Arahmaiani: Art, Women and Earth
Saturday, April 10, 2021
10.00 - 13.00 WIB
Farid Rakun, Alia Swastika, Monchu
Arahmaiani is an important figure in the development of contemporary art as well as the pioneer of performance art in Indonesia. Her work is a bridge - or even dialectic - between things that seem opposite; contemporary art and traditional culture, art and popular media, arts and environmental activism, feminism and religion, homeland and nomadism, globalization and nationalism, urban and rural. Arahmaiani not only provides critical insights into the complex intersections of nature, culture and politics, but also facilitates a reinterpretation of Indonesian â€œwomen'sâ€ or â€œfeministâ€ artistic ideas.
Since the 1980s, her art has drawn strong reactions from religious and political hardliners. In 1983, she criticized the New Order by drawing steel tanks and writing poetry on the streets. She got arrested, interrogated, then released on parole after a doctor stated she was mentally ill. That year she also left Indonesia and lived in Sydney, Australia. From her contact with marginalized groups such as Aboriginal people, hippies, and punk groups who opposed establishment through music and fashion, she found a reverberation of her anxieties about capitalism and globalization.
Arahmaiani's anxiety also includes issues of reproduction and control of the female body, as stated in her work: Do Not Prevent the Fertility of the Mind. An installation in the form of a 6m x 4m wall filled with sanitary napkins in almost all parts with a photo of herself holding scissors and contraceptives. In that work, she critized the policy of the Family Planning Program launched during the New Order government.
In 1993, her first solo exhibition took place at Studio Oncor, Jakarta, with the controversial headline: Sex, Religion and Coca Cola. One piece of art exhibited, Lingga - Yoni, was a symbol of balance between female and male energies as a universal value, found in many religions including animism, Hinduism, Buddherm and Islam. The work made her faced death threats. She was accused for insulting religion by painting male and female genitalia including Arabic characters on the object.
Nomadism for Arahmaiani may not be just a fight or flight mechanism. However, she is more than just an international celebrity, isolated from Indonesian society and her art scene. Instead, she has always maintained strong ties to her homeland and, if not inspired, at least has been part of a much larger movement of creative women's activists. Arahmaiani's personalized nomadism has facilitated a reconnection with Indonesia's past, alternative interpretations of the homeland and the nation-state, and a vision of a more just and inclusive form of community. This is implemented from her environmentally sound projects with communities and societies in Java, Bali, Tibet and elsewhere, which are increasingly "practical" in nature.
In simple terms, Arahmaiani is important, because what she does is no longer producing "works of art", but integrating "art" into everyday life as an aesthetic process, not just aesthetic production. And art is an effective way for women and the earth to come back to our consciousness.