The article first appeared in the Jakarta Globe, 18 September 2013. Click below.
Mass culture is crucial in determining the success of a political campaign. Candidates run the campaign by employing popular art to extend their arms to as many voters as possible. When congregation in a sports hall at a particular time on a day is no longer enough, posters and stickers filled every elements seen on the streets. “Hope” poster by Shepard Fairey made its way to become the most iconic piece of art with political underpinning during presidential election in America in 2008. Barack Obama has benefited greatly from it. Even in his second presidential campaign, the poster still resonated.
What if a city planner runs for mayor election? In the eve of the election day on 18 September, ten candidates heat up the race to become the mayor of Makassar, the capital city of South Sulawesi, and one of the biggest cities in Indonesia. One of them was, and still is, the person behind the urban planning that has reshaped Makassar into a better-looking city. Currently one of the top candidates, Danny Pomanto enjoys the popularity among the population due to his tangible contributions. He helped transform the bay area into an open deck with sunset view, which also functions as the city’s main plaza due to its scale. In the vicinity stands a mosque with a sunset view which is claimed to be the country’s first floating mosque. The city planner is also the architect of the mosque, adding another reason for his high electability. But he barely stops there.
As the crowded area gets more vibrant at dusk with restaurants, shops and bars, huge “DIA” sculpture is found among the crowd on the center of the deck. The three-letter sculpture in orange fabric is around four-meter tall and has been there for months to boost his chance of winning the election. The letters represents the acronym of the pair, Syamsu Rizal. In Indonesia, an archipelagic country that is the newly-opened playing ground for democracy, he too takes advantage of advertising. The lively public space that apparently owes so much to him is just the perfect place to associate his campaign into. It sets a presedence for a campaign strategy that emphasises the use of pop-art. Some likens the sculpture with Robert Indiana’s world famous text graphics LOVE, the sculptures of which are found in New York City and Philadelphia. Whereas they differ in motives, their commonalities lay in the social attitude and impact.