Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In the Beginning is Freedom…

(Dua karya di atas masing-masing karya Irawan Banuaji (Wonosobo) bertajuk Dawn Attack dan Pesta karya Herman Lekstiawan. Kedua lukisan itu masuk sebagai peserta pameran Freedom dalam Mon Decor Painting Festival 2008)
By Kuss Indarto

What is freedom and what is its basic understanding? To Frans Magnis-Suseno’s perspective through his book, Etika Dasar (1990), freedom is divided into two categories, the existential freedom and the social freedom. Existential freedom is framed in a meaning system as a slight human ability to determine his own act or his own self. Whereas social freedom is understood as freedom granted by another, that is freedom in its relation with another person or another party. These two poles, the existential freedom and the social freedom, are closely related to one another that social freedom becomes the basic precondition to establish existential freedom. On the other hand, the existence of existential freedom can help uphold social freedom.

Freedom, therefore is a basic need and a fundamental interest, that it is no wonder when the intellectual Sudjatmoko in the book Etika Pembebasan (1985) gave an opinion that human beings have an intrinsic ability to live freely. Yet, at this point it is noted that there is a different perception about freedom in each group of society. The differences become spread out in the historic reality that many traditional cultures in Asia do not feel the need and interest to transform human freedom into explicit values in their own perception about the culture they profess. Life and the unity of the people are built on a tight braids of assignments and duties, not on human individuals and his rights. If there is a search for freedom in a society like this, this freedom carries a different meaning.

In this context Sudjatmoko well uncovered that – unless in the Moslem tradition - the great cultures in the mainland of Asia traditionally struggle with the search for freedom through the release of the soul or ‘salvaging individuals from sins’. Eventhough they do it in the context of the totality of one’s experience of existence, this is conducted in a very fundamental insight apart from – and having no relation with – the reality and history of social life.

If the above view can be used as the starting point of a discussion about freedom in its relation with the social structure of the society, it is believed that a variety of conditions, such as the social political, economy political, and social cultural, is necessary for a freedom. The first thing involves the ability of the developing society to process changes orderly. Here it can be noted that without structural and fundamental changes, freedom does not have the chance to move forward. Whereas the second has to do with the society’s ability to develop, among others, to reach and maintain a balance between the economic growth and equality. This involves human perception which serves as the human’s basis. So the birth of self consciousness as an individual is needed in the individualization process. However we can agree that the concept and idea about freedom basically originate from western traditions and culture that hold tight to individualim.

When modernism as an ideology spread out influence and domination from its axis in Europe through out every angle of the world, the culture and life patterns of many nations undergo shifts, including the cultures in Asia. A big tide of ideology of modernism among others bring an agenda with the effort to free individual to reach purity and independence over dependence on matters assumed to be so authentic as the power of nature; also the primordial constructions that closely attached as a value system existing far beyond.

While related to the comprehending of the traditions and culture in Asia – including in Indonesia – ideology, also modernism creed, always come across a deadlock of insight towards primordialism which is strongly rooted to the Indonesian society who cannot be apart from agricultural and communal ways of life. So, if we make a thorough study, the understanding of a subject (an individual) as an independent entity or the appearance of an autonomous personality in the creation of artwork has brought about great changes in the artists’ methods and purpose of producing works of art.

Here we can momentarily assumed that the effort to individualize which implicates in the extential or social freedom has given a positive atmosphere towards the process of creating. This situation can trigger off optimistic insights such as what John Stuart mill, the sociologist, remarked, that “the broader the freedom to express is granted, the more advanced and developed the civilization and the society are”. Does this statement match the reality of the world of creation developing in Indonesia?

If we agree that freedom means barbaric, it is not civilization that occurs yet a straight road towards barbarism. But if we agree that freedom means orderly, then creating and culture enrichment will go on rolling unto completeness. Cause freedom, with the sense of orderly, will form and create a list of systems that create harmony in all sectors in the society. In this context we have to learn, that is - say – to learn to uphold the certainty of law, to learn to accept critics, to learn to be democratic, etc. These days we feel that freedom is in our hands, yet it seems freedom is something potential. On the other hand the government is still oppressive towards the public. What is worse is that they don’trely on a systematical cultural policy such as in RRC or Eastern Europe. Meaning, however dominating, the position of a government is holding the control of the system and designs together with their targets. Meanwhile in Indonesia, the country’s policy remain Phillistine from the past up till now, which means there is very slight concern about culture.

Another important point to be underlined is what John Stuart mill said develops from a culture that has developed The Renaissance since the middle ages (in Europe it produced three important things: science, ethics, and) so that the fredom rite was able to produce liberal arts. Art is meant for free human beings. And this reality is implemented in their educational and cultural institutions. Of course this fact is completely different from the reality happening in Asia, including in Indonesia.


Then, now, what do we talk again about freedom for? Is there any risky, critical and crucial problem so as to discuss the topic about freedom? I think the significant value of the reappearance of the discussion about freedom is just an effort to bring up again the historical problem. Collectively this nation has ever imagined an order completely different from the oppressing situation at that time, that is the domineering colonialism. A hundred years ago, dreams about feedom - existential and social through the establishment of ‘Boedi Oetomo’ as one of the trigger point of national movements - became the people’s desire which was implemented through many values and practices, among others about the struggle itself. It is unfavorable to deal with the matter, yet that is the historical facts unrelenting by time. Then, in this country ten years ago, collective desire came up to imagine the the return of otoritarianism and Suharto’s Military. So the loud sound of the Reformation movement became the medium for a collective dream to construct a new and different value system which put forward the aspects and values of freedom.

If then 50 works of art from 50 artists in this hall try to translate subjectively using creative framework about freedom values, I think this is the significant part of a joined effort to express, to mark, to celebrate, to imagine, to put into concepts, to contemplate on and may be to redefine the essence of freedom. It is important because freedom in Freire-ian’s viewpoint becomes the main point to lead to liberation. There critical consciousness originates …

Freedom regards.