Indonesian Women Artists: Into The Future History Has Begun A New Chapter

Story By
Stephanie Mamonto

An art project born from the ideas and stakes of centuries of creative, innovative female artists.

“Amidst an era of turbulence, super-advanced technology, accelerated findings in science, and outer space travel, the female spirit is dynamically breaking the shackles” wrote Carla Bianpoen and Citra Smara Dewi, curators of Indonesian Women Artists: Into the Future, held at the National Gallery of Indonesia from February 26 – March 16.

Throughout the centuries, women as creators have been involved in making art. In that time, they have faced challenges due to gender biases, from finding difficulty in training to selling their work and gaining recognition. In recent years, women have come forward as such strong voices in art and art history. This includes the strong voices of the 21 female Indonesian artists featured in both the exhibition and its corresponding book, written and compiled by writer and art curator Carla Bianpoen.

Into the Future aims to focus on the strengths of female perceptions. Besides themes distressing the private lives and the global community, the artists present their works in a non-frontal manner: on one hand they sharply pinpoint issues, on the other hand they show an ultimate subtlety denoting hope for a better life.

The exhibition featured the latest works from 21 artists representing Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta, such as Ayu Arista Murti, Dita Gambiro, Fika Ria Santika, Andrita Yuniza Orbandy, Kinez Riza, Etza Meisyara, and Restu Ratnaningtyas. A total of 21 installations and mixed media works were displayed, ranging from linocut, textiles, photography, glass, gauze, ceramics, watercolor, and iron plates to tree branches.

The awareness in synergizing art, technology, and science was neatly displayed through video art, sound art, LED lighting, photo media, and coding up to the use of bacteria such as acetobacter xylinum, and bacterial flowers from female genitals as part of the artists’ artwork concept. According to Carla Bianpoen, the female spirit which emphasizes the typical woman’s "sense" and "sensitivity" is the strength of the exhibition.

This can be seen in Syagini Ratna Wulan’s work that uses white lacquer paint on plexiglass. The work, “31.85 (6.21462.106.84513)” is inspired by the power of light and color waves. Cagi used physics and geography as the number “31.85” is the degree of slope of a rainbow, while the numbers in parentheses are the coordinates of the city of Jakarta.

The city theme can also be seen in Sanchia Hamidjaja’s work which was built up from digital print on fabric, lightbox display, and LED light. “The Future is Abandoned” is a picture of a more realistic representation of a city. This work is a delineation of the city of the future and which is not too different from what we live in today. A colorful digital illustration that was displayed like a billboard ad, looked very colorful, pleasing from a distance but when approached, decay had begun to accumulate in it. —piles of cars, unsold properties, semi-finished development structures and the absence of human existence and culture; a habitat that cannot be lived in.

Cecilia Patricia Untario tries different approaches in her glass tubes installation, “Silent 2”. It is still taboo to talk about sex in Indonesia, especially the importance of sex education for children. The idea of her work was adapted from a condom mold made of glass which is usually used to mass produce condoms in factories. This condom mold was made in unique shapes and different from each other to give the fun impression, but they were made with glass material, to give the impression of fragile. These two things were brought up by Patricia to present the important message that talking about sex is not a forbidden discussion, but can help the community to understand better the true meaning of sex.

We live in an era where technology is growing rapidly, new discoveries of science enrich life today, and the “female spirit" is making an unstoppable breakthrough. This is reflected in works of Yogyakarta-based artists, Elia Nurvista and Natasha Gabriella Tontey. Elia Nurvista’s video art was inspired by her experience when she had the chance to live in Berlin. Through “Früchtlinge”, she illustrates one of the residential phenomena in Berlin which reflects ambiguity. The attitude of ambiguity in this case is seen on two opposing sides; on the one hand, migrants and refugees tend to be hated, but on the other hand healthy products from the third-world countries, such as exotic tropical fruits are considered cool.

While Natasha Gabriella Tontey did the science-fiction exploration of cockroaches’ unique behavior, using video installation, wallpaper installation, and reading performances in “From Pest to Power”. It consists of a collection of nocturnal, homeopathic, habitable, and resourceful materials for a more eco-centric idea of futurism which means that humans are not the center of everything. As stated by the Xenofeminism manifesto, the future is not only for Children, but also for non-humans to be able to survive collaboratively. When we begin to distance anthropocentrism, we think more ecologically. In her work that was developed in a planetary glitch program, Natasha offers new thought-provoking ideas that the future is cockroaches.

All of the artworks presented in Into the Future have opened up challenges and possibilities as well as new ways in contemporary art that create "Art of Another Kind". They all signify the present time and the coming era, establishing yet another kind of new art, that we may name “NOW ART”.

Photo by Stephanie Mamonto