Yogyakarta’s contemporary art scene

Indonesian 1977–

Kelly Gellatly, Curator, Contemporary Art, talks to Edwina Brennan, Exhibition Coordinator, about working with Eko Nugroho and Jompet Kuswidananto and her trip to Yogyakarta.

KG: More than half of Indonesia’s 240 million citizens are under 29 years of age. Is this reflected in Yogyakarta’s contemporary art

EB: While there may not be a lot of government financial support, Yogyakarta has an amazingly energetic contemporary art scene that is driven by artists. They really have to, and do, make their own opportunities. One of the ways this is done is through collectives – pooling their resources and creating merchandise to fund bigger projects or to develop their work. Most artists are part of one collective or another – as a way of sharing ideas, skill sets and creating merchandise to fund bigger projects or to develop their work. Some of the most exciting collectives I saw or met were Ace House Collective, Simponi, Fight for Rice and Evil Candy Machine. The Insitut Sensi Indonesia (ISI) is a big presence in the city, and it seemed most of the artists I met whilst there had studied there.

KG: It strikes me that there is a strong sense of community between the contemporary artists in Yogyakarta. Was this your experience?

EB: Definitely! While I didn’t understand any of the Bahasa people spoke into their phones, I would hear ‘Edwina … NGV’ and suddenly Edwin Roseno would be organising for me to see an exhibition at Mes 56’s new gallery space, or to see HaHan’s latest inflatable sculptural piece because someone had heard he was doing a test. When I saw HaHan’s inflatable sculpture, he organised a friend of his who does his videography to come and meet me. Now Zul is interviewing Jompet and Eko in Yogyakarta for the interpretive material that will be incorporated into our exhibition. It was really great – very connected, very supportive and ultimately, incredibly generous. There is also a really strong connection between artists and curators from Melbourne and Yogyakarta. Lots of Melbourne artists and curators have done great residency programs there. Now we just need to find more ways and means to bring Indonesian artists and curators to Melbourne. I hope this exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria is a catalyst for doing further work together.