Writing for “6 in 1 +” exhibition at Sangkring Art Yogyakarta

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I posted earlier that I went to Surabaya to meet with artist Jopram, as I was writing about him for an upcoming group exhibition hosted by Sangkring Art in Yogyakarta.

I attended the opening last night and met again with Jopram. I also visited the gallery the other day as Jopram was installing his works.

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Before the exhibition was officially opened. Bale Banjar Sangkring, 4 Oct 2018.

The exhibition features works by seven artists from East Java: Jopram, Joni Ramlan, Hadi Sucipto, Lini Natalini Widhiasi, Beni Dewo, Isa Ansory, and Iwan Yusuf.

Exhibition view of works by Jopram:

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For this exhibition, Jopram exhibited a series of works that he has been working on for a few years, in memory of his childhood and showing his gratitude towards his parents who were both farmers. Just a few days prior to the opening, Jopram’s father unexpectedly passed, while his mother had passed four years ago. Jopram quickly made a new painting (finished in two days), marking the completion of the series, depicting both his father and mother.

His works mainly consist of installations, displayed along with two large paintings, a series of photographs from his painting performances, and two videos that document the performances. During our interview, Jopram told me that in this particular exhibition, he is showing ‘events’, in comparation to ‘merely’ visual aesthetics.

Following is the text I wrote about Jopram, which I submitted to the curator Mr. Kris Budiman (in Bahasa Indonesia):

Peristiwa Jopram
Budi N.D. Dharmawan

“Selamat jalan bapak.. Selamat jalan petaniku…”

Demikian Jopram menuliskan perpisahannya kepada sang bapak, yang berpulang 14 September 2018 silam. Peristiwa itu membuat karya Jopram yang kini terpajang di dalam pameran ini telah mencapai lingkaran penuh. Karya-karya yang telah dia kerjakan selama beberapa tahun terakhir ini merupakan penelusuran artistik Jopram tentang akar dan riwayatnya, mengenai sosok bapak dan ibunya. Jopram, pelukis itu, adalah anak petani.

Sebelum menjadi petani, bapak Jopram adalah seorang jagal sapi yang sukses pada pertengahan dasawarsa 1960-an. Dengan niat melipatgandakan penghasilannya, bapak Jopram kemudian menjajal peruntungan sebagai bandar judi. Banyak nomor pemasang yang tembus, akibatnya sang bapak justru rugi besar dan banting setir menjadi petani. Jopram mengenang, waktu itu bapaknya paling miskin di kampung. Perubahan peruntungan yang begitu drastis mengguncang mental ibu Jopram sehingga mengalami depresi berkepanjangan. Keadaan itu membuat Jopram lebih sering dirawat oleh tetangga sejak dilahirkan pada 1975.

Jopram kecil sering membantu bapaknya bertani di sawah. Adalah cukup mengejutkan kemudian, bahwa sebagai anak petani miskin di kampung yang jauh dari pusat kota, Jopram bisa menjadi pelukis. Memang, di sekolah, Jopram lebih suka coret-coret menggambar daripada memperhatikan nilai mata pelajaran lainnya. Saat masih duduk di kelas 3 SD, Jopram tiba-tiba seperti mendapat ilham: Dia ingin dapat mengubah nasibnya lewat kesenian, seperti sang maestro Affandi, yang bisa menjadi kaya dengan melukis. Angan-angan itu terus dia rawat, dimulai dengan menciptakan jenama Jopram (singkatan dari nama aslinya Joko Pramono) saat menginjak kelas 1 SMP.

Jopram tidak lantas langsung menjadi pelukis, tentu saja. Laku kehidupannya yang berlika-liku mengantarkannya menjadi buruh pabrik, kuli bangunan, juga mekanik bengkel setelah meninggalkan bangku SMP. Ilham kembali mendatangi Jopram kala dia tertidur di gudang selepas bekerja: Dia bermimpi menjadi seniman yang telah berpameran tunggal. Mimpi itu membangunkan angan-angan lamanya untuk menjadi pelukis. Tanpa persiapan, Jopram memberanikan diri ikut kontes melukis dan berhasil menempati peringkat ketiga.

Gelar juara itu menjadi modal Jopram meminta restu orang tuanya untuk meneruskan studi ke Sekolah Menengah Seni Rupa (Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan Negeri 11) Surabaya pada usia 19 tahun. Sejak itulah, Jopram membenamkan diri di dalam dunia gambar dan menggeluti berbagai macam teknik melukis. Bisa dibilang, salah satu hal yang tidak berubah dari Jopram hingga kini adalah bahwa gaya lukisannya terus berubah-ubah. Bagi Jopram, identitas artistik bukanlah soal kekhasan visual, melainkan soal karakter atau rasa.

Karakter Jopram, menurut pengakuannya sendiri, adalah berkarya dengan bersumber kembali ke alam atau ke diri sendiri. Jopram memang kerap menumpahkan pengalaman dan perasaannya ke atas kanvas, khususnya di dalam karya-karyanya yang kini terpajang di sini. Dengan menelusuri kembali ingatan dan perasaannya tentang bapak dan ibunya, Jopram mengangkat hubungan orang tua dengan anak, serta berbakti dan balas budi. Jopram mau menyampaikan hal-hal yang dekat dan sederhana lewat karyanya, tidak hanya secara artistik, namun juga bisa mengena secara emosional.

Karya berjudul “Lumbung Kosong” mencerminkan ingatan Jopram tentang sang bapak, yang dia kenang sebagai sosok yang tegas, penuh semangat, dan pekerja keras. Sebagai petani, penghasilan ayah Jopram tidak imbang dengan kerja keras dan cucuran keringatnya. Konsep kesejahteraan buruh tani turut muncul di sini: Betapa ironisnya, orang-orang yang berpeluh mengolah lahan untuk memenuhi kebutuhan pangan masyarakat malah justru tidak dapat memenuhi kebutuhan hidupnya sendiri.

Paradoks menjadi konsep lain yang dimainkan Jopram secara kreatif. Sebelum mengenal mesin giling padi, petani merontokkan gabah dengan cara menginjak-injak atau menggilasnya. Proses ini sesungguhnya menyakitkan, karena padi itu mencucuk-cucuk telapak kaki. Perih yang ditanggung petani menggilas padi tidak berhenti di situ, namun berlanjut terus karena lagi-lagi petani tergilas kebutuhan hidup yang tidak dapat dipenuhi.

Sementara itu, karya berjudul “Cahaya di Lorong Kelam” memantulkan memori Jopram mengenai sang ibu, yang telah terlebih dahulu berpulang empat tahun yang lampau. Ibu Jopram kerap mendapatkan ‘penampakan’ spiritual. Ibu Jopram kemudian mencoba ‘mengusir’ gangguan ‘roh halus’ itu dengan memukul-mukulkan sapu lidi. Ibu Jopram sesungguhnya sosok yang lembut, penyabar, dan penyayang, serta tidak pernah memarahi anak-anaknya. Tidak dapat dibayangkan, perasaan macam apa yang dia pendam di dalam benaknya, terlebih lagi mengingat kondisi mentalnya yang terguncang.

Guna melengkapi rangkaian karya reflektif ini, sepeninggal sang ayah, hanya beberapa hari saja sebelum tenggat pengiriman karya untuk pameran ini, Jopram melukis kilat sebuah potret ganda ayah dan ibunya. Kanvas terakhir Jopram di dalam seri ini tersebut seolah menjadi penanda, betapa perjalanan sang seniman menelusuri lorong kenangan itu telah mencapai satu lingkaran penuh. Dari kedua orang tuanya, Jopram mewarisi keteguhan untuk dapat tetap kuat di tengah kesukaran; untuk mampu bertahan di tengah situasi terpuruk dan bisa menikmatinya. Di dalam gelaran ini, Jopram memang sedang memamerkan peristiwa.

Surabaya–Yogyakarta,
September 2018

 

6 in 1 + Exhibition, 4–20 October 2018
Bale Banjar Sangkring and Sangkring Art Project
Yogyakarta

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Photographs by Budi N.D. Dharmawan
Except for the two bottom photographs, courtesy of Sangkring Art Space

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In Surabaya visiting artist Jopram

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Surabaya, East Java, Monday, 24 September 2018.
Visiting Surabaya to meet with artist Jopram at his studio.
Writing about him for an upcoming exhibition in Yogyakarta. ∎

Participation in “Membongkar Bingkai – Membuka Sekat” exhibition at PKKH UGM

 

Next week I am taking part in an alumni exhibition organised by PKKH UGM to commemorate the dies natalis (anniversary) of my alma mater Universitas Gadjah Mada Yogyakarta. Titled Membongkar Bingkai – Membuka Sekat, the exhibition runs Monday through Saturday, 11–16 December 2017 at PKKH gallery.

I will be presenting a photo series about special school for deaf students in Wonosobo, Central Java I made three years ago. The series was actually intended for something else but the project has been left undone, so this exhibition is its first public showing. Come and see if you are around.

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Exhibition view of my work at Membongkar Bingkai – Membuka Sekat, PKKH UGM. ∎

Speaker on documentary/art photography discussion

Budi Ostkreuz KKF

This Wednesday I will be taking part in a panel together with Karina Roosvita and Vivien Poly to talk about the development of photography from its documentary function to its more artistic uses and the influence of social media, and how the three influence each other. The discussion is held in conjunction with the screening of the film Foto: OSTKREUZ (Maik Reichert, documentary, 2015), about the German photo agency Ostkreuz, founded after the fall of Berlin Wall in 1990.

Term of reference for the discussion is as follows. Art or documentation: Can everybody become a photographer? Only little more than a decade ago, young Indonesian photographers started to develop photography as art form that now is also recognized by galleries and curators. Like once Ostkreuz they started taking pictures of daily life in streets or private homes that before would never have been considered worth to be shown to a public audience. Today everybody can experiment with photography on instagram and other social media. Where is the boundary between art and simply catching a moment? And what is the role of professional photographers in this new media world?

The film is in German with English subtitle; the discussion will be held in Bahasa Indonesia. The film screening and the following talk are held at Kedai Kebun Forum, open for public and free of charge. Come and join us if you are in town and have time. ∎

Essay for Octo Cornelius’s solo exhibition “Unpredictable Scenes”

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While we are busy with plans
by Budi N.D. Dharmawan
Essay for Octo Cornelius’s solo show Unpredictable Scenes
Jogja Contemporary, 10–26 October 2017

Octo Cornelius came to me with the phrase “random life”. We then talked about it while sipping coffee under the not-so-bright light of the bookstore-side coffee shop. That phrase which he brought was so irksome that Octo felt that he needed to materialise it into artworks, into an exhibition. The idea was so obnoxious that Octo thought he needed to talk about it—with me. Since we had that conversation many months ago, I got intrigued myself, both by the idea of an exhibition as well as the idea of random life itself.

A series of short meetings with Octo since that evening had once become a phantom that haunted me. At first, I found it difficult to spare my time and thought to respond to Octo’s gargantuan energy. Why Octo came to me in the first place was to collect what I had promised him. I once asked him to do an exhibition together many years ago, but it never materialised. Events and incidents that took place around us since have enabled me to slowly absorb the narrative behind the idea of random life. The passing of time has also made Octo’s enormous energy to tone down—not vanished or extinguished, but like more regulated and not as bursting as it was before. His big idea has become sharpened and more focused as well.

The theme random life offered by Octo reminded me of a famous quote from Albert Einstein, “I do not believe God plays dice with the universe.” Einstein said so because he was unhappy with the randomness of the universe. This view was later known as hidden variable theory—because of this hidden variable we could not accurately calculate the exact position and velocity of a particle at a certain time, so it appeared random. It was firts thought to be in line with Werner Heisenberg’s Principles of Uncertainty, until few decades later John Bell’s experiment managed to prove otherwise. There ara no hidden variables. The universe is random.

What is left, then, according to the Principles of Uncertainty, are estimates. Being random and unpredictable does not eliminate structure and order. In fact, this state widens possibilities, that an event does not occur from a single cause and is not independent, but a part of a series of chain reaction that affects and affected by other things and events. From a given string of events, I can find a pattern and make estimates, but that is that: estimates. Approximates. Unpredictable. That is random life.

Incidents and affairs that I experienced lately have also contributed to my point of view in understanding Octo’s random life narrative, which in our initial exchange was like in a frenzy. Experiences, with all its sour and bitter taste, have equipped me with understanding. Many are not yet unraveled, but I will let those moments be remembered randomly without me needing to predict what the next will be. Meanwhile, I must face my phantom and come full circle with Octo through this exhibition.

Octo Cornelius in this exhibition presents a number of works that try to bring a conversation about those random and unpredictable moments. About the improper timing, about keeping the faith in the midst of doubt, about searching and waiting within limitations, about courage that sometimes come from ignorance.

These random moments in life come from Octo’s contemplation and reflection, which then embodies into his workmanship and materialises into his works. This exhibition, Unpredictable Scenes, offers to us a pause from our daily obligations and takes us for a short while to enjoy the randomness of life. Because life is what happens while we are busy with plans.

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Photo courtesy of Jogja Contemporary ∎

By the River of Love at Fisipol Art Days 2017

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Photo by Budi N.D. Dharmawan

My photo series By the River of Love (2011–2012) is being exhibited again. I was invited to be a guest exhibitor for this year’s edition of Fisipol Art Days, held by my former campus Fisipol Universitas Gadjah Mada Yogyakarta, along with fellow Fisipol UGM alumni Akiq A.W., Jompet Kuswidananto, and T.A. Kusno. The exhibition, titled “Future Leaks: 5W+1H Are We Going?” is curated by Titah Asmaning Winedhar and is on view 26–30 September 2017 at Fisipol UGM’s new library building. ∎

Snapshots for “Mata dan Kuasa” programme, Festival Arsip IVAA at PKKH UGM

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Photographs by Budi N.D. Dharmawan

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Me (far right) at Festival Arsip IVAA at PKKH UGM, September 2017. Photo courtesy of Indonesian Visual Art Archive.