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CP Open Biennale Demands A Place

September 6, 2003
Efix Mulyadi | KOMPAS

Kids. They are running around, hopping between the chairs, jumping on the tables, playing balls, and blowing bubbles from soapy water. It must have been quite boisterous, just like in any kindergarten. But, wait a moment; this is the convention hall of the Indonesian legislative assembly. For this interesting painting, therefore, Yuswantoro Adi certainly owes it to Gus Dur [Abdurrahman Wahid], who, during his term as the Indonesian president, had once criticized the assembly as behaving like kids in kindergarten.

The oil painting is titled Dalam Permainan Riang/Mereka Paling Rasional (In a Gleeful Game/They are the Most Rational Ones), and has a local history. The painting is displayed in an international art forum, the CP Open Biennale, held from September 4 to October 3, 2003, in the National Gallery in Jakarta. This is an event that has lately become the talk of the town, not merely due to its size and variety"126 artists from ten countries are participating in the event, which showcases around 200 paintings, drawings, sculptures, installation works, video art, fiber art, and three dimensional works made from ceramics, wooden, metal, and fiber.

The event"s attraction also stems from its contemporary quality, both in the displayed works that offer glimpses on the artists" attainments, and also in the issues that reflect the raging discourses in myriad countries outside the mainstream of the world"s art. The event proposes the theme of "interpellation," and situates itself amid the "battle" of the art communities in the various corners of the world, which demand their due places, functions, and roles in the art development of today. To the list of art forums in Fukuoka, Gwangju, Shanghai, or Queensland, to name a few, must now be added the name of Jakarta.

Amid the clamor due to the emergence of the various techniques and expressive media of art that have often been labeled as "contemporary," the event still gives ample room for paintings and sculptures. Several paintings from Indonesian artists show shifts or even meaningful development, such as in the case of Yuswantoro Adi.

In Melodia, another painter, what happens is a kind of leap, from the showing of his skill in creating photographically realistic paintings, to the symbolic level and the realm of symbols"just like what Chusin, yet another realistic painter, has done. In Manusia dan Mesin (Man and Machine) Melodia"s tricycles, cars, and bicycles seem to be floating in the modern midair. Dede Eri Supria is simpler in composing the symbols of urbanites" alienation in Aku, Tanganku, Imajinasiku (Me, My Hand, My Imagination). Ivan Sagito and AD Pirous work on wooden planks. And there are still many more developments.

Some works of sculptures such as the ones created by Rudi Mantofani, Amrus Natalsya, S. Teddy D., Nyoman Nuarta, and of course Anusapati who uses materials from coconut trees, also offer glimpses of the growing tendencies of the Indonesian artists. G. Sidharta Soegijo, whose work is displayed in a room of its own, creates installation sculptures that strongly give out local nuances.

Those are few of Indonesian arts that can be considered "conventional""and we have not even mentioned the "half-craft" works that are displayed in the biennale. Some artists try to fuse the "conventional" techniques with new ways, as are shown in the works of Agus Suwage and FX Harsono. The digital printing works of the two artists appear chillingly funny.

It is interesting to see the "conventional" works from the guest artists. Fang Lijun"s painting radiates optimism through the baby"s hand that reaches out to the open sky. Yue Minjun"s work triggers ironic smiles because of the expressions of the grinning faces with too many teeth. Wang Guangyi"s work may make us to meditate a while because of his way of colliding the revolutionary jargons with symbols of the liberal, capitalistic free market.

The rest of the exhibition displays the "non-conventional" [art]. In this respect, several Indonesian artists have been keeping themselves busy with it. There are names of Indonesian artists who have been successful in the various international biennales, art forums, or art festivals.

Tisna Sanjaya is displaying his wooden boat and cannon, installed in the forecourt, adorned with T-shirts and, of course, his beloved jengkol beans and the ball printout on his favorite piece of clothes. A painting is being continually sprayed by water from the top of the boat. The work is titled Doa untuk yang Mati (Prayer for the Dead). Arahmaiani is present with her video art, Human Love. In another room, Krisna Murti appears with his video installation titled Empty Time, where he uses a video recording of a classic Javanese dance.

At the front hall of the exhibition, Heri Dono is hanging up his work, Trojan Horse, which appears more like a three-dimensional version of his two-dimensional work. The flat dolls of horses and soldiers on parachutes are present with his unique, renowned style.

Dadang Christanto displays tens and tens of pieces of paper with the size of half a postcard. A face is painted on each piece of the paper, pierced with a needle with red thread. Remember, the title is Count Project: A project to count living beings. Sunaryo is present in his work, There is No Place to Bargain, which uses chicken coops, scattered bullet shells on trays, and is installed in a vast, black-walled room, complete with chilling background sound.

A form of an extra-large handbag is the metaphor Astari Rasyid uses to comment on the political situation. The red, padlocked bag was adorned with words such as "Shame" and "Fear." Nindityo enchants some audience who walk on his work, titled Refleksi ala Partai Sanggul (Massage a la Hair-bun Party).

An interaction is thus created. A similar situation is encountered in Arin Dwihartanto"s work, H-3, which invites the audience to pose, showing their faces in the hollow space above the neck of a robot soldier. Pictures of the posing audience are displayed on the wall next to the work.

Many attendees of the biennale are mesmerized by the real space created by Matsunaga Mizuho, using transparent clothes. In the room, she hangs a number of masks with the faces of people from different races. The hanging masks are moving due to the whirling fan placed high above. The work is titled Stories under the Same Sky.

Wenda Gu, a Chinese who lives and works in New York, also uses such strategy. He uses hair strands from people of the Chinese ethnic group. The collected hair strands reach the total length of 1000 meter.

The plaited hair is then placed in a spiraling form on the floor; the spiral takes almost the whole floor of the room specially assigned for this work. Attached on the plaited hair are several dog tags with the phrase "United Nation." The floor itself is covered with the color of gold, referring to welfare. Gu said, "The Chinese are everywhere, and they must work hard for their welfare."

Some other works from the guest artists show the huge tendency of the various art communities to use new ways in expressing their thoughts. Present thus are works of video art, paintings on glass combined with metal constructions, arranged fibers, metals, ceramic, and so forth.

"In some art festival, conventional paintings do not attract any attention," said Jim Supangkat, the curator for the biennale.

The first CP Open Biennale also includes a symposium, held last Thursday (September 4), and present several speakers from Indonesia and abroad. Speaking in the symposium were Christine Clark (Australia), Els van der Plas (The Netherlands), Tatehata Akira (Japan), and Oscar Ho (Hong Kong).

Organized by around ten people, CP Open Biennale hopes that it will be able to extract much support which will in time help the biennale to self-finance its own activities.

"For the time being, of course we as organizers must cover much of the expenses, with the help from various parties. We must prove that we are capable of holding a good event smoothly and well. We are certain that later we will have more support," explained Djie Tjianan, the chairman of the CP Foundation who holds the event.