Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Collectivity of the ‘80

(Eddie hara (one of the Legend of ASRI) and his fan in Nadi Gallery, December 2007)

by Kuss Indarto

When these “kids” from Class of ’80 first attended college at Sekolah Tinggi Seni Rupa (STSRI) “ASRI” Yogyakarta (from year 1984 changed its name to Fakultas Seni Rupa Institut Seni Indonesia Yogyakarta), ambushes of external situation encompassed them at the moment.

First, the strong controlling system of the state was on every aspect of education in Indonesia. It was indicated by the implied NKK (Normalisasi Kehidupan Kampus/Campus Life Normalization) which was legalized in 1979 by the Minister of Education and Culture, Dr. Daoed Joesoef, who occupied that position from 1978-1983. The fact illustrates the important part when ‘New Order’ state centralism got even thicker, especially after four years before that moment, Soeharto regime was being hit by the incident of Malari (Malapetaka 15 Januari 1974/Januari 15th, 1974 Disaster) and it provided immense impact on the state’s political system. This Daoed Joesoef’s version of “Normalization” was a ‘how to discipline’ for every single college in Indonesia and it affected the college’s situation, it turned them into “closed area most likely to be prison area” 1. Even further; another derivation of state centralism began to arise at the moment, which was the project of Pendidikan Moral Pancasila/Moral Education based on Pancasila (PMP), which began at the day Daoed Joesoef signed the first book of PMP on February 29th 1980. From such momentum on, P4 coursing became an integral part for every (candidate) of student, university student and civic administrator without exception.

Second, in the domain of fine art, the creative situation went ahead to be more passionate, after being radically pioneered by their seniors through Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru/New Art Movement (GSRB) in the year of 1975, or five years before they attended college, and its effect remain to be lingering many years after. The exhibition of GSRB at Taman Ismail Marzuki, August 2nd-7th 1975, 8 months after the incident of Desember Hitam, was being perceived by many art researchers as the important phase of the birth of Indonesian contemporary fine art. One of the conclusions from the birth of GSRB was “this movement was an academic act of rebellion from the young artist against the senior artists whom, most of them, teach at fine art college.”2

Such ambush of situation might have inherently; influenced the creative life of fine art students from class of ’80. From one side, there were certain codes or signals from the state -obvious, blurry or transparent—which had to be engaged as basic principles and it must be collectively obeyed as the legal and social agreement. From the other side, there were natural-instinctive problems which come from themselves as artist-human who did yearn for freedom of expression and thinking. I guess this is my imagination of how the possibility of the problem’s collision and contradiction applied to the kids or students at those years.

If, then, there is the strong spirit to build creative rebellion’s leitmotif in this class of ’80 back when they still attended college, it can be comprehended as the linear consequence of art political atmosphere which at that time went so coercive. Such situation demanded various creative compensations as canalization form of dead locked of wider political culture communication rooms. State demonstrated itself, muscularly, as the arrogant militaristic figure. And college, itself, was the little soldier of state power.

On another dimension, at the same time, there was this structure of Javanese Culture coped exploitatively by Yogyakarta person himself, General Suharto. One of Javanese value which being bent by militaristic singular logical reasoning was the concept of ngono yo ngono, ning ojo ngono, It is what it is, but don’t think it as it is. This idiom, which had thickened itself as ideology, gave kind of demarcation line for the presence of critic. Two words ngono in the beginning of the sentences indicate the possibility and chance of critic’s presence in socialisation of socio-society. Here lies the ability of human being and/or Javanese culture to accommodate the coming of critics. Meanwhile, the third ngono word as if becomes the main key which implies the importance of ethic and morality in every emerging critic; of course it has to do with Java’s unique subjectivity. It means there is contemplative relation of the critic’s presence which goes hand in hand with the importance aspect of critic’s format, shape and packaging. So when we observe the reality mentioned above, it shows the emerging of (Javanese’s exclusive) critical discourse’s meaning which can be viewed as paradoxical and ambiguity. The importance of critic (as if only) lies in its packaging. At this very point, then, the structure of New Order based its power upon. As if they issued regulation which based on (Java) culture’s principle. But in the reality they just exploited it. Ngono yo ngono, ning aja ngono, had changed into “ngritik ya ngritik, ning aja ngritik (you may criticize anything, but you may not do so)”


Such social facts had become the significant configuration in socio cultural area. Afterward, it gives great influence on the possibility of the stagnation of artist’ creativity rapid and critical effort. This particular situation, then, was objected by artists, including art students. It also gave birth to creativity sparks, rejecting such stagnation through experimentation and enrichment in creative act.

For example, we will discuss what the three important members of Class of ’80 have been doing so far, Eddie Hara, Dadang Christanto and Heri Dono. The citing of these three names doesn’t pretence to ignore the other names, which also may have the same creativity’s fluctuation, like Arwin Darmawan, Basuki Sumartono, Jatmiko and others. I must apologize to those unmentioned names, since I can’t discuss their activities precisely at this time. This note was intended more to be a little effort of creativity tracing based on the work and also as objective as it can be, scrutinize the already existing maps, not based on personal closeness. More than that, it’s only my observation, with all of my limitations, as the much younger generation than members of Class Of ’80. I believe that trio; Eddie Harra-Dadang Christitanto-Heri Dono, are the actors whose popularity (if one might say so) was being supported and helped by “structure” that circled them at that time. It was the community itself and wholly constructive and friendly communal spirit that came from Class Of ’80. Both elements fused mutually.

Eddie Hara, I think, gives creative emphasis on idea executing when he, with Ellen Urselmann, did experimentation through his performance art incident that lasted for 24 hours in the year 1987.3 Conceptually, the idea of this performance art incident was very interesting and it also became important for the development of visual art in Yogyakarta, even Indonesia: that every incident has certain possibility to be the incident with visual art context. Many years later, evolutionary, the movement of art based on performance art still evolves in Yogyakarta until now. Maybe Eddie didn’t intend to turn himself into model and pioneer, but at least what he had done 20 years ago had given contribution for the creative plurality in the world of visual art.

Eddie Hara himself, with his unique children-like visual expression ability (some critics perceive the tendency of his work as naïve-ism symptom), also influences many other artists, especially his junior. Maybe those juniors can be labelled in Eddie’s epigone criteria. Erica Hestu and Faizal are two of Eddie’s juniors who openly admit themselves as the artists whose work dig the spirit of naïve ala Eddie Hara.

Another outstanding figure is Dadang Christanto. He gives example of another artist’s prototype which out of mainstream pattern; artist and also social worker. His involvement in various activities that made him communicating with many parties from different educational background, like Romo Mangunwijaya activities, gave him the depth in his aesthetic-reason. His installation work, Balada Sukardal, which was made in the year of 1986, was noted as work that could present good metaphor in describing how tragic the tale of tukang becak from Bandung, Jawa Barat, Sukardal was.4 And after that his works which criticized problem of humanism, including ones which started from his own personal problem that politically fragile,5 did spread monumentally in various forums. Like his works in exhibition of Perkara Tanah (1995) at Bentara Budaya Yogyakarta, 1001 Manusia Tanah at Marina Beach (1996) and The Unspeakable Horror at Bentara Budaya Jakarta (2002).

Dadang also plays his role not in local level only, but also carries local value and issue to be presented at important international level forum. For example, he involved in the importance fine art exhibition, like Exhibition of Quinta Bienal de la Habana, Havana, Cuba (1994), Tradition/Tension: Contemporary Arts in Asia, in USA, Canada and Australia (1996), Biennale de Sao Paolo XXIV, Brazil (1998), Kwangju Biennale Korea (2000), and Venezia Biennale, Italia (2003).

Dadang’s involvement in these international forums became the important signal of the artist’s tendency to celebrate projects of fine art’s internationalization for developing country’s artist (which one of the aspects) who tried to infiltrate fine art’s centrals in USA and Europe which was perceived them as oriental.

And so similar thing took place for Heri Dono, who didn’t become the star at Class of ’80, or gleam at Yogyakarta’s area, but also became one of the brightest stars of Indonesia Contemporary Fine Art in the last 10 years. The performance of his alternative puppet shadow at Senisono Art Gallery on September 27th-28th, 1995 with the title Si Tungkot Tunggal Panaluan, gave clear direction of Heri Dono’s creative orientation and point of view which was the one that still step on tradition while at the same time try to re-actualize shadow puppet along with contemporary line that he thought about.

Furthermore, the artist who was born in Jakarta entered international level fine art world repeatedly. I can’t mention them all here. One of them that could be underlined is his involvement in Venezia Bienalle 2003. He was invited, directly by its main curator, Hou Harru, to present his work in main venue. Not like most of other Indonesia artists who “merely” presented their work in supporting venue.

His role was outstanding and important enough in Kuda Binal as the counter-act movement of Bienale Jogja 1992 which was perceived as the nurturing for conservative medium, and it strengthened the assumption of Indonesia fine art, that Yogyakarta was fertile breeding ground for any creative indication of fine art.


Then what can we comprehend between the lines from the story of these three “hot-shots” from Class Of ’80?

I think it’s just a small surface to take a peek on the attached relation between individual role and the importance of collectivity role. The great talent from persons like Trio Eddie-Dadang-Heri might not reach its greatness, if it wasn’t constructed in their early artistic process in Painting Department ISI Yogyakarta simultaneously. On the contrary, their greatness aroused because it was already being grind down, put to the test and verified in the closest and earliest community, their classmate. I believe, the creativity’s craziness at Class of ’80 would reveal another stars, beside Eddie-Dadang-Heri. The problem, I think, lies on the endurance of each person in maintaining their creative energy, and the precise method to find the same beat in history’s rhythm.

And now, after those long 27 years, they meet each other again at Gampingan, in a classroom full of craziness, certainly each of them had found their own historic creative rhythm. Maybe there are the ones, who still live their lives as artist consistently, without paying much attention toward their existence on fine art’s map. Maybe there are the ones who, now, live their lives as employee or businessman. All of them chose the way, though way back then it wasn’t the choice. Or, all of them were the choice, though way back then there wasn’t the way. The most important thing, for me, is what kind of contribution it can give to the world outside them?

It is not important to be the important person, but the important thing is feeling important to stick with person who was perceived as the unimportant one.

In the context of Indonesia Fine Art, these persons from this Class Of ’80 have greatly contributed in the development of recent fine art. That is the center of the problem!

Kuss Indarto, curator for fine art. Can be reached through

1. Daniel Dhakidae, Cendekiawan dan Kekuasaan dalam Negara Orde Baru, (Jakarta: Published by Kompas, 2003), page. 349. In other part of the book, Daniel Dhakidae thought of the wohole idea brought by Daoed Joesoef on campus normalization is merely understood through Foucaultian comprehension, to perceive the idea of suppression and terror which occurred in the university. Consider the theory of the panopticon by Michel Foucault on prison controlling system.

2. Jim Supangkat, Di Mana Letak Yogyakarta dalam Peta Seni Rupa Kontemporer Indonesia? in Outlet: Yogya dalam Peta Seni Rupa Kontemporer Yogyakarta, (Yogyakarta: Cemeti Art Foundation, 2000), page 16. As a reminder, Black December was a reaction towards the decision by jurors of the 1974, Grand Exhibition of Indonesian Painting which legalized their best works to A.D. Pirous, Aming Prayitno, Widayat, Irsam, and Abas Alibasjah.

3. The idea of performance by Eddie and Ellen was based on the essay “Hardship Art” in Art in America magazine. Both did the performance on the Experimental Art Week at FSR ISI Yogyakarta. They bound each other hands in chains and locked them. Keys to the locks were kept by their lecturer, Aming Prayitno. Eddie-Ellen then walked together to places (automatically) without any direct communication, except through the writings they made and agreed before. See notes by M. Dwi Marianto, Gelagat Yogyakarta Menjelang Milenium Ketiga, dalam Outlet: Yogya dalam Peta Seni Rupa Kontemporer Yogyakarta, (Yogyakarta: Cemeti Art Foundation, 2000), page 198-199.

4. Astri Wright, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain: Preoccupations of Indonesian Painters, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), page. 210.

5. In the New Order regime, persons such as Dadang Christanto who happen to be a Chinese-descendant minority have no strong bargaining position in politics.


Tubagus P. Svarajati said...

I thank to Eddie who gave me his catalogue of which belong to his newest exhibition at Nadi Galley. A show that revealed his tiredly efforts to find a new way of expressions. Nice to discuss with you. Come again to RSY, kammerad!

Anonymous said...



Majalah Pusara said...

pak tubagus; i hope the legend eddie hara read your message.

yassir; the next year: the Visit Debt-Collector Year 2009