Art Project at Fukutake House, Fukuda, Shodoshima, Jepang

HIGH WATER: Four Artists From Java Island

18 July 2015 - 03 November 2015

Elia Nurvista, Jompet Kuswidananto, Leonardiansyah Allenda, Yudha Sandy


Art Project at Fukutake House, Fukuda, Shodoshima, Jepang
HIGH WATER: Four Artists From Java Island

Java is an island in Indonesia where 143 million people live. It is the most populous island on earth. Jakarta, the capital, hosts the central government and is the economic centre of Indonesia, where the art market dominates the developments in the arts. Yogyakarta is known as the cultural city, historically the centre of traditional art practices, often related to the Sultanate, but known for its guerrilla against the Dutch, and critical political movements. This critical approach is reflected in the arts throughout the different generations of artists that live and work in Yogyakarta.

Java dominates Indonesia politically, economically as well as culturally and much of Indonesian history took place on Java. Throughout the island Hindu-Buddhist empires were erected, Islamic Sultanates got established and Java was the core centre of colonial Dutch East Indies. Most turbulent events took place in Java, for example the Indonesian struggle for independence (1930 – 1949) and demonstrations against the New Order regime in 1998. Since the last fifteen years academics, activists and artists have been carefully digging up the past, bringing untold stories into the light.

The four Indonesian artists that we present in the exhibition ’High Water’ also reflect on Indonesian history, each of them highlighting a different aspect of the past and the present. It is interesting to see that especially young emerging artists are interested in exploring a wide range of issues from Indonesian’s history in order to understand the current developments in the society. Through their work, artists honestly respond and often criticize very specific social phenomena while bringing an aesthetic perspective to the discussion. The title ‘High Water’ refers to a state of ‘alert’, with the idea that artists are consious of their surroundings and changing society;  like standing in a flood, in  high water during the rainy season. The artists are responsive to unfolding circumstances and incidents.

Elia Nurvista
Grains from a Prosperous Land

I was born and raised on Java. For us, rice was not merely a staple food, but is also linked to spiritual traditions and beliefs. When I was little, I was very familiar with the view of the rice fields and the swathes of grain drying in the yard of my grandmother's home. We never bought rice because the harvest was always enough to fulfil our needs from one harvest season. We believed that the goddess Sri, the goddess of fertility, would bless us with a great harvest throughout the year. As well as this, the government also guaranteed prosperity through the Green Revolution. And at the peak of this, Indonesia attained self-sufficiency in rice production, in the 1980s.

However, eventually the Green Revolution worked the soil beyond its capacity to nurture plants. We took more than we should have. The soil became lifeless and barren, nothing could be harvested from it. Eventually our family sold some of its fields, which were later turned into land for the development of building projects. This was the time of the rise of rice-imports and the shift to the transgenic rice polemic, exacerbating the distance between us and our rice growing traditions. Our intimate relationship with rice agriculture was replaced by intimacy with sacks of rice bought of the shelf.

Jompet Kuswidananto
Rehearsing Voices

Since claiming democracy, every Indonesian has been motivated to re-define the relationship between the self and others. The attempt to draw new boundaries separating 'you' from 'I', and 'us' from ‘them,’ has been a prominent issue in recent years reflected, evidenced by the proliferation of political parties, civic organizations, and the friction among them. I am looking at how democracy has been rehearsed in Indonesia, through the invention of forms that act to re-draw new boundaries dividing society.

Leonardiansyah Allenda
Private Number

Objects and their value are inseparable.In this work, Leo has created a kind of filter which seperates them, exaggerating the distance between the object and its value, by playing with the principles of weighing on scales, adding a layer of value to the object’s weight with the personal memories of its owner.

Leo is interested in objective universal meaning, the basic functions of objects (a kind of extrinsic value), and personal memories of these objects (such as intrinsic values); in the context of this exhibition he utilises this possibility.“Basically we can give meaning to all substances as things that are the same – for instance a bowl as a container for food – but the meaning can really be very different in the way that the bowl is used in a particular culture."Leo invites people around him, in Java and in Fukuda, to become involved directly in this work, by gathering objects and their memories.In this way he builds a dialogue between two different social spaces.

With this background, this work re-examines the meaning of weighing and measuring that we usually use to find parity.

Yudha Sandy

“Atom Jardin”

“Booming Chaos”

In this work I take my inspiration from my childhood, where pop culture was part of everyday life and the changes and developments in Indonesia during the last decades.

I look into the culture of television. When I was small, there was only one TV channel and at four o’clock all kids after playing outdoor went home, quickly taking a bath, and were in front of the TV. We went home not because our parents called us, but because we wanted to watch the cartoon.

In the era of New Order, under Soeharto, the TV as used as propaganda, the information that was entering the households through the television, showing success stories of the nation building, transmigration, harvesting and traditional rituals had to be watched critically. What was offered through television was often contradictive with the reality of life during that time.

In the aftermath of this era, contradictions were shown openly. In the year 1998, a reformation took place where hope and tremendous chaos occurred simultaneously.

Then, a decade later in 2008, with more freedom of expression, and a booming in visual art which led to all kinds of developments, while values became blurred.