Jogja residency- week one

Silhouetted figures against the windows of office space at PSBK

Coming to Yogyakarta, I didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t know how the residency would start.  I wanted to keep an open mind, especially for the first week, and didn’t want to make too many plans, or set the agenda – I just wanted to receive what was available. That turned out to be a good decision.

I was welcomed by Jeannie at PSBK (Padepokan Seni Bagong Kussudiardja) and introduced to the team, including Iteq who will be acting as Project Manager/Artist Confidant for the duration of the project, and Teguh (curator), who will be working with us.  We found a lovely space to base myself while I’m here, in a building that has a gallery upstairs that we can use as a studio for holding workshops and for filming.

PSBK as a space is full of potential.  It has many different pockets and areas that can be used for different purposes. PSBK and Jeannie are quite open about what the space is about, and where they want to take it.  They are interested in exploring how to create bridges with local artists and communities, and what we can try here.  There is an attitude of exchange and exploration, and a desire to explore and tap into possibilities. In the coming three weeks, I’m looking forward to trying out ideas, and spending time with a group of artists in residence who are creating a performance/dance/theatre piece at the Centre.

Iteq has many connections within the Jogja arts scene and during the first week has introduced us to people and groups doing interesting work. People have been very open about making time to meet with me.  Some of the organisations and collectives we visited include the photography collective Ruang MES 56, Kunci Cultural Studies Centre, and IVAA, the Indonesian Visual Arts Association.  MES 56 and Kunci, in particular, are very grass roots based.  They seem to have their own unique take on what art is, and who is an artist – they have unique sensitivities and responses, which I quite like. One of the things it makes me think, that we are missing especially in London, is the relationship to the collective spaces they have created. This is an experience familiar to me from Turkey – if you don’t get support for what you want to do/what’s important for you – you can be creative about how to get that support. For example, MES 56 has no regular income – the members only gain access to funding on a project to project basis, so in between they share resources and put their own money into a pot to pay for rent and other expenses when there is no project funding.  Kunci operates in the same way. I found both organisations inspiring in the way they are working towards art for everybody, and education for everybody.

People standing in booklined archive at IVAA
Indonesian Visual Arts Archive

Highlights of the week included visiting MES56 where there was a performance by Taiwanese music/installation artists in residence; an opening of a sculpture show at Jogja Contemporary, where I met Ris (Rismilliana Wijayanti), a busy curator (‘.. a useful passerby’ as she describes herself) who will be a great connection for meeting other artists; and watching the preparations of a unique video installation at ARK gallery by artist Agung Kurniawan.  His installation, Ibuibu (Kecil) , which will be shown at Europalia in Brussels in October (a showcase of Indonesian art), documents the experience of women who were imprisoned during the Communist purges of 1965.  The women, actual survivors, were filmed performing their stories, and these images are projected onto traditional  white dresses hanging in the space, with a surround soundtrack of their voices and subtle music.

Artists and audience gather at outdoor space at MES56
Ruang MES56

I realise that it will take a while before I can understand the culture here.  At the end of the day, I’m a visitor and I’m being introduced to certain types of people who are involved in the arts scene and activists, rather than experiencing the daily everyday life of Indonesians. As a culture, there are lots of things that seem familiar and I recognise many layers from my own experience, but there are many things that I don’t know yet.

Stencil on wall describes MES 56 mission statement
MES 56 Collective Mission Statement

However, being in residence at PSBK is an interesting way to be introduced into the culture.  Jeannie, Teguh and Iteq are making themselves available to have long conversations – something we lack in London, where we’re all so busy with our very busy lives.  I appreciate and recognise how much I miss that space -without rush or agenda – just taking the time to talk and share experiences.

Traditional Javenese house provides space for KUNCI
KUNCI venue

Onto week two, where I will be working with a group of Jogja actors/performers through improvisations on the first stages of a new project, ‘what makes you who you are’.