Putri Ayu Lestari's 'Joki-Jokian' exposes how skills don't count when it comes to earning money in Jakarta. (Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Indonesia)

What's Freedom Like After Reformasi?

MAY 09, 2018

Jakarta. The sixth edition of "Manifesto," a biannual exhibition at the National Gallery of Indonesia, features reflections on freedom of expression in the past 20 years after Reformasi brought down dictator Suharto's New Order regime in 1998.

Titled "Multipolar," the show features works made after 1998 by 61 artists born in the 1980s or later, including Entang Wiharsa, Cahyo Prayogo, Rudy Atjeh, Radhinal Indra, the Popo, Heri Dono and Dito Yuwono.

The works on display include paintings, sculptures, ceramic wares, interactive installations, videos and murals.

Curator Sujud Dartanto said the exhibition intends to show and make a comment on freedom of expression in Indonesian art after Reformasi in 1998.

"The works are not just about Reformasi, but also represent what the artists think has happened to freedom of expression since then," Sujud said.

Sujud said many of the artists share the same view that art should carry moral and social messages intended for the public.

Politics vs. Spirituality

Aceh-based artist Rudy Atjeh opened the exhibition with his interactive installation called "Jauh di Hati Dekat di Mata" ("Deep Inside the Heart, So Close to the Eyes" – an inversion of a popular Indonesian verb about long-distance relationship), which highlighted the tension between messy political reality and the desire for spiritual peace.

The work featured five dancers wearing gamis, the traditional Muslim white robes, who performed tari darwis, the Sufi "dance of whirling dervishes," accompanied by rebana (drums) and loud chanting.

As the dancers whirled, Rudy disrupted them by playing a rifle-shaped electric guitar.

Rudy said his installation was meant to call attention to the fact that many Indonesians' desire to have a peaceful personal relationship with God is constantly disrupted by messy state politics which often take the form of actual acts of violence.

'Manifesto 6.0' continues until May 17 at the National Gallery of Indonesia in Jakarta. (Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Indonesia)

Jakarta-based artist Putri Ayu Lestari meanwhile showed a work titled "Joki-Jokian" ("Fake Jockey") that involved a month-long social experiment.

Presented as an interactive installation, Putri's social experiment involved disguising herself as a "car jockey" in Jakarta.

Car jockeys stand on sidewalks waiting for cars to offer them a lift for a fee so the driver can bypass the city's old "two passengers in each car" regulation (the rule has since been scrapped).

"My experiment shows that you don’t need skills to earn money in Jakarta. You just need to raise your hands on the sidewalks [to attract the drivers' attention]. Most people give decent tips for car jockeys," Putri said.

In the exhibition, Putri hangs hundreds of pictures of herself on a wall and lets visitors dress up the figures in the photos with paper clothes, accessories and stickers.


Performance artist Fajar Kunting chose to stage two "artist interventions" for his works "Multiplication" and "Sit Seat Shit."

The results of the interventions are displayed as an installation and two performance art videos.

Fajar said it took him one month to create Multiplication, during which he told people living near the Jode River in Central Java that he had discovered gold in the river.

The artist's "fake news" attracted the locals to come to the river to comb it for more gold, inadvertently cleaning it from rubbish.

Fajar used social media to spread the fake news that gold had been discovered in the river.

The artist said he wanted to show people that the river is the real source of life. The "gold" is just a metaphor for its ecological importance.

"My work also proves that you can easily manufacture false reality using social media. That's why hoax and fake news abound these days," Fajar said.

Indie, Not Mooi

Moving away from political reality on the ground, Radhinal Indra's "Moor Martian" played with Martian landscapes, inserting them into old Mooi Indie ("beautiful Indies") paintings by Indonesia's old masters Basoeki Abdullah, Trubus, Dullah and Wakidi.

Radhinal transformed pleasant Mooi Indie sceneries in the original paintings into more unsettling depictions of a non-Mooi Mars.

One of the old paintings that Radhinal worked on was Basoeki Abdullah’s "Pantai Flores" ("Flores Beach").

Radhinal replaced the dominant blues and greens of the original painting with Mars's signature brownish red.

"I try to imagine how Basoeki would paint the same scene in Mars," Radhinal said.

Though seemingly more esoteric at first glance, Radhinal's work seems to suggest a very direct criticism of the state of things in this country: what if everything is not as it seems?

"Manifesto 6.0" runs from May 2 to 17.