Yogyakarta. Invention and re-invention: such could be the synonyms for ArtJog, the artists fair that has blown a fresh wind through the art world since its inception in Yogyakarta in 2008.
Evolving into a major art tourism destination in Yogyakarta and beyond, ArtJog has been driven by artists and artistic creativity to become a boutique fair that is successfully keeping the balance between commerce, art and entertainment.
When I spoke to fair founder and artistic director Heri Pemad some weeks ago, he promised that this year’s fair would again be different from the previous ones, it would be like a spa, a healing well-spring so to say. Indeed, it was a promise well-fulfilled.
Innovative, vibrant and utterly refreshing, the latest instalment of ArtJog embraces local and international artists with a new logo highlighting “Infinity in Flux,” and tying them together in an Unending Loop that Bonds the Artist and the Audience. Like a metaphor for its conceptual frame, a huge green earth ball stands in front of the Taman Budaya building, welcoming local and international crowds into an "art spa" of sorts. Conceived by Heri Pemad himself, it is covered with growing grass, watered with automatic built-in water sprayers.
In a space that could be considered as the antechamber to the larger exhibition space, the incredible artist and peace activist Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree, invites visitors to write up their hopes and expectations and hang it onto the tree. After the event these wishes will join others to be buried under the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland, a project she started in 1981.
Yoko Ono first shocked the world with her performance "Cut Piece" (1964) when she invited the audience in the Sogetsu-Tokyo art center to cut her dress from her body. Her practice was very much in line with the Fluxus movement which emerged in the late 1950s to counter elitist and conventional definitions of art.
Like Fluxus, Artjog has been defying conventions ever since its inception as an artist-oriented fair doing away with galleries intermediaries.
Sharing the space with Yoko Ono, a commissioned work by artist couple Santi Ariestiowanti and Miko Bawono collaborating under the name Indie Guerillas features a work titled "Taman Budaya" ("Cultural Park") which presents eight bicycles in an urban space setting where the public is invited to revive personal communication, face-to-face or in spiritual meditation.
True to its new logo and theme, the current edition of ArtJog seems to move even further away from the conventional model of art fair, nurturing a biennale quality and providing individual artists or artists groups an even larger space than ever before.
With almost all of the works being inter-active installations one might worry about sales. But fair director Satriagama Rekantaseta, or Seto for short, quickly brushes away such concerns. We’re fine, he insists, 70 percent of the works were sold, including the only painting in the show, "Shangrila" by Masriadi, which sold for Rp 4.5 billion ($336,000) before Artjog had even opened.
An exciting highlight is Philippine artist Mark Justiniani’s "Mime," an installation that digs 40 centimeters into the floor of the venue. Using LED lighting, mirrors and reflective objects it evokes an illusionary sense of dizzying reality. Similarly, stage designer-cum-photo and installation artist Jay Subiyakto’s work features an installation in which visitors stand on a rotating disk to watch a video through a perforated screen.
The movement in the video goes from right to left, and watching it through this screen evokes a spinning sensation. Process is an important part of art creation, something which is particularly highlighted by Aditya Novali’s installation of 35,000 drawings of faces extracted from Dr. Melani WS’s upcoming photo book on Indonesian Art. It was a vertiginous experience, he confessed, imitating the long and arduous process of Dr. Melani’s book preparation.
Process was certainly a major feat that marks Mella Jaarsma’s installation titled "Pulang" ("Coming Home"). Long before the opening of ArtJog, Mella had dispatched four people in the four directions from Point Zero in Yogyakarta — a popular meeting place in the city — to travel. The resulting work features reflections on concepts of home and travel through video and the backpacks the participants had been given for their journey.
Land issues are highlighted by the artists which form the Jatiwangi Art Factory, which researches village life through art. Asking visitors to bring a patch of sand to their project, they encourage ArtJog visitors to consider land and issues that impact on social life. This year's event happens to coincide with the focus on land in Jatiwangi district.
Meanwhile, the Prison Art Project (PAP), which rehabilitates drug convicts through art, displays an array of leaves in an exhibition named "In the Name of Leaf" which comes with samples gathered in a thick book. The focus on leaves was inspired by the leaf which saw them convicted.
Lifepatch, a citizen initiative in art, science and technology, foresees more citizen involvement in ensuring safety from crime in the city. They have created an interactive installation called "Bedil" which offers a shooting spree to end terror and destruction in the illusionary city of Yogyakarta in 2044. Using toy weapons it may appear like a fun game, but is in fact quite forward-looking.
The 90 works on display include works by 35 artists selected from 800 applicants, plus 62 specially invited artists. Included is also architect Budi Pradono’s "Therapeutical Cave," formed by pleated paperwork. Infused with changing color lighting, it is supposed to provide visitors with a restful place.
There are also international artists participating, such as Aaron Taylor Kuffner — known for his drawing on sonic tradition of the Indonesian gamelan and the emerging field of robotics to create create magical, viscerally-powerful, site-specific performances and temporary and permanent. Other artists from abroad include Adam de Boer (USA), Collective DING (France), Chong Kim Chiew and Chris Chong Chan Fui (Malaysia), Boedi Wijaya (Singapore), Sinta Tantra (London) and Stefanie Wuschitz (Austria).
Infinity in Flux Through June 28 Taman Budaya Yogyakarta, Jalan Sriwedani No. 1, Yogyakarta