Melbourne, Australia has been playing host to RALLY: Contemporary Indonesian Art by Jompet Kuswidananto & Eko Nugroho, an Indonesian art exhibition showcased in the city’s largest gallery, National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).
While it may not sound strange for a gallery to host international artwork, this particular alliance is something I think is a truer reflection of the relationship between the two nations. It’s a well-known fact that Indonesia and Australia are neighbors. Political and social relations between the two have long been forged, dated all the way to the days of our ancestors, and the sheer number of migrants and expats from one country moving to the other is just staggering.
I happen to be one of those expats. Moving from Jakarta more than 12 years ago, I now call Melbourne home, this tiny city sitting in the south-east corner of Australia. But being able to speak English and generally blend in with the locals here doesn’t mean my family and I don’t occasionally miss the Indonesian culture.
So it was no surprise how thrilled I was when I found out about RALLY.
This exhibition runs from 18 October 2012 to 1 April 2013 and is a way for Jompet Kuswidananto and Eko Nugroho — two respected local artists from Yogyakarta — to present their unique take on the current political and social movements of the Indonesian community. Installations, a collection of embroidered images and illustrations are some of the works exhibited.
Just before entering the main gallery of the exhibition, a line of banners can be seen hanging overhead, filled with political illustrations in black and white. Some of the messages read along the lines of, “Power to the people!”
Well, this could only get interesting!
Sure enough, inside the main gallery, a delicious offering of art installations portraying the artists’ political views are displayed. Among them is a crouching mannequin with its entire body covered in fake pink flowers, which is the artists’ unique representation of peace. An entire wall of the gallery is filled with illustrations of a figure clad in astronaut suit, a large head wearing a hat made of fish scales and another figure — whose identity is up for anyone’s interpretation — is portrayed to be floating by.
And finally, there is an interesting installation that portrays a line of horses carrying market goods on their backs — except there are no horse statues but visitors could only imagine the horses there judging from the positioning of their saddles and their fluffy tails.
In the end, I saw good-humored conversation in each of these works, despite my initial thought that it might be aggressive political statements. Surely, visitors cracked a smile or two looking at these so-called political messages by Mr Kuswidananto and Mr Nugroho.
I know I did, especially looking at my favorite work, the La Rue Parle 6 by Mr Nugroho. It is a giant collage of embroidered pictures depicting the everyday lives of today’s society in Indonesia. Among them is a picture of the main roads in the heart of a city, and another is a picture of a girl sitting at a restaurant holding a glass of wine with her fingers adorned with modern rings.
I know my smile toward this work comes from identifying myself as an Indonesian living in Australia, and surely this could only mean, to a certain level, that Australians and Indonesians do share the same brand of humor. We both appreciate the lighter side of things — and this is what RALLY has tapped into, which in turn makes it one successful exhibition.
With more than 120 Instagram shots by visitors tagging the exhibition and Mr Kuswidananto and Mr Nugroho enjoying popularity outside their local municipalities in Yogyakarta (if being interviewed for Australia’s The Stock Rooms is anything to go by!), this exhibition could only create more positive buzz for the burgeoning talent in Indonesia.