A Peek into the Contemporary Art Influence on Indonesia


Contemporary art is the latest art form influenced by modernism. In Indonesia, we started to develop the art stream in the 1970s when Gregorius Sidharta opened his contemporary statue exhibition to the public. The Indonesian Contemporary art scene then flourished in Jakarta and Bandung, mainly because of other regions’ lack of exposure to contemporary art. Contemporary art, including Indonesia’s, takes many forms, and below are the forms you might find familiar.

Environmental Art

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This form of contemporary art emphasizes the environment as part of the art itself. Environmental art is the result of the experiments conducted by artists back in the 1970s when the “back to nature” theme was famous. Artists wanted to broaden their way in expressing their art, looking for a more original, authentic, and vast ways to express themselves using nature as the main focus. Environmental art was made for several purposes, such as delivering messages about rejecting the idea of commercializing art and raising awareness about the environment.

Indonesian contemporary artists have showcased their version of the environmental art. Teguh Ostenrik, an Indonesian painter and sculptor, made a pyramid of plastic waste to share his concern about Indonesia’s notorious waste problem. Another example is the “1001 Manusia Tanah” piece by Dadang Christianto comprised of 1,000 fibreglass statues plus himself at the shore of Marina Beach. He aimed to criticize Indonesia’s agricultural issues with this art piece.

Performance Art

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This art was developed in the 1960s and immediately spread across the globe. It combined movement and sound with the art, incorporating elements such as music, dance, theatre, and video. In some cases, the audiences are encouraged to take part in the performance. You can see some types of performance art in body art, happenings, action, Fluxus, and feminist art.

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Keep in mind that performance art has improvisational aspects that will significantly influence the outcome of the art. This means the art cannot be experienced with the same impact twice. In big cities of Indonesia, some young artists have shown signs that they too are making performance art, inserting their voice in every piece. For example, Yoyo Yogamasa explores his body as the vessel of the art, Tisna Sanjaya with his environmental corruption issue message, Nyoman Erawan using Bali tradition as inspiration, and many more.

Art Installations

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Installations started developing in Europe and America as early as the 1970s. The main idea of installations is to incorporate space, time, sound and other senses to the experience. Artists began to experiment with 3D works designed for a specific area using a method called assemblage—a technique used to modify several objects, turning them into a piece of art. Art installations are usually not for sale since its a site-specific construction, either meant for temporary display or permanent, found in places like museums, public sites, galleries, or private spaces.

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In Indonesia, art installations grew alongside the New Art Movement in 1975. Back then, the young artists of the time such as FX Harsono, Nyoman Nuarta, Jim Supangkat, and other artists wanted to express their art beyond painting, sculpting, and design, which led to the birth of the art discipline in the country.

Now, the scene has been passed down to remarkable artists, such as Tisna Sanjaya, who created a piece called “Pohon Tidak Tumbuh Tergesa” (“Tree Does Not Grow in Haste”). He planted 1,o00 trees throughout Bandung and Solo as a form of criticism towards a particular government policy that he considered not environmentally friendly.

Video Art

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As stated in the name, video art utilizes video technology to deliver a visual and audio experience to the audience. Video art emerged in the 1960s around the time when the technology was becoming more and more accessible for public use.

There are several forms of video art, such as recording for broadcast or online streams, installation in galleries, videotapes, and interactive video display. It can also be a part of other art types, like performance arts and installations.

But try not to confuse video art and theatrical cinema. Video art doesn’t necessarily involve actors or even a narrative. Video art focuses more on the artistic value than what the story holds, even if it has a message to deliver.

Nowadays, the influence of video art has spread globally, including Indonesia. One of the prominent artists of this new art in the nation is Krisna Murti.

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