Jakarta. To celebrate the release of her new single, "Warna-Warna," or "Colors," jazz-pop singer Andien is holding an art exhibition of the same title that features works by young disabled artists at Dia.Lo.Gue Artspace in Kemang, South Jakarta, from Aug. 28 to Sept. 9.
Warna-Warna – the music video was launched last month – is a track from Andien's fifth album "Metamorfosa" ("Metamorphosis"), an upbeat album celebrating the singer's 18-year career and her recent experiences of motherhood.
The song is composed by Lafa and Tomorrow People Ensemble (TPE). Their inspiration was the classic children's song "Pelangi-Pelangi" ("Rainbows").
"The children’s song is about how children love rainbows. They see it as something colorful and glorious. As we grow up, it becomes something else entirely. It's still the same object, but each of us sees it differently," Andien said last week.
Andien said the theme of her new song fits the goal of the exhibition: to get the public to see how disabled children – from Bandung's Art Therapy Center (ATC) Widyatama – channel their creativity.
The singer first met the children at the Happiness Festival in Jakarta’s Taman Menteng last March. The children gave Andien a CD of songs and art works they made themselves.
"I listened to the songs at home, and I cried. These incredible songs were written by special needs kids. Some of them are schizophrenic, even deaf," Andien said.
Andien and her family ended up visiting ATC Widyatama's facilities in Bandung, West Java. Established in 2014, the center currently has 65 students with varying physical, mental and intellectual disabilities.
"I sat down with the teachers. The principal showed me a picture of a realistic-looking tomato drawn by one of the students. He told me parents are often pessimistic that their children would amount to anything. Given the same assignment, some of them would draw a purple tomato, or a lopsided one. The thing is, these kids just see tomatoes differently from us. I thought their perspectives deserve to be seen and heard by the world," Andien said.
The exhibition at Dia.Lo.Gue features 62 artworks by 14 artists. There are original works, works derived from existing ones and also recycled works.
The paintings are hung on both walls of Dia.Lo.Gue’s corridor. Screen filters are placed right in the middle of the narrow space. We can compare seeing the paintings directly and seeing them through the filters, which are available in several colors.
One of the more eye-catching pieces in this part of the exhibition is "Andien Warhol," a take on Andy Warhol’s "Marilyn Diptych" featuring the singer's own face. The painter is deaf 26-year-old Taufan, who also makes sign-language stickers for the LINE messaging service. He also made it to the finals of Orbit, Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf)’s graphic design competition, last year.
Next to Taufan's diptych is four paintings by Dini. The 22-year-old draws everyday scenes in her "Main di Taman" ("Playing in the Park") and "5 Menit Lagi Pulang" ("5 Minutes Before Going Home"). In her paintings, distance and sizes are distorted. They show us how Dini, who has microcephalus that has slowed down her brain growth, sees the world.
A room off the corridor shows Andien’s Warna-Warna music video on a big screen. Small crystal balls hung from the ceiling. They reflect light and our view of the video.
Next to the gallery's cafe are fabric pendant lamps featuring the children’s drawings. One of them is Nazario’s cartoon-like digital graphics.
In the next room, we see the "Tree of Hope," made of twigs and yarns designed by Larch Studio. Ogi from Larch Studio said these are materials that people often take for granted. The yarns were obtained from a carpet factory. The work is interactive, visitors can tie the strings together, or spin them around the twigs.
The exhibition also features live laptop painting by Lenovo Indonesia, one of the exhibition's sponsors. Three laptops used in the piece will be auctioned at the end of the exhibition and the proceeds will go to ATC Widyatama.
The students' artworks are also turned into merchandise – sweatshirts, enamel pins, mini notebooks, tote bags – available at the gallery and on online shop Bukalapak, another sponsor.
Special Needs, Special Opportunities
ATC Widyatama diretor Anne Nurfarina said the center’s programs are focused on two things: treatment and training.
Treatment programs are designed for disabled 6-20 year-olds with minimal ability to communicate. Art is taught to them as a form of therapy. Each program lasts for three years.
"Our focus is behavioral, not medical, treatment. But we work with a network of psychologists, psychiatrists and pediatricians," Anne said.
The school also functions as a training center or Lembaga Pelatihan Kerja (LPK). It teaches art skills to disabled students up to 16 years old from high school or vocational school before they enter the job market. Students can learn graphic design or music.
Andien said she also wants her exhibition to open up collaboration opportunities for the students.
"Their art works can be turned into a clothing line, or CD covers. Any project however small is welcomed. These children need the experience," Andien said.
Bekraf head Triawan Munaf said people with special needs can make a career in the arts if supported with decent facilities and ample opportunities. He mentioned Yayoi Kusama as an example of an artist with mental illness who becomes a global phenomenon.
"They [students of ATC Widyatama] can become great artists. And also, there are great economic potentials here," Triawan said.