Sunday, May 21, 2006

ORDE and ORDER: Which One is Powerful?

The exhibition entitled “Orde and Order” was held by Cemeti Art Foundation (CAF) from May 5 until June 5, 2006 at Kedai Kebun Forum (KKF), Yogyakarta. It attempted to show data, archives, visual and audio visual material on ideological arena by the rulers (either the government or capital holders) in Indonesia, the relationship between artists and the rulers, the model of relation among artists, public, and the rulers entirely using art as the media. The media used and socialized could be very massive and –whether we realized it or not– had affected personal areas from each of us.

The model of power consolidation, the formation of nation-state identity, the economy development, and the social political relation are all the models of layers systematically repeated in every Indonesian government and each grows varied expressions including one in the form of cultural products. How does the power work and present in the art works or cultural institutions from time to time? How is the operation of power conflicted with the personal values of artists? How do the artists consume the power and manifest it in their art works consumed by public? How do these people make an interpretation on the political ideology of changing policy?
On the record, it is noted that CAF has organized a variety of contemporary visual arts exhibitions originating from the output of workshops, research, and art works as well entitle “AWAS! Recent Art from Indonesia” (1999-2002), “Tali Ikat: Fiber Connection” (2002), and “Fixing the Bridge” (2003). The “Orde and Order" is the first exhibition held by CAF using the archives or documentation data collected by CAF. It is an authentic attempt done by CAF as a center for visual arts documentation for more than one decade (established in 1995) to mediate the outcome of historical reading based on archives in a visual arts exhibition. With our sincere expectation, we think that the society may comprehend the meaning, function, and importance of documentation rites from which can be elaborated into several outputs with various alternative possibilities.

One of the activities under “Orde and Order” held by CAF was to organize a discussion in the same theme on Saturday, May 6, 2006 at KKF, Yogyakarta. This visual arts exhibition originated from archives or documentation had offered highlights (focuses) into how the role of power emerges in the sub-topics in architecture, audio visual (films), uniforms for elementary and high school students, ceremonial rites, and re-gave meaning on pictures and messages through the designs of stamps and currencies. There were three presenters in the discussion; Mahatmanto, a lecturer of architecture at Universitas Kristen Duta Wacana (UKDW), Yogyakarta, Primanto Nugroho, a researcher and manager of Nandan Institute of Art Studies (NIAS), Yogyakarta, and Ifa Isfansyah, an activist of Four Colours, a community of filmmakers based in Yogyakarta. It was moderated by Agung Kurniawan, an artist and manager of KKF, and was quite warm although it had very few audiences. Agung led the forum on the discussion around the role of power; in this context was the state or capital in relation to the visual arts workers. Here is the writing compiled, from the forum completed with a short interview with Pius Sigit Kuncoro (Sigit) as one of curators in the exhibition.

The discussion was opened by Mahatmanto presenting the history of the model of power relation in the past until today in architecture. He said that the visualization of cities and architecture was not determined by the state or the ideology ruling at that time but by another authority ruling the production. For example, in the transition of Hindu to Islam, the period did not produce much difference of representative visual productions. Today, we enter a time with such complex relation. From there, I wanted to illustrate that in fact, not only in that time the hidden force worked but also in recent time. Who was this hidden force? It was easy to point out the capital but how it operated was never clear. The position of architect here was regarded as weak, marginalized, and performed to give shapes only. So, it did not change anything except for the surface. What kind of structures produced during the independent time or the early Old and New Era? As we liberated from the Dutch colonization, the first thing done was to establish a partial entity called Jakarta as a special district. From there, various works were carried out as the representation of nation building. In the early independent time, architects oriented toward one or two prominent figures with certain architectural ideology indeed that was to search for identity by looking for the essence of huge diversity. It was different from the time under the New Order in which the figures were repeatedly modified but the operation remained unchanged. In addition, there were particular figures ascertained the themes of architecture. Then, the international style was followed to project an image of modernity in the cities. In the New Order time, within which capital was in power, the architecture tended to be mercantilism. It was signified by the architecture of offices in large numbers and styles. (For details, read the paper written by Mahatmanto entitled “Pahlawan di Jalan-jalan”/Heroes in the Streets).

Another experience shared by Ifa Isfansyah who had been active in the film industry since 1999, occupied her with producing films in 2001 along with her colleagues associated in the Four Colour community, and acquired some orders from the government from 2003 until now. There were four film productions released dealing with the government profile and public service advertisement. However, Ifa and her colleagues did not acquire the orders directly from the government so that it could be said that she did not straightly interrelate with the government, the one giving the orders. There was such an agency pointed by the government to manage the orders. In her presentation, Ifa stated that she was freer to run the productions when she worked on a government order because the bureaucratic procedure (such as the permit to make use of particular locations) would be easier. Yet, by the time she was asked about her satisfaction as a filmmaker, she said that working with non-government institutions was more interesting because the aspiration and creativity could be deeply comprehended and aspired. It frequently appeared as a specified dilemma for the visual arts workers.

Primanto Nugroho started on his presentation with a question on how to give a meaning on power. What we could see in the representation of “Orde and Order” was relatively in the same structure that was a point to identify power and the rulers. Hence, in the forum, Primanto reminded us not to exclusively identify power as mere physical, militaristic, of arms, and the sorts but power of knowledge and power of capital; how their state of affairs and operation were. To make it clear, Primanto gave an example on the phenomenon of uniform massiveness in the designs and colors for elementary and high school students in the decade of 1980. Different analysis could be applied to this uniformity program under the New Order through uniforms, what ideology behind it was, and so on. This uniformity program in the 1980s was employed due to the overflow of unsold textile (for export) whereas it had to be produced continuously in the country for domestic needs. (For details, read the paper written by Primanto Nugroho entitled “Satu Ragam Pakaian dalam Keseragaman”/One Variety of Clothing in Uniformity).

Subsequently, the flow of discussion revealed how the power of knowledge and the power of capital set the background of image creation or outer shell of which its visualization considered unexposed in this exhibition. How did they pull each other between the power of knowledge and the power of capital? It was a package of power relating and influencing each other, how if the power of capital was stronger than the power of knowledge, and the contrary. For instance, in the era of Soeharto, the power of knowledge was weaker than the power of capital contradicted with the era of Sukarno. In an interview with Sigit, he said that this exhibition purposely avoided the topic of identifying non-physical power (like the power of knowledge and the power of capital) which was abstract, so fluid, changeable, and so dynamic instead of the limited time. Sigit even strengthened how these physical materials exhibited functioned as the assets to seek out the relation model of power and orders, the model of conspiracy acted setting in further. It surely required a separate research.
On the quotation of the welcome speech by Sigit, the exhibition was to present the archives of documentation on a number of art programs held instead of performing the visual art works which were the orders of the state to the art workers. It aimed to show the reality in the friction of opinions and consciousness between the state and society revealed from the time of state establishment until today. From the reality, it was expected that we could locate the indecencies affected by the state’s orders in penetrating the idea of identity and national ideal to the society. The aroma of importance from the domination of certain groups toward others was extremely noticeable so that every time the succession of the rulers approached, there were varied questions on the national identity and ideal.

Apart from some core findings on the exhibition arrangement, there are several points to refer to:
First, the exhibition aims to demonstrate the importance on the role of visual arts workers in campaigning the vision, mission, national identity, and image creation by the state by means of visual arts media. It also deals with the tendency of having visual art workers anonymous (though it cannot be generalized) from their works in the name of the state and nation. How if these visual thoughts was effectively applied simply “on the sheet” of works of the visual arts workers but in fact they are not influential enough in realization as they are not based on the real needs of the society, barely mere penetration of the state in the society.

Second, the strength and effectiveness of visual arts media as well as public spaces to unify and strengthen the nationality and national identity, the ideal image creation, and the opinions in plural and multifaceted society like Indonesia.

Third, it is important to say that through this exhibition CAF as the center for Indonesian visual arts documentation constantly intensify the public awareness on the benefits of archives or documents capable of giving a guidance in exploring historical traces and determining abstract statements. For instance, when the material of visual arts under 1960s definitely should be presented to support the exhibition but the archives or documentation at CAF commenced from the 1990s does not apply the situation. Consequently, lots of materials “are hunted” from other sources.

Fourth, despite the dominations mentioned above such as the state power (government), the power of knowledge, and the power of capital; we should notice the militant domination moving through various segments taking a part in the formation of multicultural Indonesian national identity. The rulers –whoever and whatever the forms are– use their authority and power to create ideal image. Here, the visual media and public spaces are effective instruments and vehicles to the achievement of image and opinion creation in the society.

Fifth, the attempts of image creation is critical to notice especially when it relates to the public importance and area with the purpose of keeping the government’s orders –both capital and authority– for certain classifications do not become a means of public untruths or merely attempts of opinion penetration.

Even though the exhibition visitors share a range of good comments but with all of the limitations, CAF acknowledges that this exhibition is open to deeper exploration and may be accomplished by larger visual material so that things become chronological in the transformation as well as development from each political succession with the following generations.

1. The welcome speech by Pius Sigit Kuncoro, May 3, 2006.
2. Terms of Reference (TOR) of the discussion attached in the “Orde and Order” at Kedai Kebun Forum (KKF), May 6, 2006.
3. Transcript of the discussion in the “Orde and Order” at Kedai Kebun Forum (KKF), May 6, 2006.
4. Interview with Pius Sigit Kuncoro, May 12, 2006.
5. “Pahlawan di Jalan-jalan” by Mahatmanto, a supporting paper in the “Orde and Order” exhibition.
6. “Satu Ragam Pakaian dalam Keragaman” by Primanto Nugroho, a supporting paper in the “Orde and Order” exhibition.

Newsletter SURAT YSC Volume 27 - Februari-April 2006, 'Post Event Catalogue 'Orde and Order', Cemeti Art Foundation, Yogyakarta