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Art and The Urban Kaleidoscope
Marco Kusumawijaya

So many changes seem to have been happening with Indonesian contemporary cities in the last decade, but there is very little clarity about what they will eventually bring about, or to where they will lead Indonesian societies. In the meantime, tsunami-hit Banda Aceh can be a long-lasting lesson about nature and dwelling culture, catapulting our consciousness to the very genesis of a place as settlement, or it can be a very brief reconstruction helter-skelter and just a fashionable story to tell, depending on how we reflect on it. Nevertheless, it is fun just to report on some emerging drifts, which have general and particular aspects at the same time.

1.We Want Changes: The Emerging Urban Civil Society
As the root for both words "civil" (civilis in Latin) and "city" (civitas in Latin) is the same, which is "civis" (citizen), the phrase "urban civil society" is actually superfluous, unless we leave behind the wishful assumption that whatever civil is (or should be) urban and, vice versa, whatever urban is (or should be) civil. However, at least one thing is true: both have to do with active citizens.

And that what has happened following the fall of the repressive regime in Indonesia in 1998. The later years witnessed the emergence and growth of all kinds of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Indonesian cities, dealing specifically with urban issues. There is at least one pairing organization for almost every concern of urban life: heritage conservation, (green) public spaces, freedom in public spheres, freedom of religious belief, clean air, housing rights, land rights, public transports, water, electricity, public finance, etc. There is also the increased frequency and intensity of civil society groups organizing protests on urban issues, at least in larger cities.

There have been groups working individually, as many as groups working in issue-based ad-hoc coalitions. Networking among the CSOs is increasingly national and international. Even the smallest urban movements, such as the Green Map, have their global communities.

Interestingly, in this process they invented or discovered new urban spaces and media. In Jakarta, the famous Bundaran HI became dramatically animated. In Yogyakarta, flyover columns became media of expression, as artists painted murals on their surfaces, changing them from being hard interruptions in the urban spaces into communication media among the urban dwellers. This later one is just a beginning of a series of new awareness about so many urban spaces, spaces which had only been accidentally created by engineers when they built urban infrastructures without the slightest idea that these hardwares would create different types of urban spaces, modify existing ones surrounding them, and change the way people use and live in the cities. Unfortunately, however, these spaces and media, like many other publicly owned discoveries, are now being co-opted by private commercial interests, shamelessly stealing ideas from the artist-inventors.

There is also a rise of interest in urban issues among intellectuals and professionals of the kinds not usually associated directly to urban questions1. More and more of them write and engage themselves in debates on urban issues. Some of them even overtly take stands against or pro certain groups. The frequency and depth of their interest are unprecedented.

There is no doubt that problems and conflicts in urban spaces, such as eviction, urban poverty, unmanaged air pollution, and misconducts of politicians and bureaucrats, have sensitized civil societies to be more aware of the city as a locus of modernization, hence of chaotic changes and confusing time. The media have also significantly increased their coverage of urban issues. More opinions from the "form-giving technicians" of the city - architects and urban planners - are sought after, heard and published, along with urban specialists from diverse backgrounds such as sociology, economy, criminology, and political science. A snowball has indeed been kicked off.

In the arts scene, several important events themed on urbanity are recently noticed, among others: "Enam Manusia Urban" (Six Urban Humans, 2004, sculptures exhibition); "Di Sini Akan Dibangun Mal" (Here a Mall is to be Built, 2005, performance arts) in Yogyakarta; "Urban Horizon" (2004, photography); and "Imagining Jakarta" (2004, collaborative works of architects, graphic designers, photographers, sculptors, writers, and musicians) in Jakarta. There were also conferences on "urban literature" (Sastra Kota, 2004). CP Biennale 2005: Urban/Culture is so far the largest in scale and extension in bringing together works on urbanity by artists and architects. The multidisciplinary collaborations are both a celebration of civil solidarity and a professional quest for career-related inter-enriching experiences. Whatever the motivation, they have been acting together to contribute in defining the emerging urbanities of respective cities. The question is how these good contributions can be accessed by the wider public, and appreciated by decision makers. Their role is, of course, not to give practical immediate solutions to urban problems, but to inspire and remind us of cultural dimensions of urban problems.

Performance arts, despite of being often suspected of certain ambition, such as to steal more scenes from the public, are in certain way instrumental for a continuous redefinition of urbanity: they create and recreate public spaces by both physical appropriation and experimenting with new relationships between the artists (performers) and the audience as a part of the public.

It is clear, though, that the future of these emerging urban movements and CSOs does not always seem bright. As the little successes do not provide much energy, a strong faith in the cause and some organizational skills are important sustenance factors. If there is no capable, sufficient leadership from within to push ever forward, as well as from without to appreciate their contributions as valid forces in the continuous redefinition of urbanity, it is not easy to imagine their continuation.

These contributions must be accepted as valid because it is a right. Its urgency in the Indonesian context is caused by a paradigmatic fault in city building, where short-sighted economy and technicality have been exclusively dominating decision-making process, the price of which we are now paying dearly in the forms of degraded quality of life, reduced choices, out-dated and unsustainable infrastructure and services, inhibited (if not conflict-laden) social-cultural exchanges, disoriented public life, and inadequate public spaces.

Civil society groups, including artists and other cultural producers can and must be encouraged to contribute actively to the redefinition of urbanity as an incomplete project, even if without any blueprint, because simply they are the owners and have the most creativity and energy.

To see the significance of their contribution, one must see urbanity as an on-going project. First of all a stumbling block must be dug out and put away. This stumbling block is the habit of seeing only two completed bipolar options: modernization vs. tradition, old vs. new, West vs. East. Urbanity is contextual, both spatially and temporally, and is always in the making. Options are not ready-made, but are being made every moment. Choices are not between what is already there, but are about anticipating, adapting, and combining what the future keeps on offering. Choices are not given, but are created all the time. This kind of choices requires ethics and aesthetics, sense of direction, wide perspective, and creativity.

Artists' contribution must, however, go beyond aesthetics. Their powers in intuitive and critical reflection must be utilized to pierce through the thick and sticky mud of stereotypes, vested interests, and prejudices - even if nothing lasts longer than prejudices. Artists are always good debunkers by tradition and visionary by ambition. Any future urban civilization can use those traits in its making.

It is true that choices are ever growing, and the world is becoming ever confusing as it is ever more crowded with options and possible exchanges. Conflicts too are becoming more likely and abundant. Religions become important again, even if only as a social-political issue, instead of a spiritual one. Within this context, globalization, as facilitated by science and technology, is a threatening cannon by oversized and super capitals to charge on, as much as it is a people's chance to network and change the balance. True, more and more of urban spaces are being colonized by capitals, ruptured, and no more idealized utopia seems to be possible. However, real life (and culture) is recreated by the games in the process. For that reason, we need sensitivity and critical reflections in every step of the process. We need participants in the creation process, not consumers of the end products.

Unfortunately, the energy and enthusiasm of the CSOs are far from being actively appreciated. We have indeed heard frustration about gaps between the dynamics at the demand side, and the spatial realities in our cities, together with the outdated social-political inertia, at the supply side.

Take the case of the arts in the city, the public sculpture program of Jakarta. CSOs, in this case artistic and intellectual communities, have by far a more sophisticated discourse and ability compared to the city government's simplistic approach2. Meanwhile, the remaking of sidewalks along Thamrin Avenue and many other urban design projects in the capital, show that the professionals (architects, landscape and urban designers) are also far behind the CSO's requirements, aspirations, and priority3. The issue is perhaps not the level of competence of the technician professionals, but the way the city can create healthy debates, take the best out of its citizens, and achieve high quality conclusions to serve as the terms of reference. The civil society in general, the technical professionals, and the city's bureaucrats can, and need to, learn from each other. It is in our very interest to acknowledge the various roles and actors that can fill the gaps and facilitate that process.

2. Making Density Work: The City's Hardware
Friday, July 14, 2005, urbanity became a 10 p.m. nightmare for Jakarta: Its traffic did not move a bit between 5 to 10 p.m. A number of cultural activities were cancelled. Only 60 guests showed up at the opening of the "Festival of Photojournalism" in downtown Jakarta. Some of them came in wet from the streets.

The cause was a mid-July shower, which was not at all the heaviest of the year. True, in the past five or more years, Jakarta has been experiencing this absurd immobility due to heavy rains. This, however, usually takes place in January or February, during the heaviest rains. It has never happened in July before.

Therefore this mid-July 10 p.m. nightmare has a lot to tell. First, it tells of the fact that over-density of car will undermine the value of the density of other things that make city a city, as density without mobility is like a mid-life crisis: it is very difficult not to panic, but once you do, things get worse.

It also says something about the pathology of urban mass consumerism. As everybody with a car on the Friday evening is moving towards only a limited number of ill-located spots (among other things: the oversized malls) in the city, all at the same time, for a feeding and shopping spree, a little rain can cause a disaster, as the city's low-quality drainage network might have been impaired here and there by current and past construction boom over the last ten years.

Density of consumption, as well as other exchanges, becomes less a special freedom that a city is supposed to offer if the true value of urbanity, which is density in its fullest meaning and mobility in its simplest sense, is not well maintained vis-à-vis stresses caused by its own increasing demand.

Physical infrastructures, it should be clear to us by now, is not just an economical, let alone short-term, necessity. Therefore, neither is it an economic-exclusive decision. It is truly a cultural choice. It affects the whole idea of why the city is the ultimate form of settlement. Physical infrastructures have always been a major element and force that co-shape the city and its life. It is therefore highly understandable why the priest-cum-philosopher Franz Magnis-Suseno felt obliged to write his criticism about why a highly expensive "infrastructure summit" in 2005 produced only 14 toll roads projects. Not only was it insufficient; it was also misguided. We needed more railways, he wrote. And that brings to the fore the confrontation of not only two very different forms of infrastructure, but also two whole sets of societal process and organizations.

In the years to come, Indonesian cities will face a major overhaul of infrastructures. New ones will be built. Things might not be as good as in "the years of building happily" during the 1980s and early 1990s, but urban infrastructures are what Indonesian cities will demand, so cities will get these infrastructure either slowly or quickly, but surely eventually. Population growth, urban migration, economic growth, and the whole modernization process, will demand that. Let us do something so that such important decisions are made by the whole segments of society and that they will undergo a serious and due process of debates, with a clear conscience that it is important as to shape deeply our future urban civilization as a whole.

Infrastructures impose order and demand certain behaviors and discipline. Infrastructures also create new types of urban spaces and usage, and different possibilities to relate existing spaces. The ring roads of Jakarta created a new socio-geographical landscape. The suburbs surrounding the city are more connected to each other than each to the city center. The elevated highway cuts through Bandung in an unprecedented scale and depth. It changes the city not only in a geographical sense, but also in paving the way for new unpredictable modes of future development, after, of course, so much environmental and emotional costs. In Yogyakarta, the ring roads and flyovers have mainly the function to encourage people not to go through the city center, when they need only to pass the city, and to create additional supply of accessible lands for development. As it is currently taking place, the new mode of development is producing very different kinds of spaces, of buildings and open spaces, and of their relationships, in terms of scale and formality. Individual, big spaces, buildings, and open spaces predominate. So do cars. There is much negotiation among space users. Approach and procession are formal. Incidental and leisure walks are not possible. The premise that it necessarily adds to supply of land actually shuns real problems solving. Creating new supply of lands negates the possibility of optimizing existing urban spaces. This skill - both cultural and technical - of optimizing existing urban spaces is of extreme importance for a nation about to experience the crossing of threshold of 50% urbanization rate. Cities cannot grow horizontally all the time. The ability to grow denser instead of wider is economical, technically and culturally speaking. It involves modes of living together, of regulating interactions and balance between the public and private spheres, and of using spaces, infrastructures, and facilities.

The cities need to start preparing itself by doing what is necessary for the long term sound sustainability, rather than by taking the easiest available option. The city needs to train itself - its citizens, its bureaucracy, its socio-political system - to deal with the ever-increasing density. There are a lot of changes to be negotiated. Only by practice can a city increase its social-political capacity4 to a level commensurate with the demand of the future.

3. The Growing Pain: Emerging Metropolises
In Indonesian urban history Jakarta has been dominant in almost all aspects only after the Second World War. In pre-war times, it was smaller than Surabaya in terms of population. Its dominance, however, has a longer history, since the 17th century when the Dutch established it as its trading capital not only for the Dutch Indies, but also for all East Asia.

But now Jakarta has lost its overarching dominance, even if it is still the largest city in Indonesia. It is no longer the only capital in the country's arts scene. Yogyakarta, Bandung, and Denpasar are at least rivals in the same category. Surabaya, strangely enough, despite its pre-war glory and current quality of growth and relative prosperity, has not come to the fore as an important city in the arts scene. In recent years, Jakarta is certainly not the most attractive city in terms of quality of life. Other metropolises are simply emerging.

Several Indonesian cities such as Surabaya, Makassar, Palembang, Medan, Samarinda, Denpasar, and even Banda Aceh before the tsunami, are entering a new phase as they are gearing up to become metropolitan. They are becoming more interdependent with their surroundings, more agglomerated as industrial complexes that dominate their regions, and with rapid population growth. All of them are experiencing problems of mobility, of the emerging middle class with new ways of consumption, of growing poverty, of outdated infrastructure and social political capacity... They are also confused by both globalization and decentralization, and often misguided by Jakarta, both as a power and a wrong icon of metropolitan modernity. They are in desperate need to strike a sustainable balance between the past and the future, between the sweetness and pathology of modernization, between autonomy and the need to work together. Lives in such cities, one can imagine, are full of violence generated by the individual and communal efforts for survival, not only in the economic sense, but also in social-cultural terms. The public sphere has lost its codes. Public spaces have become anonymous and confusing, their surfaces hard to read as multiple and seemingly unrelated messages are juxtaposed on them. More than ever, those cities need culturally and intellectually inspired population to make sense of the rapid development process, and to reproduce social-cultural codes necessary to navigate a new urban landscape.

One of the challenges of these emerging metropolises is that they have to decide on how to treat the surfaces of their (public) spaces. These surfaces are themselves the space of battle for domination in messaging. This ambition is called branding. While civil society groups often discover these surfaces to send public messages on public issues, there are commercial interests that would like to use it to send messages which brand the public sphere. A good example of this battle could be seen when an NGO covered a huge billboard belonging to Citibank at one corner of Bundaran HI with a black banner painted with figures of Jakarta's annual budget. This case touched upon the issue of the ownership of public space and sphere, and the validity of public messages.

In Yogyakarta a cigarette company is currently persuading the city to put its brand on all flyover columns and many other surfaces of public spaces. This is a shameful attempt to steal the public spaces the mural artists have invented as media.

Globalization and Jakarta should not misguide the emerging metropolises which need to believe that other forms of urbanity are possible, and that urbanity is a project in progress, most of the time without blueprint. These metropolises need to understand their own heritage and internal forces and energy as potentials, while at the same time understand the globalizing forces in their context. When we say a city, it should mean the whole population and network of relations that channel and exchange information intelligently.

Sure, now globalization is at different rate, scale, and depth, and involves much larger population than just the elites. However, the disparity remains: different people, not to mention different classes of societies, experience globalization differently as access to information and the global net differs among them. Some think about adjusting their time zone all the time, as they hop from one continent to others, living a universal form of hotel room and lobby, and of culturally unspecific codes, while some folk in the gampongs (historical neighborhoods) of tsunami-hit Banda Aceh find it disturbing to change membership temporally from one dusun (sub-gampong) to another, despite the fact that Banda Aceh has had its high time of globalization, in different intensity and scale, of course, in the 17th century, when the Sultanate of Aceh sent an ambassador to the Netherlands, and received an ambassador from England.

Coffee shops, or kedai kopi in the local language, are full with people, especially between 5 pm and 6.30 pm, or between the end of office hour and the time for sunset prayer. I heard a friend saying that the problem of urbanity in Java is that there are no coffee shops as in Sumatra. More expensive restaurants are full with international crews of the huge reconstruction process. The tsunami on December 26, 2005 has brought a new mode of globalization to Banda Aceh, too. Most relief and reconstruction coordination meetings in Banda Aceh are conducted in English, with a myriad of accents - ranging from the American, Acehnese, Japanese, to Turkish, Irish, Korean, and German. People in the streets see cars and trucks with stickers of all sorts of logos, acronyms, or abbreviations. In the meantime, the World Bank and other banks are preparing a road map for international capitals to enter and grow in the province, through the city.

The airport sees the daily disembarkation of people with laptop computers, indicating the possible future of solving hard physical problems merely with softwares. Indeed it is already like that. These laptops already contain intelligence that determines the shape of the city for the next decades, with a lot of easy tsunami-dollars transferred. It unavoidably also signifies an emerging hierarchy: software on the top of the food chain, and hard black real bodies carrying the heavier suitcases of the international helpers at the bottom of the food-chain.

Sadly, though, there is hardly sufficient critical reflection of the kind of urbanity that the Acehnese want for their future city. Banda Aceh had its time of greatness, and it should be great again. But people are busy coordinating actions instead of thoughts, and busy aligning interests instead of purpose and goals. Yes, it is not easy to ask people in a land full of ruins, mass graveyards, and tents to reflect on a future more than six months ahead. There is a haste to build a roof for every survivor. Both tsunami survivors and many of their helpers have to survive in a new anthropological condition that predates urbanity on this land.

But it is not only Banda Aceh that has lost many of its physical heritage because of the tsunami. A lot of emotional blows have taken tolls in Medan, Solo, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Jakarta, even Baubau (a small town of 100,000 people in Southeast Sulawesi). They have experienced traumatic loss or damage of the physical heritage deeply related to their sense of place and identity.

An emerging metropolis has a very tempting program to get rid of things deemed irrelevant to the present (and more: to the future), and to give ever more spaces to the things of the future. Of course the economic and political interests are obvious. Again we are entering an area where economic and political instrumental reasoning are intervening into the cultural sphere, in this case embedded in space and time.

This issue is not as simple as it may seem. It is fundamentally about the position of memory in the city as our collective space. How do we position memory (which is temporal and abstract) in the urban space (which is concrete and particular)? How do we decide which memory to be retained, and which to be replaced? How much do we want to store? What do we add into our store, and what to discard? Quantity is certainly not the only issue, but the issue of quality sounds cliché, too. In a situation where there are equally valid demands for space for other things, which may include future memory, a philosophy and methodology for selection are therefore irreplaceable. As architecture is the future archaeology, the question on the position of memory in our cities is connected with the question about the position of architecture in (the future) time.

It is very easy to be trapped in a romantic conservative attitude with regards to urban heritage, especially when it benefits certain interests such as promoted by tourism and cultural packaging, which appreciate culture only as long as it can be branded and packaged in discontinuous pieces to be sold as souvenirs. This attitude is sometimes sufficient when short-term economy is concerned, but will easily fall when faced with aggressive land-use change campaign by other, larger profitable enterprises. The only dimension that counts would be the size of profit. Community-focused approach is effective to the extent that it caters to the interest of local communities, and to encourage a sense of belonging fundamental for heritage maintenance and defense. But surely the value and meaning of heritage go beyond its immediate community, geographically and culturally.

Another character of our emerging metropolises is their horizontal expansion with a consequence of the blurring of urban-rural boundaries.

The line between urban and rural areas are not clear cut, even if their respective conditions are distinguishable. What is urban is hard to define, more than ever, as a density of information and ideology (and other exchanges) is no longer an exclusive privilege of urban dwellers. In the Indonesian context, the reverse is also true: the domination of nature over culture, as in the case of many disasters caused by human mistakes such as in Jakarta, makes the urban dwellers feel the presence of nature more than culture. More and more cities and villages have both urban and rural conditions that are flowing one into the other. We can even speak now of rural urbanity, which is urban conditions existing in villages (rural areas), and of urban rurality, which is rural conditions in cities (urban areas). The emerging horizontal metropolises bring more urbanity into the rural landscape, while at the same time also absorb and appropriate rural informality and horizontality.

As a result there is no longer a line or a space between the urban and the rural in this globalizing world. Everything urban can happen, and has happened, in rural area. The reverse is also true: what is rural, or pre-urban, such as bad drainage system, is taking place in a seemingly mighty metropolis like Jakarta. It is easy to say that it is just a technical incompetence. But a technical incompetence at gigantic scale and depth is a cultural problem.

Villages are being urbanized by media and communication (including transport) technology. Cities are being ruralized by incompetent urban management that makes, among other things, a simple and average shower a natural disaster. In other words, the basis of our modern civilization, which is science and technology, has the capability to be a-spatial in their power to transform and, with that power, is sucking villages into the most sophisticated, futuristic realm of urban globe; while our incapable societal organization surrenders what is supposed to be the most cultural of all human creation - the city - back to nature, but not with the green agenda in mind at all.

It has become increasingly possible for more people habitually to transgress the borders between the urban and the rural, between culture and nature, between bigger cities and smaller towns. Indeed, the position of nature in the city is brought to the fore for rethinking again and again in the latest developments of arts, architecture, urban design, and urban planning, even the overall development planning. The relationship between culture vis-à-vis nature is questioned: should the city, as culture, be in the nature, surrounded by nature, or merging with it? Should it take care of nature, or let itself be taken care of by nature? The ideas of Garden City, as well as of the hut as the basic shelter are given new meanings and urgency. The relationship concerns more than just the issue of greenery. It concerns now the whole set of green urban lifestyle promoted as alternative by the environmentalists.

The horizontal expansion of the metropolises brings along a pathology of dependence to cars. Sadly, everybody refuse to see that cars are in fact anti-urban. They only move people about, from one destination to another, while at the same time rob people of their chance to enjoy journeys between destinations. In other words, they haste people to see urban spaces as mere functional distance to cross over: The city is an expanse of anonymous space, where meeting others is possible only by appointment, no accidental exchanges with strangers are encouraged. Cars are also anti-social, as they isolate people one from the other, with their hard surfaces armoring and preventing bodies from direct contact. A major part of urban space - the streets - becomes therefore hard and violent like it has never been before. Even entering into their flows already incites feeling of fear and aggressiveness. As cities are entering the new phase of growth, density, and expansion, mobility becomes a critical question. Dependence on cars is an easy solution, at both epistemological and systemic levels. Cars offer freedom only to those who can afford them, and only to certain extent. As it is clear by now, especially in Jakarta and Bandung, that extent is actually very limited. Both epistemologically and politically, there is a clear temptation to supply more cars and highways to "demand-driven" society. Against this primitive petrochemical-based monster, which embedded itself already for so long in our societal system and individual ambition, sustainability champions need to do more to uproot and reconstruct several layers of awareness, political and commercial interests, and to initiate interventions in professional trainings and education. This necessary uprooting and reconstruction process is becoming harder every time its initiation is delayed.

4. The Faith in Public Space: Enter the Poor
The last decade of Indonesian urban history is marked significantly by the entry of the poor into the public sphere of urban life. It is not just that they are unstoppable - they are institutionalizing themselves nationally and globally - but there is also no point in trying to stop them. The governments of post-Suharto era, even if they managed to do some bloody evictions, do not have enough power to curb the poor's movements completely; neither do they have the arguments, the aura, and the charisma to do so.

It is in the city that for the first time the awareness about the problem of poverty, not of the poor, was brought to the street.

Their socio-political significance well noted, the poor's existence in urban space needs more attention, as they do contribute plenty to everybody: They seem to be the only ones with faith in the public space. Perhaps their motivation is not that noble; as Wardah Hafidz once said, they do so because no other space is "informally" open to them. They take things to the streets, so to speak, because they can go nowhere else. Nevertheless, their most important contribution is that they keep testing the water, so that at least we know that the public space is still open, even if from time to time someone always tries to shrink it. It is actually embarrassing how the poorest of the city are contributing the most important thing to the whole city.

The poor in the last few years have aggressively been claiming and inventing new public spaces and medias. In the process they intensely bring up to the public spaces issues that are genuinely public, far beyond their own interest, even if self-motivated initially by the latter. They are also, in effect, reinstating and reinstituting the existence of genuine public space, which has long gone under Suharto, and is still, as always, threatened by Indonesia's long history of fascist and non-urban culture of power.

The poor also offer their valid informal lifestyles into the new world of active multiculturalism. While other classes are formalizing Indonesian lifestyle following Western forms, the poor are genuine and honest about their lifestyle. In a globalizing world and cities, this is no small contribution if only we are ready to consider it for the benefits of all. They provide not a defensive bastion, but an offensive alternative. The kampong, gampong, or neighborhood is back, as a pluralizing force, vis-à-vis the homogenizing force of globalization with its mass consumptive culture that penetrates through, and finds its agents, in the cities. 

In the meantime the middle class is reproducing "new" public space, too: the interior of their own house with the TV box, and of malls, clubs, and hotel lobbies. They are also changing the contents of those public spaces, as more and more they are throwing garbage of fragments of their private affairs into the realm of public spaces, paving the way for "the fall of public man6."

The poor invest their stakes in the genuine public spaces, showing that they still believe in it, despite the fact that they are often ignored and viewed as anarchists. The poor have no choice but to appeal to the most formless court, the public opinion in the forum. The middle class, on the other hands, is retreating into safe, isolated interiorized "public space"and private deals with the public authority, as they believe that they have more access to those type of spaces and within them they have more control.

In Jakarta, and I believe also very soon in other big cities, the poor also are re-entering the city's central areas, filling the gaps left behind by out-migrating middle and upper class. For the first time in its history, Jakarta has been in the past few years experiencing a negative net-migration - there are more people moving out than those moving in. As land use is drastically changing in the city central areas (the central and south municipalities, administratively speaking), population in these areas is decreasing. The number of the poor is increasing in these same areas to fill in the gap, as land-use change also means more easy jobs in the commercial sectors, while the East, North, and West Jakarta are saturated without significant economic growth.

The solution on land issue will have tremendous consequence on the urbanization process in its fullest sense (which is cultural and social as well as economical). Equitable solution in enabling the poor to house themselves would also mean a peaceful road to modernization of urban social life and cohesion for everybody. Very much related to this is the poor's access to land. Indonesian cities will never develop equitably and reach civilized state if usage, instead of ownership, is given priority on land. Cities can never fulfill their task of housing everybody equitably, and therefore create a sound environment based on social justice, if land issue is not solved.

But again, all above said, who can guarantee any permanency? Nobody, in all times, ever expects to find the city a haven of stable lives. Nobody, in our time, expects less change to take place in cities of the future. It was true in the past, as it is true now, and might be true in the future. Changes are abundant, but they need to be managed with solid equity on basic resource such as land.

Banda Aceh, June – July 2005

Marco Kusumawijaya


1 For example, in 2004 a group that called themselves 'Forum Kepedulian Akademisi Anti Penggusuran' (Forum of Anti-Eviction Concerned Academics) consists of philosophers, economists, lawyers, sociologists, architect, urbanists, and religious leaders. In many occasions I have been invited to discussions on urban issues with diverse groups of artists, young professionals and researchers, political parties' think tanks, writers, religious leaders and cadres, etc.

2 The city, driven by its general governor, wish to erect, at every end of each main street, statue of figures whose names are used for the respective streets.

3 The sidewalks are covered with watertight concrete slabs, poured and hardened on site, with no possibility for direct rainwater absorption into the soil. Many environmentalists, taking into consideration the acute problem of flood and ground water in Jakarta, recommended that the sidewalks be perforated for easy rainwater absorption. In principle, every opportunity must be taken for this purpose, given the already degraded environment of Jakarta.

4 By social-political capacity I mean the power of the respective urban communities in consolidating their common vision and working together towards well thought goals.