“FAKTOR X” in 2019 Indonesian Contemporary Art & Design: Searching for the Veiled Things

Story By
Stephanie Mamonto

The Indonesian Contemporary Art & Design (ICAD) has had a remarkably varied, creative journey to date. Now entering its tenth year, it has taken on more roles for the development of the creative world in Indonesia.


Photo by ICAD’s Documentation

“After ten years, what can and do we need to do?” asked Hafiz Rancajale, in his curatorial statement for this year’s ICAD. This fundamental question is felt necessary to dig deeper into the role to be taken by the ICAD especially as it is becoming a familiar institution for a cultural event.

Starting by tracing everything back over the nine previous years, such as revisiting designers and artists involved, visitor opinions, past public programs, media coverage, and various economic aspects surrounding the event, the 2019 ICAD Artistic Team decided to frame this year’s theme: “Faktor X” (X Factor) — to open a veil that has been closed or may not be visible.

“Then, how to open that veil? I search through the mapping of the artists’ thoughts and practices, as well as those of designers who are still unknown to the public,” said Hafiz.

A decade is certainly not a short time, so it is important for the ICAD to see, map, formulate and forecast how the development of art and design is moving forward. In other words, it is safe to say that ten years is old enough for an organization to take on more roles for the development of the creative world in Indonesia.

In Hafiz’ curatorial statement of Faktor X, the idea of the mind mapping is framed in the strategy of how to open the veils or to read the ‘footprints’ belonging to artists and designers in their creative process. All the works that exist in the contemporary world, in fact, have a constructive footprint that comes from the thoughts of their creators. It also attaches to the social world surrounding the works when the artist/ designer creates the works.

The mind mappings are read through a mixture of archive-based investigations of the creative process of the artists and designers, as well as interviews about the background of their work. There are three groups of artists and designers at the 2019 ICAD exhibition, divided into “In Focus”, “Next Gen”, and “Open Submission”.

The first group, “In Focus”, consists of artists and designers who were traced specifically through archival research, documentation, and direct interviews conducted by the ICAD Research Team. They are Adi Purnomo (architect, Jakarta), Agus Suwage (artist, Yogyakarta), Dolorosa Sinaga (sculptor, Jakarta), FX Harsono (artist, Yogyakarta), Hadiprana Studio (architectural and interior design studio, Jakarta), Hardiman Radjab (artist, Jakarta), Nirwan Dewanto (writer, Jakarta), Rinaldy A. Yunardi (designer, Jakarta), Syahrizal Pahlevi (artist, Yogyakarta) and Tisna Sanjaya (artist, Bandung).

Dolorosa Sinaga came with her famous sculpture, Solidarity. According to Dolorosa, the sculpture presented at ICAD 2019 is an illustration of her artistic practice and her stance on contemporary socio-political issues. Women figures in Solidarity hold hands with each other forming a human chain. They open their mouths while voicing what is happening in front of them. All context regarding resistance towards injustice and women’s power, combined with Dolorosa’s fluency about the body, became her artistic statement.

Designer Rinaldy A. Yunardi, whose headpieces have been worn by many Hollywood artists, came with a piece titled What Is in My Mind. Specifically, Rinaldy created a headpiece design that illustrates the mind mappings of each person. In a satirical way, he made an interactive installation that tried to tickle the audience. “I am often asked by people about my work and productivity, ‘What’s on your mind?’ They would seem confused,” said the artist while laughing.

While Writing in The Rain by FX Harsono was presented together with the mind mapping of the artist’s creative journey, and his connection with the socio-political changes in Indonesia. FX Harsono traces his Chinese experience back to the history of violence against ethnic Chinese. Writing in The Rain (2011) is one of his monumental works. It shows FX Harsono writing his Chinese name, Oh Hong Boen, in Chinese calligraphy on glass. When he finished the calligraphy, the water fell, just like the rain, erasing the name he had written.

The second group, “Next Gen” consists of the artists and designers who are considered important and have a tendency to work with mind-mapping methods, both artistically and in thought.

One of them is Yaya Sung, artist and photographer, who presented the Study of Sanity: Flexuous (2015 & 2019). It is a study of the body and the unexpected possibilities, such as mental health.

Also present was artist and sculptor Lenny Weichert, who presented work from her research on women in Indonesian history. The figure presented at the exhibition was Mbah Lestari, a former New Order political prisoner and how she sang the struggle song, 12 November 1926, which was suspected to be a song of rebellion against the colonials by the Indonesian Communist Party. Lenny’s work was presented with a video and object installation, reinterpreting her meetings with Mbah Lestari.

For the first time in its 10-year history ICAD presented an ‘Open Submission’ selection consisting of eight participants; Aditya Tri Suwito, Agnes Hansella, Dea Yuliana Kombaitan, Dhanurendra Pandji, Izal Batubara, Taufiqurrahman and Maria Deandra, The Distillery Asia, and Marten Bayuaji.

At the opening night, for the first time ICAD also gave awards as an expression of gratitude and appreciation for the support and synergy that have occurred since the first ICAD in 2009. The ICAD Award 2019 was presented to Irwan Ahmett for his contributions in developing contemporary art and design in Indonesia. He was selected by the ICAD jury team, consisting of Bambang Budjono (Writer), Hilmar Farid (Historian, Activist, Teacher), Ricky Joseph Pesik (Advertising Practitioner and Deputy Head of Creative Economy Agency 2014-2019), Diana Nazir (The Elder Member of the Indonesian Design+Art Foundation), and Harry Purwanto (Chairman of the Indonesian Design+Art Foundation).

Taking place in the Grandkemang Hotel, ICAD was held from October 16 to November 24, 2019 and aimed to open the veils and to read the ‘footprints’ belonging to artists and designers in their creative process.