culture360.org Writer Katerina Valdivia Bruch shares her artistic experiences in Indonesia and interviews the artists and founders of the Cemeti Art House: Mella Jaarsma (MJ) and Nindityo Adipurnomo (NA).
In December 2008, I came to Indonesia for the first time. Once there, I did not know much about what I would find in terms of artistic practice. During three months, I was living in the artist run space MES56, composed by a group of photographers, in the city of Yogyakarta. At that time, the arts scene in Jogja (another word to say Yogyakarta) was vibrant with artist run initiatives that were presenting exhibitions, artist talks, organising workshops, offering music gigs or concerts of electronic music and performances. The majority of the events were organised by artists and arts practitioners, due to the lack of public infrastructure for contemporary arts.
The first exhibition I visited was Java’s Machine: Phantasmagoria by Jompet Kuswidananto that deeply impressed me for its multidisciplinarity and its reflection on Java as a melting pot for different cultures. Historical facts were combined in an interactive sound and video installation, together with an on-site performance by the actor Bahrul Ulum from Teater Garasi and Risky Summerbee, leader of the band Risky Summerbee and the Honeythief, who performed during the opening. This show was presented at Cemeti Art House, an artist initiative established in 1988 by Mella Jaarsma and Nindityo Adipurnomo, that has just celebrated its 25 years of existence on 31 January 2013.
Cemeti promoted contemporary Indonesian art overseas doing collaborations with international institutions and residency programmes. This institution organised a variety of courses, workshops, talks and lectures on current local and global issues. What distinguishes Cemeti is its commitment towards a reflection on art and society. In 1995, they developed an archive about Indonesian contemporary art under the umbrella of Cemeti Art Foundation and were pioneers in establishing discussions not only about local concerns, but also beyond Indonesia’s boundaries. Cemeti is one of the few places to find art discourse in Indonesia, something that is a bit lacking nowadays due to market oriented forces.
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