Tag Archives: Kunci Cultural Studies Center

Day 12

Kunci – Cultural Studies Center

KUNCI Cultural Studies Center is a non-profit and independent organization established in in 1999 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. KUNCI is working to create an Indonesian society that is culturally critical, open, and empowered. Its mission is to develop cultural studies with the spirit of experimentation and to advance its criticality into a wider movement through popular education practices.

Working Team
Ferdiansyah Thajib (Director), Nuraini Juliastuti (Co-founder), Antariksa (Co-founder), Syafiatudina (Programme), Brigitta Isabella (Junior Researcher), Rarik Oktaviani (Office Admin), Wok The Rock (Web Admin), Yuli Andari Merdikaningtyas (Library), Hayyu Al Qoyyumi (Assistant Librarian)

Presentation at Kunci by Nuraini Juliastuti (Co-founder)
& Antariksa (Co-founder)

Ruang Mes 56

MES 56 is an artist collective established on February 28, 2002, which is active in the field of photography that emphasizes in the exploratory approach of contemporary photography, both in theory and practice, conceptually and contextually; having the purpose to develop the discourse of contemporary photography sphere in Indonesia. Ruang MES 56 do several programs, which are Exhibition, Artist in residence program , Workshop, and Archiving. All of these programs are carried out by self-financing and with the support from several donors, either from non-profit institution or from commercial company. All of the programs aim to empower the pop-culture society in Indonesia.

Presentation by Ruang MES 56 director, Wimo Bayang


HONF. It starts as a young community, with various backgrounds and ideals. They want to do whatever they wish, but with a natural inclination to create by the spirit of togetherness. There is no ambition to work simply for personal profit. They create for themselves, their family, and their environment. This is the basis for the first actions and commitment between them.
The house of natural fiber, Yogyakarta, is a New Media art laboratory, founded in 1999. They concentrate on the principles of critique and innovation. Since the beginning, the house of natural fiber has consistently focused on cultural development and New Media art, running numerous New Media art projects and workshops. In every project we concentrate on interactivity with people and environments. Thinking forward, positive and creative is becoming a vision for this community. In the implementation of this vision, in every program, they work towards the development of art with technology. This desire to contemplate the future of technology and art, is an important endeavour for the technology itself.

Venzha seeks to have a limitless space in which to experiment various ideas, working to realize his vision. With Irene “Ira” Agrivina, Istasius “Itaz” and Tommy “imot” Surya, he begins to work together, in response to great ideas in their community. Venzha is an interior designer who is technology and UFO maniac. Ira is a fashion designer, who likes reading and writing poetry. Itaz is a graphic-designer, who is a skilled comics artist. Imot is a VJ who working on web and interactivity projects.
The basic idea is to communicate something about New Media that focuses on limitless ideas, neglecting whether outcomes belong to an ‘art’ scene or not. Venzha believes everything can be an art and everyone can make a work of art, with various forms and definitions. It is legal throughout the reason and its responsibility in it. Even though finally Venzha and his community make some works interactivity projects, technology research, media art festival, DIY gathering, workshops, media performances, lecturing, electronic music movement, etc, this is perhaps because of their bargaining position, drawing on from their various supporting backgrounds.
Their concern with the younger community is expressed though the Education Focus Program (EFP), which proposes various workshops for children, and ‘newcomers’ to New Media technologies. It is also simply about sharing a vision, and not neglecting the surroundings one works in. This environment sustains them, as people and as artists, to continue working and living.

Office for Contemporary Art

OFFICE For Contemporary Art (OFCA)  International is an Artists’ initiative founded in Yogyakarta, Indonesia by Berlin based curator Astrid Honold, the painters Jumaldi Alfi and Fendry Ekel with the aim to support individual talented artists working in Indonesia and abroad within the international context. The selection of artists reflects the diversity of contemporary art practice, from new developments in painting, sculpture, installation, video and photography and is based on a shared attitude towards art practice and the position of the artist in today’s society. OFCA International is based in Yogyakarta in its own building which houses also artists’ residence and an exhibition with a semi permanent display of its contemporary art collection. With Black Cat Publishing, OFCA International produces art exhibition catalogues and monographs.
The origin of OFCA International begin in 2004 when Astrid Honold after many years of working for international design label Droog Design in Amsterdam, founded Astrid Honold OFFICE and started managing the careers of visual artists. In 2011 she co-founded OFCA International in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Today besides focusing on the career of its artists, the activities of OFCA International is developing art exhibitions, lectures and artist residency program.

Presentation by Fendry Ekel


Day 12

Thursday, 15th of november 2012

(handwritten in a taxi, bus and rickshaw )

On this penultimate journey, the day before we actually head home, we have some (short) time off  before we head to our first meeting at the KUNCI cultural centre.

So it gave me time to ‘escape’ the tight schedule of the orientation trip, and head of first north, towards another bookshop. Yes dear reader, my thirst for stuff and knowledge seems insatiable, though the space left in my luggage or on my bank account are not.

So I leave the hotel at 8.30, first by taxi, than by rickshaw.

This is actually a quite funny situation, I leave the group and find myself suddenly in some kind of solo-traveller mode, a position which I know very well. Now I have to act, take decisions, outside the ensemble, outside the unity and without any leader.

As I was unable to bring my laptop on this trip, I have to write these notes by hand.  Just try this, sitting in a taxi which zigzags through the city, between rickshaws, strayed dogs, lost tourists, hawkers and much more.

After a, rather disappointing, stop at the local bookstore, i.e. no English books on Borobudur, our main target on friday, I head to the Kraton, or is it Keraton(?), the palace of the Sultans of Yogyakarta.

I am eager to visit this 18th century palace of the present Sultan (build in 1755 or is it 1790?). Yogyakarta, former capital of the island, boasts since a few centuries a number of Sultans who still live here, and rule the place, even though now, they have a more ceremonial role in society. Actually Yogyakarta holds still a special protected status within Javanese society.

Interesting for me is the link with Mataram, the former ancient Javanese kingdom which was probably initiated here in the 4th or 5th century ACE, and which is said to have developed the mythical Buddhist temples of Borobudur, which we will visit tomorow.

The taxi driver drops me of north from the palace on the gigantic market square alun-alun which is filling up with a multitude of shops.

From afar I see the forecourt of the Keraton Yogyakarta.

Forecourt Kraton

I run to the ticket booth, cross the guards and enter the palace.

Astonishing how many, mainly local, visitors are already present at this early hour.

We have only access to a small part of this more than 1km2 palace, which is still inhabitated by the present ruler the 10th Sultan Hamengku Buwono X

Basically the Keraton is a city within the city, consisting of museums, mosques, private quarters of the sultan, and still hosting thousands of inhabitants.

It’s called a living museum of Javanese culture.

My overall impression is that the visitor is watching or being part of a setting, a stage, or representation of forms of power, institutions, in this case the ancestral Sultan and his family. Left and right from the forecourt , kept in two buildings and hidden behind thick glass windows are a range of mannequins, life size puppets stuck in beautiful attires  and lavish gowns. Here we see the royal family ready to perform, but frozen in time and space.


In the middle of this northern part of the palace I see the impressive Reception hall.

Reception Hall

On the left and right of a number of central courts, which are clearly meant for the presentation of the Sultan and the related ceremonies, I find some spaces for the Gamelan instruments.


In one of the buildings behind the Reception Hall we see portraits of the different Sultans, in another some exquisite drawings of the royal carriages. But I fear for the exhibition conditions of these ancients prints.


Alas its time to leave the palace and go back to the hotel, the group leaves for our first stop at KUNCI cultural centre.  

So it’s back in the rickshaws and the group is hurled towards this dynamic non-profit organisation which was created in 1999. We arrive there a bit early, our great leader is perhaps a bit to punctual. I read that: the main aim of the organisation is: ‘ to develop a culturally critical and open Indonesian society’, so is written in their mission statement. I am curious how they want to achieve this.

KUNCI consists of 4 writers/researchers and 1 accountant and is mostly project funded, for example by the Ford Foundation.

After a while we are met by Antariksa one of the co-founders of this cultural studies centre.  Later he is joined by Julia Nuraini, the director.


He starts an interesting presentation of the research centre which begun its activities with a number of newsletters, which are no longer published at the moment. In the mean time they evolved into a more project based organization. KUNCI started to work on the connections between  social sciences, art and the community. Through the direct contact and collaboration with vulnerable groups in society, the usage of oral history, they developed participatory projects which led to forms of local empowerement for the poor. KUNCI went beyond the critical and theoretical and mingles, intervenes within the local, using dance, theatre, story telling, or even setting up exhibitions. Thus they worked on a re-writing of the personal history , working with non-conventional stories, for example dealing with the making of local alcohol. Or Bahasa: a dictionnary of old slang.KUNCI thinks about forms of an alternative museum, a mobile community museum, consisting of an accumulation of our thoughts.

One of the most interesting projects for me, was their work on the Indian community in Yogyakarta. Actually it is striking that it was the first time since 1945(!) that anyone worked with this ancient community.

The best was yet to come, KUNCI has a ‘special relationship’ towards copyright and working with ‘authentic material’. So for example on their anniversary , they put up the KUNCI copy station : whereby they basically rent some copy machines and anyone can photocopy any publication from their archive.

If we speak about the democratic, well here is an extreme example. Or to use the KUNCI philisophy: Piracy is a form of organization! I like them more and more!

One of the most intriguing project was beyond doubt the one with the Dutch artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh and her book ‘A well respected man, or Book of Echoes’.

This incisive publication gives a fine example of working with the local. It starts from the famous literary piece : ‘Als ik een Nederlander was’ (If I were a Dutchman (1913) by the polemic writer Soewardi Soerjaningrat. This book proved to be  a fierce critique on the Dutch occupation and a plea for the construction of a new national subjectivity.

In a nutshell we could say that KUNCI, and other comparable institutions, fill the gap left by the universities, they set up essential archives, they work with the social fabric, or translate books (for example Lawrence Lessig, 2004) but act directly.

Finally they also host some artists in residence.

And then it’s off again, here are the rickshaws bringing us to the next stop the Ruang MES 56.


This year we witness the tenth year of existence of the (all male) artist collective MES 56 specialized in photography.

The collective took is name from a former mess of the Air Force which it rented. The collective consisted mainly of former students of the photography department.

The Mes boys received initially funds from the French Cultural centre. The lenghty and detailed presentations retelling the history of the collective and their projects are led by Wimo Bayang

During this presentation we hear not for the first time about 1999 as a key year in Indonesian history which saw ultimately the rise of many alternative non-profit organisations. In that period the Ruang Mes 56 group evolved, it developed a physical space, institutionalized. The Mes 56 gallery was inaugurated in 2002 with a first exhibition. Pop and punk culture appropraition played an important role in the artistic choice of the group.

During the presentations: I remember amongst others:  Anang Saptoto’s  delightful Ping-pong education system video, Dito Yuwono mesmerizing pictures of faces and many more,…

I am nearing exhaustion, I can practially use my sweat to swim to our next destination.

We are leaving our fly-boys and head towards the ultra-dynamic HONFablab, HONF foundation, HONF(the House Of Natural Fiber) tout court, which produced one of the more interesting projects I saw during our two weeks ‘mission’.


We are welcomed by (Vincensius) ‘venzha’ Christ(iawan), the actual founder of the HONF lab.


This graduate from interior design fuzes in his career music, with the arts, technology, education and a close interaction with society. He is HONF.

So, how can I describe the polyphonic HONF structure , and all the other HONF’s ?

To create (almost) anything! Is one of their slogans and in that respect they are comparable to other media- or creative laboratories I saw popping up in the last decade all over the Net.

Thus HONF  presents itself as a laboratory, a media lab where one can fabricate, develop his own pcultural products, ranging from objects to discourses, media festivals, to parties (this last aspect seems recurrent). Above all HONF is open to collaboration, preferably with people from other disciplines. It also hosts a number of residencies.

The HONF-movement, started in 1999 with a small group of people and became a community. In the end HONF evolved or was it split up into three distinct organisations : VUFOC, Honfactory and Honfablab.

During the presentation of the programm of the last years we see a high number of projects, spread all over the world. How do they manage?

What was most intriguing for me, was there Micronation/Macronation project started in 2012. Here we witness the fusion between science, art and the local population at its best. A project which aims in part to solve the fuel problem, the heating up of the planet due to the damaging emissions from fossil fuels, related economical problems and so much more. And they want to achieve all this with an integrated art project, a practice which works directly with local farmers and scientist. Bravo HONF !

The next and last stop brings our brady bunch to the outskirts of the city, we see the beginning of some part of a forest, and there in the middle the splendid offcies of the Office: For Contemporary Art (OFCA) led artists Fendry Ekel and Jumaldi Alfi.


In the mean time we seem to have lost some of the taxi’s, our motley crew is not complete, but Fendry shows us the first building and garden of the OFCA a local variation of paradise. OFCA is not a gallery, nor a museum, it’s more a support system, a group of go-betweens, mediators, brokers for the artists. After another walk we visit the new buildings of the OFCA, situated a bit further down the road. Here we see a comprehensive number of works by Entang Wiharso, installations, sculptures, paintings are on show. Again appearances can be deceiving : but this museum style presentation is normally not open to the public, it is not a gallery, etc.

Most interesting to me was a work by Fendry Ekel: a faceless portrait of a sculpture of Soekarno.

We return late to the hotel, I will not join the late diner, and drop dead in bed with some last reflections buzzing in my mind.

Tomorow, Borobudur is the main dish on the menu, or the temple of temples.

But tonight, at the wonderful Eclipse hotel, it are the questions of collector Wiyu Wahono put forward in Djakarta, that are not leaving me: what did we expect from Indonesian art?

I would expand the question: ‘With what kind of expectations did we come here, and on what kind of frameworks is this orientation trip built ?

I think we have to be alert, awake, and aware of not falling into our own assumptions and expectations about the so-called others, in this respect ‘Asia’. Somehow I feel we still translate the quest for the contemporary, too much in terms of degrees of Westernization. So Nations which are, according to our positions,  not  Westernized enough, should somehow be helped forward? We should then apply forms of re-orientation towards this (western) standard perhaps?

Is it not typical that I just used the word ‘orient (ation)’?

What I experienced here during this short trip, are different forms of modernity, distinct applications of the contemporary. I think here of the development of models which are distinctive from European examples. In a way we have to think the modern as a plurality, and here in Indonesia, we westerners, have to think this modernity as possibly non-western and even antagonistic to ours.

So ‘they’ do not need or expect ‘our form of modernity’, let alone our desire, quest or expectation for it.

In that respect, shouldn’t we revaluate notions such as ‘orientation’ altogether?

Michel Dewilde

Day 11

Kedai Kebun Forum, Yogyakarta
I am writing this post from Rotterdam with 2 days of jetlag and a 25-degree temperature drop shocking my system. Still, the buzz and warm embrace of Yogja linger on. The moment we landed at Yogyakarta’s airport I was transported back to the smells and scenes of my childhood- having spent many a summer in Indonesia. I feared that whatever I would write would be tainted by a tinge of nostalgia, but the art scene in Yogja is too dynamic and too contemporary to allow itself to be boxed in like that. Selemat datang di Yogjakarta! In Jakarta Carla Bianpoen urged me to try the gudeg in Yogja, a traditional dish made with jackfruit (nangka), palm sugar (gula djawa) and coconut milk (santen), served with rice and chicken. I have to admit that I was not courageous enough to try it for breakfast – being vegetarian it was primarily the chicken that put me off – but I did have many pieces of delicious pisang goreng (fried banana), which at our hotel were strangely topped with grated cheese. Not a bad combination. Later in the day Lissa and I explored the goods in a local bakery, and skipped the pain au chocolat with – yes again – grated cheese. I did have a nice cheeseless chocolate bun, though.

Agung Kurniawan

Our first stop of the day was Kedai Kebun Forum, an alternative self-funded art space with a bookstore and excellent café, run by Agung Kurniawan. KKF runs a thematic program, and this year the focus was on crafts. The exhibition space showed projects related to printed matter and publishing an artist himself, Agung showed us a project he participated with in the recent Kwangju Biennial, Adidas Tragedy (2009-2012), a series of customised Adidas sneakers and their matching boxes addressing places of tragedy. From Cambodia and Tienamen Square, to Ramallah and Egypt.

Later on we sat down for freshly squeezed fruit juice – I had guava – with Yustina Neni, Agung’s wife and the director of the Yogja Biennial. Yustina explained to us that for the coming decade the Biennial will focus on the topic of “equators”, not only resonating political and historical references with the non-aligned movement that Indonesia was part of, but also going further back in history and revisiting the clove routes. Its previous editionconcentrated on India and was co-curated by Alia Swastika and Suman Gopinath.Coming editions will focus on Africa and the archipelagos of the Pacific Islands. But first things first, 2013 edition will reach out to Egypt, U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia. 3 artists from Indonesia will undertake production residencies in respectively Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia, to produce new work, while their Arab colleagues will be hosted in Yogja to make newly commissioned work.

Yustina Neni, director of the Yogja Biennial

As Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, the Biennial is interested in exploring notions of what Islam means today, which stereotypes are being perpetuated, and how art(ists) can break with this. Hmmm…well that will definitely kick up some dust. Interested to see how that will translate from the the Gulf and North Africa to Southeast Asia. The main elements of the Biennial are a comprehensive exhibition, a symposium, and perhaps most importantly a series of parallel events involving students, local communities and emerging artists.

Nat Muller

Cemeti Art House
Since 1988, Cemeti Art House has been actively promoting and stimulating practices in the contemporary Indonesian art scene and art practices on a wider international platform. More than ten projects, such as site specific, community based exhibitions, presentations, and performances involving local and foreign artists, writers, and art activists, have been realized each year.
Artist’s talks, project presentations and group exhibitions are presented locally, as well as internationally, as well as our monthly indoor curatorial exhibitions at Cemeti Art House gallery. They include ‘ART OF BAMBOO’ in 2002 (Indonesia and Danish artists), ‘CHOOSE YOUR OWN PUBLIC’ in 2005 (Indonesian artists), LANDING SOON RESIDENCY PROGRAMMES from 2006 through 2009 (local and Dutch artists), ‘TRADITIONAL PERFORMING ART ADVOCATION PROGRAMME’ in 2007 with Ford Foundation support in five villages, ‘THE PAST FORGOTTEN TIME’ (Indonesian artist), a travelling project at The Hague, Amsterdam, Jakarta, Semarang, and Shanghai in 2007.

Introduction to Cemeti by Mella Jaarsma

Contemporary art in Indonesia can be seen as a form of concern and reflection of artists’ views related to issues on developing society. Through their work, artists honestly respond and often criticize a very specific social phenomena and bringing an aesthetic perspective to the discussion, whilst others may express their individual and personal approaches to their realities. Being bond and stuck to particular media disciplines becomes a less crucial issue.
In 2010, Cemeti Art House launched a new platform in which activities will revolve around and focus on reinventing ‘Art and Society’, emphasizing more alternative art practices that honour the ‘process’, rather than the ‘promotion’.
The Cemeti Art House exhibition space which was designed by architect Eko Agus Prawoto in 1999, highlighting the local – global, traditional – modern, art – non art, individual – collective, natural – manufactured, crafted – industrial, conventional – innovative as the paradoxes reflected in its architectural  construction, is transforming into an open studio suited for workshops, displays , discussions, and fulfilling but critical learning.

Cemeti Art House, Yogyakarta

Cemeti, space

Cemeti Art House and Studio will gradually undertake an ideal and strategic role mediating dialogue by focusing more on the research process of each party, where curators, writers, art critics, art activists, and artists meet each other in our residency programmes.

Sankring Gallery, Yogyakarta

Santkring Gallery

Indonesian Visual Art Archive
We were picked up at 17.45 by I think 8 rickshaws to go to the Indonesian Visual Art Archive to meet up with the local art scene.

These were the invited guests: Eko Prawoto, architect, artist / Yoshi Fajar Kresno Murti, architect, activist, IVAA / Anggi Noen, film director / Salahudin Siregar, documentary filmmaker / Yudi Ahmad Tajudin, theatre director, Teater Garasi / Joned Suryatmoko, theatre director / Jompet K, artist / Eko Nugroho, artist / Heri Pemad/Seto, art manager, ArtJOG / Bambang Toko, artist, ArtJOG

Wok The Rock, artist, music producer / Naomi Srikandi, stage actor, theatre director / Venzha, artist, HONF / Yustina Neni, director of Biennale Jogja Foundation / Alia Swastika, curator
Nindityo Adipurnomo, artist, Cemeti Art House / Mella Jaarsma, artist, Cemeti Art House / Farah Wardani, IVAA / Dian Anggraini, Yogyakarta Art & Cultural Council (Governmental institution) Syafiatudina, Kunci Cultural Studies Center.

Although not everybody who was invited was present, a lot of people came and after a brief introduction by Haco we all told who we were and the guests did the same. Luckily, because this had not been always the case, especially not in China. After that we got a few presentations by very different artists. We started off with puppet theater that was very much about communication with the audience and retelling stories that had not been told for a long time because they could not be told before. The most striking was that very different practices came along, not only visual arts. Like the Teater Garasi or Salahudin Siregar, who is a film director, but it wasn’t very clear whether he made documentaries or short films, as he said that they were documentaries and that he wanted to play with the border of doc. and fiction. But the fragments were short and puzzling. Another presenter: Wok the Rock, who calls himself an artist and music producer, does projects wherein he asks people for their favorite album and their profile photo and statement which he then burns after getting the file with a bit torrent from the internet and shows it in a sort of jukebox installation with an iMac under the title ‘Burn your Idol’. His projects are all copy-left and he is also okay if people copy his idea, if they only mention his name, so he tries to be as copyleft for his projects as possible it seems. He also produces music that can be downloaded for free as well, all copyleft.

We had food in between and after a lively event with a lot of thunder and rain we got to the last presentation of the IVAA. The Indonesian Visual Art Archive (IVAA), formerly called The Cemeti Art Foundation, is a non profit organization, which has a huge archive online which contains information on works by artists (and curators), documents, photographs, audio files and projects that they have been taken part in. A great resource on the Indonesian art scene. What was really nice was the flexible, relaxed and open atmosphere in contrast to especially China. At the end at 20.30, we walked back to the hotel. It was raining again, rainy season is about to start.
Petra Heck