most of the artists have gone beyond ethnic description, bringing out their identity through abstract paintings that are open to interpretation — and fostering the notion that identity is not as rigid as some people might imagine.

Meanwhile, the rigidity of identity has been also been explored by some artists through art that negates their own origins.

– See more at:

Some Javanese painters used Balinese motifs, while other Balinese artists returned the favor, creating a liberating effect that erased limitations in understanding identity.

In a discussion a day after the opening of the exhibition, curator Sudjud implied that there was no clear common thread in the exhibition. “We believe that art can bring us to experience a ‘post-identity era’, where identity can be reformulated and negotiated.

“Art will bring us to a situation where identity is no longer fixed and rigid and take us to experience of being merged into something foreign,” he added.

Another speaker at the discussion, Nano Warsono, said that such flexibility had given room for the artists to interpret identity creatively. Nano, who is also one of the artists participating in the exhibition, mentioned the role of artists as the agents of cultural signs.

“Their main mission is to rediscover identity over and over,’’ he said.

With no rigid definition, limitation nor borders, it seems that the pursuit of interpreting identity for artist has become a never-ending journey. – See more at:

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