THE National Gallery was alive with the sound of much more than music as it launched this morning (Friday, June 21) into the biggest and most radical exhibition of contemporary Indonesian art ever seen in Australia.
And, when NGA director Nick Mitzevich advised visitors to “listen to and learn from the sounds of Indonesia,” he wasn’t kidding — in the first four installations of the show, soundscapes are as important as the visuals.
Recent works, large-scale commissions and performance art like, “Transaction of Hollows”, by Melati Suryodarmo, combine in a cool, youthful show which traverses the Independence era to the end of the New Order, including artistic responses to the mass killings of 1965-66 and art and resistance under the New Order, the art which followed the fall of the Suharto regime.
Suryodarmo told assembled media this morning how excited she was to have had her performance work purchased by the NGA, while senior artist FX Harsono outlined the transition from an earlier era of repression under former President Suharto into the contemporary era of outspoken art.
Collaborators Uji “Hahan” Handoko Eko Saputro and Adi “Uma Gumma” Kusuma, both from Yogyakarta, happily showed off the embroidered jackets inspired by their neon art, one of which director Mitzevich was also sporting.
Hahan told “CityNews” how by the late 2000s Indonesian artists were firing on the art market, but how this had transitioned into a period of rampant commercialisation, with artists now challenged to maintain their integrity. That’s the subject of their flashing neon work, which has taken over an entire section of the gallery.
Elsewhere, wandering around the wider gallery, a dozen locally engaged vocal “actors” improvised vocal sounds for experimental musician and sound artist, Duto Hardono’s work, “In harmonia progressio”, taken from the Latin motto of the ITB university where he teaches in Bandung, Indonesia. Hardono told “CityNews” he’d had two days to rehearse.
In keeping with the regional socio-political importance of the show, an extensive catalogue has been assembled by the curators, Carol Cains and Jaklyn Babington, ranging across the criteria for judging Indonesian painting, and the way activists, journalists, politicians, artists and students have expressed criticism, discontent and outrage.
“Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia”, NGA, June 21 to October 27. Details of public programs and performances at nga.gov.au