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The Artist, the Practice, and the Stage
Asikin Hasan

I. The Stage

During the nineties, one of our curators managed to motivate a number of Indonesian artists to be present on the stage and forum of the "international" contemporary art. This is due to the awareness about the changes of the global order. Such changes open up opportunities for us to play and share more with others in the international world. This momentum will come only for a while. If we miss it, we will lose valuable chances.

Other groups from the various regions such as Thailand, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and many others who have been standing in the margins before, also see the same opportunities. On the other hand, perhaps the organizer of the event itself starts to be aware of the need to build a "new stage" to renew themselves, by recruiting the powers of the regions that have before been standing in a vague light, or even in complete darkness.

As we know the stage soon produce names such s Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook and Surasi Kusolwong from Thailand. We also find Wong Hoi Cheong and Liew-Kung Yu from Malaysia. In China the effect is even greater: names such as Fang Lijun, Yue Minjun, Feng Mengbo, and Xu Bing come to the surface. There are also other names as Anish Kapoor and Anita Dube. And there are still many others. Those names are already familiar now in the international contemporary art events.

In Indonesia, there are names such as Heri Dono, Dadang Christanto, Tisna Sanjaya, Agus Suwage, Arahmaiani, Krisna Murti, Chusin, and many other actors who play their own parts. These are the names that in the past few years have been known and therefore been representing Indonesia in the international arena. Their works are installed in many countries. Heri Dono"s work has been successful in the ITT Contemporary Museum in Tokyo. The video art of Krisna Murti is in the collection of the Fukuoka Contemporary Museum. Similar thing can be said of the works of Chusin and many other artists.

We have thus played a phase on "someone else"s stage". We do not know for sure yet whether such stage is good or bad for the development of our art world. But is there another choice we can take to be able to enter the international arena amid the chaotic infrastructure of our art world?

Therefore, the emergence of the cp open biennale, which is aimed to play an international role, can be seen as an effort to create a new stage. This is good for the development of our mentality as we have merely been waiting for someone else to build the stage and create a story for us up there.

II. Migration of The Media

On the international stage"and this has lately affected us as well"there emerged works of installations, performance, video art, digital art, web art, and others. I prefer to call these as works with new media. Such phenomenon has been made possible as new media can be accepted easily as the language for art everywhere. Chusin the painter, for example, even needs to present his works in painting installations; merely paintings are not enough. Agus Suwage, who has been known as a painter, in such forum presents more installation works. Similar tendencies are found in Heri Dono, Tisna Sanjaya, and Arahmaiani, while Krisna Murti is working with video art.

Such media migration in the works of these artists does not merely happen in Indonesia, but also in many other countries. Feng Mengbo, one of the prominent Chinese contemporary artists, is known before as a painter, but has turned to the new media as soon as he entered the international stage. Milica Tomic, a video performance artist from Yugoslavia, also used to be a painter before turning to the new media. As we can also see in this exhibition, the artists seem to stand on two grounds or even more. Such tendency is common today, and perhaps even necessary as a strategy in order to ensure the existence of dialogues among many different levels. Many more opportunities can therefore be grabbed.

III. The Variety of Works in CP Open Biennale

How many variants are there in our world of art? Apparently the cp open biennale is trying to draw a map of all the variants, albeit probably not as complete as from A to Z. Generally new and old variants can be seen. The terms of "old" and "new" should not be debated here, as they serve only to help differentiating the different variants of the works I see here. It can be simply said that the term "old" indicates influences from the past, such as found in the practices of craft and tradition-based works. On the other hand, "new" implies influences from the current tendency, especially in the works that use latest technology such as video, digital camera, etc.

Something "old" can be read not as something static and dead, but as something dynamic and undergoing changes within them. This is of course valuable and therefore identifies many things that might have been hiding or hidden before.

When the organizer asked me to write a review about the works of Sasya Tranggono, several parties were wondering who actually this artist was, whose works have not been talked about in the art circle but suddenly appear in such a big event. The questions and amazement show that Sasya is actually a hidden reality, hidden by our current condition. In fact, Sasya and her works have been reviewed by some printed media with a female or a particular readership who give no heed to the talks within the art circle. For Sasya and probably her audience, the joy of viewing is already enough in appreciating art in their world.

Similar thing happened when I was writing about Sartono, a sculptor from Yogyakarta who has moved to Jakarta. To Sartono, works of art should be able to communicate easily with their public. He therefore chooses to work with the realistic tendency. His works resemble craft works, where the skills of his hands still appear strongly in his sculptures. He has once re-presented Ivan Sagito"s work in a three-dimensional form. In this exhibition, he presents a realist sculpture showing a fish. Other tendencies are baffling for him.

Sasya and Sartono may serve as an example, but there are still other artists whose works in this biennale might create questions among the audience. My reading about this is that obviously the curator of the exhibition is trying to present the variants of the art existing in this country, with their own community, from the craft works to video art.

However, as is common in the tradition of biennales to read the latest development of art, can we read all the works displayed here with such approach? Are the paintings presented here can be seen as representing the latest development? Are the sculptures installed here giving the portrayal of the latest developments? Are new media arts such as installation and video art displayed here depicting the tendency of the new media today? The curator can also have another concern, for example why performance art is not included in this event. As we all know, performance art is closely related with contemporary art.

The wide variety of the works presented in the CP Open Biennale might pose a few difficulties for the audience to read the biennale as a portrayal of the current development in art. Every one of the variants of the art now already has a specific line of development. The random choice applied here apparently serves more to emphasize the curatorial line as is stated in the theme of Interpellation.