The exhibition focuses on the art of emerging countries from Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. (Photos courtesy of Tromarama)

Tromarama Explores Impact of Digital Revolution in Indonesia

JULY 05, 2015

Jakarta. The digital revolution arrived in Indonesia in the early 2000s and has since made massive headways in all walks of life.

The Indonesian artists’ collective Tromarama — a trio made up of Febie Babyrose, Herbert Hans Maruli and Ruddy Hatumena — have experienced this impact firsthand.

Having first met during an animation workshop at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), the artists have worked together under the name Tromarama since, creating animated videos — either standing on their own or as part of an art installation — featuring seemingly inconspicuous objects, frequently experimenting with digital imaging technology.

Their creative works can not only be seen in art exhibitions, but also through online channels such as YouTube.

“What makes us work together as a group is the dialogue between whenever we create something new,” says Febie. “We always keep the room open for everyone to play along. There are always a new perspectives popping up which in turn make us continuously searching for new possibilities. And that's what we've been enjoying the most so far by working as a collective.”

Tromarama’s works can currently be seen at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The exhibition marks the first solo show of the trio in Europe and presents a selection of recent animations as well as a new piece, “First Wave,” which has been specifically created by Tromarama for this occasion: a multi-layered reflection on how digital technology affects the artists’ self-image. 

“It all started with the question ‘what does it mean to be global?’” Herbert explains when asked how the concept of “First Wave” was born.

“We look at the Internet as a gate where global culture comes in and has a huge influence in our daily lives as Indonesians, how our smartphones become melting pots and how our presence in this new virtual world demands our self-representation. The line between what is real and what is not has become more blurry than ever before.”

"First Wave,” he adds, explains the feeling of being washed over by the big wave of the internet.

“It didn’t come with a manual book,” he says. “So, unconsciously we experienced a culture shock. At the same time, there is no room to contemplate as we are trapped in the state of consuming as well as constantly updating the ‘what is happening right now?’”

In addition to “First Wave,” the exhibition also includes older animations by Tromarama, such as “Happy Hour” (2010), “Unbelievable Beliefs” (2012), “On Progress” (2013) and “The Charade” (2014) — all of which have one thing in common: instead of presenting flawless illusions, Tromarama creates animations that also show imperfections — as a reminder to the audience that reality can easily be manipulated.

Whenever Tromarama works on a new project, the creative process begins with a simple conversation.

“It can be anything — an interesting phenomenon, a scene from a movie or some bizarre experience in our daily life,” Ruddy says. “The discussion then generates an initial idea, and once we can see the big picture, we start to give the ideas a form.”

The Tromarama exhibition is part of Global Collaborations, a project launched by the Stedelijk Museum in 2013 with the aim to put a focus on the developments in contemporary art from emerging regions such as Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

“The project is based on collaborations with artists and curators whose work deals in various ways with the effects of globalization on different geographical regions,” says curator Kerstin Winking. “The project is based on collaborations with artists and curators whose work deals in various ways with the effects of globalization on different geographical regions.”

Tromarama was a perfect match for these project-related parameters, she adds.

“We asked Tromarama to work with us because we are fascinated by their witty, skillful and highly original art,” Winking explains.

“Tromarama's work is anchored in the Indonesian context and full of references to Indonesian traditional culture and history, but it also addresses the effects of progressive modernization on the country. Tromarama's working method is hybrid in so far as the collective combines old techniques such as wood cut, batik or etching with digital photography and image editing.”

Before Tromarama, the Stedelijk Museum already organized a group exhibition in collaboration with Kunci, the cultural studies center in Yogyakarta in 2013.

“It involved Indonesian artists and collectives like Wok the Rock and Jatiwangi Art Factory, as well as artists based in the Netherlands, such as Vincent Vulsma and Zhana Ivanova,” Winking says. “Seeing the tremendous amount of artistic creativity in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, I'm absolutely sure the Stedelijk will show more solo and group exhibitions by Indonesian and Asian artists in the future.”

Art from Indonesia, she says, usually generates great interest among the Dutch — not least because of their shared history and the fact that many people in the Netherlands have Indonesian family relations.

“These people are curious about what contemporary art from Indonesia looks like,” Winking adds. “Besides the historically anchored relation to Indonesia, the Netherlands also has a large group of Indonesians that more recently came to study or work in the country."

"The Stedelijk Museum also attracts large numbers of international visitors and constantly more visitors from Asia. The best thing, however, is that Tromarama's work also speaks to people who don't have any personal relation to Indonesia. Its sonic and visual appeal captures people's attention regardless of their nationality.”

While Tromarama’s artworks can still be enjoyed until Sept. 6, Tromarama is already making new plans for the near future.

“We are currently preparing a new work for an upcoming group exhibition at the Frankfurter Kunstverein in Germany in September and a solo exhibition at Edouard Malingue Gallery in Hong Kong at the end of the year,” Febie says.

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