Sipfest 2016 to find a relevance in the host country

web-banner-sipfest-on-think-archipelagoSIPFest 2016 is the fifth performing arts bienalle held by Komunitas Salihara in Kompleks Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the event which runs from 1 October 2016 onwards until early November. To see more of their programs, please click all the SIPFest 2016 banner found in think archipelago website.

Gus Dur: Tuhan Tidak Perlu Dibela. Purjito. 2016.Gus Dur: Tuhan Tidak Perlu Dibela. Purjito. 2016.

Komunitas Salihara’s traditional bienalle festival, held consecutively ever since its opening in 2008, then called Festival Salihara, begins in October with a more significant merit to be an internationally recognized art stage showcasing its well curated exhibitions so far under the new name SIPFest 2016, said the Program Director Nirwan Dewanto.

The Salihara International Performing Arts 2016 catches up with the recent tightly scheduled art events in town, say Jakarta Bienalle early this year or the ostentatious Bazaar Art Jakarta in a lavish shopping mall last month. But one wonders about its true intention besides global recognition. Every souvenir shop at the corner of the world aspires to export their products anyway.

Having successfully invited award-winning artists among international performers to fill the month-long programs is a brag worth appreciating. Local audience gets the chance to see some premiere exhibitions in a variety of preference: theater, music, and dance.

The Human Zoo Theater Company from England, will play The Girl Who Fell In love with the Moon for the first time in Asia. Likewise, Australian Speak Percussion will perform their musical show Transducer & Fluorophone, while Canadian-based Montreal Danse presents their Asian premiere work Prisms.

From local artists, EkosDance Company will perform Balabala, noted as the world’s first by choreographer Eko Supriyanto, whose reputation can no longer be disputed following Opera Jawa, and Madonna’s Drowned World Tour in 2001.

Dance, a chance to raise local issues

But what is the relevance to the host country current situation? Is it simply art for art’s sake? Since when it is so?

Even when Manifesto Kebudayaan, or more popularly known for its derogatory remarks Manikebu, emphasizes on art independence from any political stances in 1963, it was already an outright political movement, signed by a thousand proponents to counter the government-backed Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat or Lekra.

Or when New Art Movement or Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru (GSRB) threw an antithesis in another chapter of art struggle in the country’s history, the decision to unite against the prevailing group in the 70s art scene was in in itself a clear politically-laden initiatives by a particular group. “Art for the sake of art” notion sounds naive.

Obviously bringing international names to an art event is a head-turning feat. But it remains to be seen whether these participants would have brought in ideas from afar that resonate here.

Although one can hardly challenge the fact that Indonesia’s fine arts is shaped by global art scene, it is the degree of relevance to the local issues that eventually perceive a particular form of art whether it will thrive or fade into obscurity.

The political language

Soviet Russia in pre-revolutionary era was a fine example of this, at least in a practical sense.

Theater thrived exponentially as art patrons and governments were fully aware that it was the most effective form compared to, say, literature, to deliver ideas at the times when illiteracy was high, not to mention it was easier to express cynicism against the merchant class through mimicry, a major issue among the Soviet Russia’s majority deprived peasants and labors.

Santuary 2016. Made Gede Guna Valasara
Santuary 2016. Made Gede Guna Valasara
Santuary 2016. Made Gede Guna Valasara. 2016.
Santuary 2016. Made Gede Guna Valasara. 2016.

Will theater program in SIPFest 2016 echo the above example in terms of getting the right medium to reach out to the public?

Perhaps, but the organizers have another approach. Four art installations could be the answer to how Komunitas Salihara use this moment to magnify social issues around.

One that steals the spotlight is the statue of the former president of Indonesia, the late Abdurrahman Wahid, by sculptor Purjito, whose provocatie title Gus Dur: Tuhan Tidak Perlu Dibela, named after Wahid’s book containing his writing pieces about vested interest by religious groups in Indonesia that undermines peace in diversity.

A life-sized sculpture is a reminder that to live in harmony albeit differences is the priority in the heterogeneous society such as Indonesia. The flock of birds in an art installation by Made Gede Wiguna Valasara titled Sanctuary 2016 discloses an intense display, as viewers wonder where the birds are heading.

The convoluted mass migration to find a refuge is a tragedy. In a local perspective, the eviction of illegal dwelling that has been filling the headlines of late to make way for city development raises a dilemma among the unaffected public. Conscience is put to test against the pragmatic decision for the greater good.