By the River of Love project, as part of Riverscapes IN FLUX

Self-made map of Bengawan Solo, stitched from screen-grabs from Google Maps.

 

In October 2011, I was invited to propose a project to be part of this regional art project called Riverscapes IN FLUX organized by Goethe-Institut in Hanoi.

Riverscapes IN FLUX tries to look at Southeast Asia’s big riverscapes which resemble life lines and roads that have developed into economic zones and vital ecosystems. As climate change and resulting disasters ruin the social and political stability of the concerned countries, the threat of the riverscapes has become an important issue for the development. The aim of this project is to create an art form drawing further attention to the ecological, socio-political and cultural consequences resulted by climate change. The project brings together 17 artists from 6 Southeast Asian countries: Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Thinking about river in Indonesia, I cannot resist but to think about the floods that often happen in a number of river basin areas in Indonesia, like Ciliwung river in the capital Jakarta and the Solo river (or Bengawan Solo; “bengawan” means river in Javanese) in Central and East Java. I proposed to make a visual investigation on what the rivers’ conditions are really like by traveling there and come back with photographs.

My original idea was to compare the two rivers I mentioned above: Ciliwung river and Bengawan Solo. Ciliwung is in the more urban area of Jakarta, while Bengawan Solo streams in the more rural areas of Java. But people living near both rivers face similar risk of annual flooding. I thought it would be interesting to compare how they face that risk; do the floodings have different effect on urban and rural people, or do urban people adapt to the floodings differently from rural people.

But before too long, I changed my mind. Though both rivers pose similar threat to the surrounding community, each has its own problems, so it would not be fair to compare one another. I chose to work only on Bengawan Solo. It is more adventurous, since it would take me to travel through Solo, Ngawi, Cepu, Bojonegoro, Lamongan, and Gresik, along the 600 km river.

I worked on the project in December 2011, after I did some research and planning in October–November. I then edited the photos and exchanged emails with Indonesia’s curator (Ade Darmawan of Ruang Rupa, Jakarta) to discuss about the work in January–February 2012. This month, the final 25 photos will form into prints and ship to Hanoi, Vietnam, where the Riverscapes IN FLUX exhibition will open in April 2012.

Read more and follow the progress on the project blog: http://bytheriveroflove.tumblr.com/ ■

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