Art as Social Criticism

May 12, 2013

Visual Art Exhibition “Meta Amuk”

By Winarto


“Space”, video art by Wahyu Utami

A woman with Javanese traditional wear appears, emerges from the bottom of a swimming pool, lays on the surface, then upside-down in the water and disappears. But not for a long time,  again, she float to the surface and make same movements before diving into water.

Watching this video film  for minuets we will get difficulties to take a breath. As if we are also in the water and have to make same movements without to know when it will be finished.

This art video with title “Space” worked by Wahyu Utami has been brilliant idea to feature social life of traditional women that is so limited. Their everyday life is just routine, monotone, imprisoned by limitations: tradition, culture, economy and political.

This video is interesting, not only the content, but also it’s whole presentation. The video monitor in 1,5 by 2 meters size has been lied on the floor with a 20 cm high wall around,  so it is like as a mini swimming pool. Watching the video,  we feel that we are looking at the woman in the swimming pool directly.

In the quiet situation of exhibition room, the sound of water at swimming pool from the video is rhythmical and mysterious.

“Space” is one of 115 art works consist of paintings, sculptures  and installation arts displayed in “Indonesian Visual Arts Exhibition 2013” (Pameran Senirupa Nusantara 2013) at National Gallery,Jakarta,May 8-24, 2013. They are selected works of artists  from 25 provinces inIndonesia.

Kuss Indarto and Asikin Hassan, as curators,  proposed the title “Meta Amuk” (Meta Amok) for the exhibition. With this title they want to present the visual arts in their relationship with social problems.

“Visual art is, beside as personal expression of the artist, also has a role to talk about social issues. This exhibition is intended to discover creative ideas of Indonesian artists in their respond to social problem and criticism  that was tradition in Indonesian culture,” said Kuss Indarto in his curatorial note.

 Gender and Limitations

Among works here,  Wahyu Utami’s “Space” is strong enough in responding the curators request on the theme “Meta Amok”. She presents “amok” in context of gender issues. That is about women social status in traditional culture that still facing a lot of limitations.

“Beauty Ailing”, painting, by Ugy Sugiharto

Like as Wahyu Utami, Ugy Sugiharto gives an attention to women issues. With his painting, “Beauty Ailing”, Ugy features a young girl, beautiful, but naked and trapped in twist of mud.

Other artist, Achmad Sobirin talks about limitations and backwardness. His oil painting, “Merebut Seruling Tetangga” (Taking by Force a Neighbor’s Flute), shows two adult people in the jungle and a little boy have been fighting for a flute. This painting make us to remember the villagers and traditional people inIndonesiathat left behind by development in social, economic and politic.

Politic and Corruption

Other problems presented here is political chaos, corruption and violence that still often happen inIndonesia. Some works  are seen interesting because the using of symbolical elements.  Look at, for instance, work of Gigin Ginanjar, “Bocor” (The Leak) that shows a piece of woman wear (tank top) with bloody red spots, stuck by some sharp nails. There is also a work of Hasan, “Selalu Ada Api” (There is always Fire). Fire may symbolize hot situation because of political conflicts  and violence that threatening our nation.

Commotion in political world is expressed by Sugihartono work, “Album Reformasi” (The Album of Reformation). Using pencil on papers Sugihartono drew various events around “Reformation Movement” inIndonesiasuch as student demonstrations, conflict of political elites and fighting for power.  These 46 sketches and drawings  were adhered on a panel measures 200 by 244 cm.

While, some works about corruption use classical symbols:  pigs and rats. These animals are often used to symbolize corruptors.

However, as a whole, “Meta Amuck” has been success to bring the key message that art is not only for art. Art has also a function for social criticism.

Other articles: Social criticism in Indonesai Contemporary Art










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