The Radio Choir Berlin, which will be collaborating with local university choirs for the German Season festival (Photo courtesy of Matthias Heyde)

German Season: Highlighting German-Indonesian Connections

JUNE 15, 2015

Jakarta. The allure of the big city depicted in German director Fritz Lang’s 1927 Expressionist classic Metropolis might just strike a chord with urban denizens of Jakarta and other cities around the world.

As a pioneer in the dystopian science fiction genre, it left its imprint on movies like Blade Runner and Robocop with its then futuristic sights of skyscrapers, multilayered flyovers and incessant traffic that comes in its wake. Its juxtaposition of luxury suites and slums, excess and squalor, as well as the ongoing efforts to garner wealth and power by a few that contrasts with the struggle to survive by the vast underclass is one that Jakartans, inured to the sight of luxury cars on one hand and labor demonstrations on the other, are all too aware.

Thought-provoking though the silent classic may be, the experience is bound to be more profound, as the Babelsberg Film Orchestra will play a live musical score for Metropolis at a screening for the film at its screening at the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta on Sept. 5.

The event will kick off German Season, a multi-faceted cultural festival highlighting the best of German and Indonesian arts, as reflected by their bilateral ties at the cultural, economic and political levels. Held nationwide in cities like Jakarta, Medan, Yogyakarta and Ambon from September to December, the festival coincides with momentum from Indonesia’s standing at the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair.

“Indonesia will be the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October” says Germany’s ambassador to Indonesia, Georg Witschel. “In this context, the Goethe-Institut, the German Embassy in Jakarta and the German-Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, or EKONID, thought that there should be an event in Indonesia reflecting on this, but not primarily focusing on culture, that presents a comprehensive overview of German-Indonesian bilateral relations”.

The organizations hope that the German Season fosters a fruitful exchange between Indonesia and Germany and further strengthens bilateral relations. Goethe-Institut Indonesia director Heinrich Blomeke agrees with Witschel. “The invitation of German authors Leif Randt, Andreas Stichmann, Ulla Lenze and Antje Ravic Strubel for a one-month residency is a bridge to Indonesia’s role as a Guest of Honor at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair” he says. “The authors will give an account of their experiences in Java, Sulawesi and Lombok during the book fair as well as in German media.”

The scope of German Season is reflected in its extensive billing, which encompasses fields ranging from music and film as well as the performing arts, to literature and sports.

“‘Cooperation and innovation’ is the motto for the cultural programs of the German Season. We want to facilitate direct working relationships between Indonesian and German artists and test new formats,” says Blomeke.

“These include the collaboration between Indonesian musicians and composers with the Frankfurt-based Ensemble Modern, or the cooperation between the Yogyakarta-based Papermoon puppet theater with Berlin’s Retrofuturisten group. The Teater Garasi and Rimini Protokoll will also collaborate for the "100% Yogyakarta" program, which reflects urban society and includes laymen during the stage performance,” Blomeke adds.

Other events to look forward to include the Radio Choir Berlin’s collaboration with choirs from Indonesian universities in Jakarta, Bandung and Medan at the end of October, and a joint dance performance between the German Volution/Groove Space group with their Indonesian counterparts in Jakarta and Solo in November.

Acclaimed German contemporary artist Tobias Rehberger and his Indonesian counterpart Ade Darmawan will lead their charges from the Stadelschule art school in Frankfurt and Ruangrupa art collective respectively, to carry out an intervention art project at two traditional markets in the South Jakarta district of Tebet the same month. Though both art forms differ outwardly, they still strike a similar chord with their examination of city life, particularly in the use of urban spaces and its influence on urbanites.

Other exhibitions, like Cultural Worlds and Stories Left Untold, examine cultures and histories, as well as the need to preserve the past. On the other hand, Indonesian football fans, particularly fans of clubs like Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund, will have much to look forward to as well. German football stars, including stalwarts of both clubs and other teams that made up the country’s World Cup winning squad in 2014, will drop by Indonesia. The festivities will include an online video contest, where the winners get to go to Germany to see Die Mannschaft take on their traditional rival the Netherlands in a friendly match next November.

The German Season will also include longtime fixtures like the German Cinema Film Festival in September, as well as the Science Film Festival in November, which was preceded by the closely related science exhibition the previous month.

For more on German Season, with the festival's website in Indonesian, German or English.