JOURNAL | ESSAYS

GALIH REZA, Perayaan Kemanusiaan Tanpa M

Riono Tanggul
Many sources #3 | 2022
Acrylic Spray Paint on Canvas | 200 x 150 cm

Making Sense by Making Connections

Words by

Rifda Amalia

Much of humanity’s perpetuance can be attributed to our nature to connect with others. Indeed, it is more advantageous to face a threat or the unknown with a group of individuals rather than to stick with oneself. However, this behavior is not limited to people. We do not only form relations with one another but also attach ourselves to objects, ideas, and concepts. These bonds form meanings and understandings that can help us make sense of the world around us, and as they develop into knowledge, we must accept that the backdraw of our tendency—the habit of forming social bubbles—can lead to knowledge illusion.

The concept of knowledge illusion, as postulated by cognitive scientists Philip Fernbach and Steven Sloman, proposes that we have a penchant for affiliating one or another dogma that is shaped and shared by a group of peers, allowing us to not only operate communally but also let that same group think for us. The eventual effect of knowledge illusion is bias, fact disparity, and prejudice. The advent of modern technology—transportation, social media, and teleconferencing software—have enabled us to connect more efficiently with people across the globe, especially in times of the ongoing pandemic, but it has also strengthened the potency of collective mindset. It is not uncommon for us to encounter intense polarity in, for example, political ideologies or confidence in the scientific method, as if the wide array spectrum of ideas have washed out to a dull contrast of black and white. As we connect with diverse and opposing individuals less and less, the illusion of knowledge exacerbates.


Art steps in to fill in the gaps created by social bubbles by humanizing us, though it cannot cure bias and prejudices nor change our behaviors. It could, however, invest people in deconstructing their own knowledge and in turn connect with others. Art takes time to seep into people’s psyche, but this slow and long process of dialogue is something that art can provide to bridge one community and the other.


On Connectivity examines select connections between men and the various subjects around them, such as the collective mindset, their habitats, history, and even the universe. The hope is that connections will be built upon observing the artworks presented; the more we connect with others that are unlike us or think differently from us, the less the gap that divides us, and the more we understand the world.


Expressing Collective Consciousness

The collective consciousness is a collection of ideologies, concepts, and mindsets that are shared by a group of individuals and works as a force that unites people in a society. It is shaped by shared thoughts and experiences that have been reinforced—accumulated, preserved, and proliferated—many times, which can happen in a short or long period of time. The collective consciousness can often be observed with the naked eye, such as the way we assign clothes and behavior based on gender, define what is right and wrong, and hold certain rituals.


By configuring geometric shapes into dynamic compositions, Abenk Alter is able to convey collective consciousness into a narrative that tackles multiple perspectives and aspects at once, which allows him to highlight scenes—and connections—of his subject simultaneously. He captures people’s power of mysticism and spirituality in Observing the Observer and Jagat-Jagat as well as the familial kinship of communities in Warm Season. These elements would otherwise be missed in real life, but Abenk compiles the essence in his artworks for audiences to connect with.


There are shared thoughts and experiences that exist in the metaphysical realm, ones that can be observed and quantified, but cannot be seen. In Boo! Rex, Roar! Stego, and Fire! Raptor, Addy Debil anthropomorphized the figurative idea of mass opinions into dinosaur-like figures. He argues that, like the extinct species, most people often have a false understanding of the world. One misconception might be thought to be true for a long time by many people that, at one point, it became a fact—much like how many of us thought that dinosaurs were reptilian-like when they looked much closer to avians.


In Who is South, North, and Lord, Hidden Terms of Compliance, and Be Mad The Pain Deepens Us, Dian Suci Rahmawati ruminates on the mistakes of the authorities and their series of neglect and oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through symbolized representations of power, she asserts that the forceful passing of adverse bills that only benefit the elites, missteps in controlling the contagion, and communication inconsistencies resulted in the worsening of Indonesia’s economy and health. Despite all this, Dian is hopeful through her witnessing the communal power of the people. The color red that dominates her paintings and the images of people lifting an empty chair portrayed the collective power of the people that surfaced in times of crisis, even with the lack of support from the state.


Strike a Nerve is Darbotz’s take on our connection with each other through issues brought about by miscommunications, relationship dramas, and even traffic jams—that despite the challenges we face to connect with each other, we can always find a way to still relate to each other in the banality of everyday lives.

Bunga Yuridespita
Living Room’s Labyrinth | 2022
Acrylic on Canvas | 200 x 200 cm
Tirtodipuran Link (Apr 23 - Jun 12, 2022)

Tirtodipuran Link (Apr 23 - Jun 12, 2022)

Bunga Yuridespita
Living Room’s Labyrinth | 2022
Acrylic on Canvas | 200 x 200 cm

This assertion can be seen in where we spend most of our time and how much we invest in building our habitats as they can represent our qualities, beliefs, and personalities—or at least project how we’d like to be perceived.

Inhabiting Spaces and the Environment

In Architecture of Happiness, Swiss-British philosopher Alaine de Botton argues that we look to our surroundings to shape our thoughts and feelings, as if the spaces that we occupy are psychological templates that could communicate to us our identities. This assertion can be seen in where we spend most of our time and how much we invest in building our habitats as they can represent our qualities, beliefs, and personalities—or at least project how we’d like to be perceived. Impression is a two-way connection; as one creates a meaning within the space, it imprints the individual’s mind.


Bunga Yuridespita and Etza Meisyara envision our connection to the spaces that we inhabit as leaving metaphysical footprints in the world. In Bunga’s Living Room’s Labyrinth, she proposes that we leave behind atmospheric impressions in the spaces that we occupy frequently. Much like how Carl Jung would describe color psychology, Bunga stamps hues to describe hints of meanings and perceptions that we build into our spaces. In Suluban, Etza contemplates our connection with spaces as a vivid superposition of tokens from our memory into places—that when we revisit such locations, specters of intimate memory will appear as if coexisting with the living world.


Can art help settle the definition of private rooms and public spaces when the people demand it? This is a question that Riono Tanggul attempts to answer in the Many Sources trilogy. Superimposed and stacked on top of each other, the subject matter of Riono’s artworks appears to be ever-changing and mutating, which is fitting for his ceaseless attempt to give one absolute meaning to the spaces he seeks to make connections with. Through his paintings, he asks the audience to examine the abilities of art to pacify the opposing; between private and public spaces, and between the physical and non-physical world.


When she visited Mandar in West Sulawesi, Ipeh Nur went on a quest of self-discovery by leaving her personal space and connecting with a new one with different culture, customs, traditions, inventions, and even sets of problems. She documented her journey in Ke Luar Untuk Ke Dalam, where objects of her memory and after images of the experience merge into an intricate artwork. Ipeh laments on the state’s thoughtlessness for building concrete structures along the coastline, cutting off the people’s connection with the open water and essentially suffocating the regency’s marine culture and tradition, and agonizes over the eventual loss of a civilization that historically not only built the famous giant ships Jung Jawa but also conquered the spice trade of Southeast Asia.


What happens when we sever the connection between people and their surroundings? Andy Dewantoro argues that it might just be the ecological solution to the world. In his two paintings, Stiff and Come, Andy demonstrates that nature quietly flourishes in the absence of human activities, which offers an insight into how much our actions in the world today can have lasting impacts on the environment and perhaps moments of reprieve is what nature needed to recover.


Observing Changes in Time


Time’s indifference towards living things is one of the ruthless realities in this world. As an immovable force of nature, it advances without stopping at anyone’s request or mercy. Perhaps, this is why we preserve stories, artifacts, and knowledge to fight against time because the value of culture and history is as important as keeping humanity alive. However, advancements and hindrances in our civilization cannot simply be attributed to the passing of time itself. Indeed, upon closer inspection, human intervention plays a prominent role in the paradigm shifts.


In Pencuri Arca, Enka Komariah demonstrates the ways in which culture and history change in three time periods. The transitions are stark—religious artifacts are rolled out by what appears to be poachers, perhaps symbolizing the erasure of Indonesia’s culture and history by its own people’s actions. While Enka confronts the perversion of people’s actions at moments in time, I Made Agus Saputra is able to make peace with the changes in culture and history by compressing time into a single moment in order to observe culture and history throughout time simultaneously. Tradisi Budaya & Masa Depan and Menyama Braya (Gotong Royong) examine the harmonious anachronism of milestones by removing time out of the equation. Even though the elements look out of place next to one another, they appear to be in dialogues and play on each other, providing a more fluid, multidimensional narration for audiences to connect with.


Preserving culture and history isn’t the only way to combat the unforgivable nature of time. If time is a fixed variable, then we look to the ones we can manipulate—the stories and knowledge we choose to share with others. In Transhistorism of Kalatidha, Eddy Susanto cautions us about the many times those in power have changed culture and history to suit their needs. As time goes on, whatever is filtered and altered becomes the truth. As a result, those who are silenced—whose stories do not connect with the general public—get buried and become lost in time’s ruthless advancement.

This is further shown in Citra Sasmita’s work. Through her research on kakawin (Balinese literature tradition written in Old Javanese, mostly in the form of epic tales), Citra discovered that the most popular and known kakawin in Balinese history were mostly written by and about elitist men and their ideologies, without representing the life of the common people and female perspective. In the Ghost in Paradise series, Citra imagined a recontextualization of Balinese Kakawin from the previously marginalized and absent narration, showing us stories about rite of passage, war and sexuality with a female as the main character. She attempts to give spotlight to the omitted voices that were historically lacking or almost absent.


While some artists reflect on history’s progress and its effects on culture, others swim along in the stream of it. Farley Del Rosario, Laksamana Ryo, and Mark Santos create artworks that are inspired by the contemporary zeitgeist. Their connection with pop culture allows them to tap into what general audiences can effortlessly digest and admire.

I Made Agus Saputra
Tradisi, Budaya & Masa Depan | 2022
Oil on Canvas | 180 x 180 cm

I Made Agus Saputra
Tradisi, Budaya & Masa Depan | 2022
Oil on Canvas | 180 x 180 cm

Tirtodipuran Link (Apr 23 - Jun 12, 2022)

Tirtodipuran Link (Apr 23 - Jun 12, 2022)

Communing with the Cosmos


Since the beginning, humanity has always embraced the supernatural aspects of the universe. We innately look towards otherworldly powers to guide our paths and provide answers to our problems. Whether it comes from organized religions or decentralized belief systems, we have always believed in the designs of a power outside of the physical realm giving meaning to our living experiences. Building a connection with the universe via art is not something that modern men started; prehistoric people in South Sulawesi captured their anima through cave paintings as means of communication and communion.


The act of being self-aware about our existence in the cosmos transcends worldly rituals and activities, providing a sense of comfort as it tethers our mind and body to where we belong. This is an affirmation that Fatoni Makturodi presents in his monolithic pieces INHALE, Riuh Meruah and EXHALE, Derau Berderai. He also touches on the entropy and enthalpy of nature; we can elevate our consciousness by embracing—connecting with—chaos and order in the universe. A similar interpretation of cosmic energy is also tackled by Dede Cipon in CosmosChaotic WorkSubtle Order, Unity In Polarity, and The Passenger on The Cosmic Ship, which are three tableaus of knowledge that represent the artist’s understanding of how the world works; the universe manifests itself in masculine and feminine energies, writes humanity’s fate which flows like an ark on a river, and begets the cyclical nature of chaos and order. Similar in appearance to the Voyager Golden Record, the art pieces may perhaps act as not only a proof of human’s attempt to connect with the cosmos but also with life beyond Earth.


The reason why people attempt to commune with the universe is not always grand; it is often for personal guidance. Tarot readings have long been used as a tool for fortune-telling since the late 18th century. Occultists and believers take to the deck of arcane cards to learn about themselves, seek knowledge of their future, or solve a problem that is known and unknown. In The Lovers and The Tower, Agugn Prabowo doesn’t necessarily swear by the revelations of tarot cards, but he connects his life experiences to the symbolic elements of the cards. Through the creation of these artworks—a process he would call a synergy—Agugn reconnected with the past and found learnings for his personal growth.


Engaging the Audience


Art is scientific in its approach; it doesn’t act immediately and requires multiple observations and analysis to produce a meaning—that is, an alternative scheme of thinking. More often than not, though, general audiences find it difficult to connect with art; they dismiss it at first glance for lacking an accessible and clear meaning. Then, how else can artists engage with their audiences? Perhaps, instead of jumping ahead to art’s meaning, we can start with the techniques employed.


Evi Pangestu is known for her neon yellow squares. Bright and vulgar, Forced Interaction 1 and Forced Interaction 2 screams for the audience’s attention. The novelty of Evi’s artwork doesn’t end there, though. Straight on and from a distance, the squares look even-sided, but upon closer inspection, swellings and protuberances distort the flat surface. It appears that some kind of objects had been forced to fit the structure by enclosing it with a thin wrap. To cover up those deformities, Evi paints a clean swath of neon yellow on top of the square composition. Then, the allegory becomes clear—a silenced rebellion in the confines of a rigid construct.


Bursting and screaming with extreme visuals, Crossing the Border series by Dwiky Ka forces the audience to confront their perception of many artworks’ clean and articulate compositions with asymmetrical maximalism. The edges of his works are not a usual square-shaped frame, rather, those hard edges are shaped like an explosion that appear in the after-effect of the clashing of two opposing matters, and these explosions would create necessary reactions, new understandings and possibilities of connecting with perspectives that we will not otherwise encounter before. With this in mind, each facet of Dwiky’s artworks, especially the unevenness of them, provide new stories to tell to the audience.


Rendy Raka envisions himself as God in Kehendak Dalam Penciptaan #12 and Kehendak Dalam Penciptaan-Perjalanan Baur #2. Rightfully so, he creates universes through his artworks with contemplative craftsmanship as the sole act of painting itself is a divine creation. By meditatively brushing, pouring, washing, splattering, stippling, and dabbing his paint, Rendy believes that the abstract shapes come to him by providence, and they are representative of the turmoil and harmony creation. Despite being different, these “living things” exist in tolerance to create one composition, and each layer represents the passing of time. Rendy wants his audience to sink themselves into the biome and imagine as if the aliens live among them.


Mujahidin Nurrahman explores the intimacy of interaction between artworks and audiences in The Piles when he realized that, in the upcoming face-to-face exhibition On Connectivity, Mujahidin would no longer be constrained by a virtual engagement. Now that his artwork and audiences will coexist in the same space, he incorporates the room’s temperature, lighting, and scent as part of the interactivity—that at different positions, the artwork will spark new conversations. One thing for certain is that the ornately complex papercut will entice the audience to run their fingers through his artwork. With high intensity in technique, Muhajidin speaks nothing about grand ideas; he simply asks his audience, through his artwork, to share their experiences and connect with each other.


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Art is scientific in its approach; it doesn’t act immediately and requires multiple observations and analysis to produce a meaning—that is, an alternative scheme of thinking.