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2004 - 2005
Mix media
Installation (digital print, photocopy, installation;
technique: drawing, computer coloring)

Akademi Samali
(Hikmat Darmawan, Zarkasih "Zarki" Sujiharno, Beng Rahadian)

Akademi Samali was founded in March 2005 in Jakarta, by Beng Rahardian (Tehjahe Studio), Hikmat Darmawan (Studio 9), and Zarki (Ginuk Studio). This is a community open for everyone wishing to develop the comics as an autonomous art. Akademi Samali plans to hold discussions, exhibitions, independent publication, and documentation of comics from Indonesia and beyond.

The city always possesses dark corners, unkempt crooks, forgotten spaces chronicling nightmares or shattered dreams. Spaces that log decaying time. Spaces like comics.

Yes, comics. But let us first talk about the city.

The cities of the 20th century until today are a sign that human beings have become old.

Explosion of population, explosion of life's complexities, explosion of information. The magnitude looming in the word“city”seems to keep on expanding, inflating. When the word “city” is not enough, we subsequently have “metropolitan.” Inadequate still, and thus “megapolitan.” After that, “global village”? What if the time comes for a “global city” when the entire world is imagined as having become one metropolis?

The signs pointing toward that direction are not merely the developments of words. The city, indeed, is not a mere word. It is also a cultural space containing physical characters—real characters that can even create real pains in our soul and our body.

Globalization, for example, can be truly painful. The currently-clichéd word is a story about splintered boundaries. Suddenly, many lost their home of meanings, a home that had once been snug, cozy, and safe within each geocultural realm. “Foreign” values creep freely into the rooms in our homes—through the TV, the radio, the internet. Then there are still the daily aspects of economy. Butterfly effect. A deal within a closed room in one New York skyscraper can disadvantage a small-time entrepreneur of soybean cakes in one corner of Central Java.

In the beginning, globalization was born out of—to borrow an expression by Goenawan Mohamad—“the twentieth century tendency… to change the world in a vast range and high velocity1.” Or in Chairil Anwar's words, quoted also by Goenawan, the 20th century is like a “non-stop” airplane, going “without getting, without landing.” The world imagined as going all-fast, rushes people only to one direction: ahead, “forward”— however abstract the direction actually is if we ponder about it.

The one-direction-ness, however fragile, feels potent. Fragile, as the direction is too coerced; humans are propelled toward this direction without having once been given a space to ask “why?” Potent, as in the uniformity of a global lifestyle, not only promises of welfare are stored, but also promises of togetherness, promises that no one will be “left behind.”

And then the promises are furthermore strengthened, for example by the hawkish military paradigm of the US today, dividing countries of the world into two groups: the “central” countries supporting globalization, and the “rogue” countries that “endanger” globalization.

To quote Goenawan Mohamad once again: in such a world, violence is taking place, “when the unique, the irreplaceable, the inimitable, are swept over by a force to create a world where the collective, the social, runs rampant2.”

The illusion of progress rushes more intensely as the technicalism character in modernization strengthens (Marshall Hodgson, as quoted by Nurcholis Madjid). Peter Berger has noted such technicalism when he recorded the shift from the traditional world to the modern, which peaked in the 20th century. In Berger's notes, technicalism is the belief that nature can be engineered (through technology).

Technic. Technology. Technocracy. Techno. Albeit having the same root, each word has its own meaning. “Techno” is a slang that lately becomes familiar among the metropolitan clubbers. Techno functions as an adjective, mostly used to call one of the latest dance music relying on digital process. Artificial sounds, for the sake of an escapist ambiance that is simultaneously exclusive.

The music, therefore, as well as the word ('techno'), are also an embodiment of a lifestyle. The lifestyle that represents—what? The latest stage of the society/culture of technicalism, perhaps?

Naturally what looms behind the word are factories; big and heavy machines; metal constructions, arrogant, gigantic, overcoming humans.

Returning to the music analogue, industrial music is a genre of music processing tumult, rough noises, distortion. This is an advanced stage of the industrial society, when the nightmarish situation of an old factory manifests precisely as the contemporary aesthetic in music. The kind of music that betrays a panicked state of mind, in a manic depressive culture.

The city is also a theater of lifestyle. Ah, yes, lifestyle. In a metropolitan lifestyle, the quality of “style” overcomes the quality of “life.” Is this a prejudice? Hm. Have you read Cosmopolitan this week?

Indeed, this is a fretful statement. The anxiety of the urbanites standing on the fringe of the “city-ism” with struggling hearts—isn't there any other choice? The anxiety that might be the logical consequence for Akademi Samali who has chosen to deal with a medium on the edge: the comics.

The comics are an awkward space, a bastard medium. But Akademi Samali believes that one of the intellectual tasks, as Radhar Panca Dahana once expounded, is to expand the communication space in the society. If the comics are the communication space we master the most, why don't we develop them to the fullest? And if by sharing such anxiety a communicative link can be created, why not?

So here we are, manifesting our angst about the “city-ism” we are experiencing, in a narrative art whose potentials are not yet frequently dealt with. How do you do? (Hikmat Darmawan)

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