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CP Open Biennale: Bringing Jakarta to The World

Carla Bianpoen

Many works brimming with meanings are displayed in the art exhibition with an international scale. Every work has its own characteristic and uniqueness.

When Djie Tjianan, the art lover who is also the producer of Video Ezy and the owner of Cinekom, together with Jim Supangkat, the renowned critic and curator, came up with the idea about the CP Open Biennale, they did not think that the event would be hugely successful. But that was exactly what happened: The event, which was held for the first time in Indonesia, was able to bring around 2000 people to attend its opening night at the National Gallery in Jakarta, in the beginning of last September. Well-known speakers from abroad were willing to come to Indonesia and fulfill CP"s request to speak in the symposium. The famous Chinese artist living in New York, Gu Wenda, also came on his own to create his installation work. Other avant-garde artists such as Fang Li Jun and Yue Minjun, besides sending in their painting, also came to Jakarta and spoke at the event of the artists" talk, speaking about their paintings.

What was most interesting had been the phenomenon of how the public was drawn to the exhibition at the National Gallery. People were coming in during lunch breaks or after office hours. They also came during the exhibition tours on Saturdays, at the art events for the children on Sundays, or at the artists" talk on Monday night.

The exhibition, curated by Jim Supangkat, Rizki A Zaelani, and Asmudjo Irianto, was apparently different from other biennales usually held in Indonesia or abroad. The CP Open Biennale wished to widen the platform of the international art with the principles of democracy and plurality; aspects of localness, therefore, could be present as long as they met certain conditions. Thus present were various works made of "uncommon" materials such as bamboo, ceramics, and river stones.

That an installation work made of river stones turned out to be the favorite of almost all visitors"be it art lovers or traders, visitors from Indonesia or abroad"served as a distinct note. Yani Mariani Sastranegara, the artist who created the river stones installation titled Endless IV, could be considered as the star of the CP Open Biennale 2003. Her work resembled a landscape from outer space and betrayed Yani Mariani"s search for the truth about the limit of growth, and about the relationship between life and death, yesterday and tomorrow. Simple materials turned out to be able to express something profoundly meaningful. It is no wonder, then, that the work was reviewed at The New York Times in an article about the CP Open Biennale.

Consider also the work of the Chinese artist Gu Wenda. 191 pieces of braided hair of the Chinese people living outside China were collected and connected together. Each of the braided hair had the same length and together they formed a thousand-meter-long braid. Tags with names of the countries in the world are attached to the braid. The plaited hair was then put in a big spiraling circle on yellow praying paper. The Thin Line: A History of Chinese Diaspora was the 22nd work of an art project that had been going on since 1993 under the title of United Nations. Gu Wenda believed that the unity among nations could be realized in the world of art, where the DNA of all nations could be united in his work.

Then there was also the work of Heri Dono, the famous Trojan House. It was installed in the main exhibition room. The painting version of the installation work has had the honor to be displayed in the main exhibition room of the Biennale de Venezia. Also displayed in the CP Open Biennale was a work of FX Harsono, titled Jarum dalam Mimpiku (Needles in My Dream; 160x 400 cm); the installation work of Astari Rasjid titled The Politics of Seduction that criticized the consumptive lifestyle; the work of D"On Fan-I from Taiwan that explored the growth of fetus in the female body. Sunaryo was present with a giant installation about the war in Iraq; Oscar Motulloh presented chilling pictures; Ay Tjoe Christine displayed the Santa/Satan installation that talked about someone who became the victim of his or her own fanaticism. Dede Eri Supria came with the painting titled Me, My Hand, My Imagination (250x750 cm), his own self-portrait resembling a broken urban worker (but was in fact visualized his feelings as an alienated painter).

Also present was the work of Altje Ully Panjaitan that sought to open the veil behind the glamorous appearance of mannequins. Chusin Setiadikara tried to create paintings of male nudes; Ivan Sagito presented an interesting painting on wooden plank; Dikdik Sayahdikumullah offered his painting that used charcoal and acrylic. There were also the works of Sekar Jatiningrum, IGAK Murniasih, S. Teddy, Lucia Hartini, Nindityo Adipurnomo, Mella Jaarsma, and other familiar names.

There were also artists whose works were displayed for the first time in an event with such stature. There was, for example, Eddy Sulisyo, a student of Indonesian Art Institute, who created an interesting painting titled Confession (200 x 150 cm) using pencils, ink, and oil on canvas. Mizuho Matsunaga, a Japanese female artist who had just earned her MA degree in Tokyo, created an installation work made of mosquito nets. She then hung smiling faces of people from various nations inside the installation. The pictures of the smiling faces were printed on small pillows attached to wind chimes. Stories under the Same Sky betrayed Mizuho"s faith in a happy world. Samsul Arifin created a work in the form of a bed installation, with a mattress made of 400 small cotton dolls. Kasur Image (Mattress Image) was the metaphor for all the dreams, the ideas, and thoughts taking place in bed. Then Dewa Ngakan Md Ardana presented his works on garlic. Dewa Ngakan Md Ardana was a painter who actually sold garlic day-to-day, and he was a good example of how a good work could be made out of simple things. This was also the case with Yuli Prayitno who used daily household objects for his mix-media work, Instant.

The breakthrough of the CP Open Biennale opened the door to Indonesian artists to participate in the world art forums. The important idea of Djie Tjianan and Jim Supangkat, coordinated by CP Foundation General Manager Naning B. Sugeng, showed the world the existence of Indonesia; and the ability to hold such a big event cleanly and smoothly.

However, it was also important to note that there were several works which somehow did not seem to match the prestige of the biennale. Hopefully, the CP Open Biennale in 2005 would be more selective in choosing the works so that Jakarta, which had now seized its due place in the map of the art world, could really stand alongside the art forums in Fukuoka, Gwanju, Shanghai, or Queensland.