Well known for its vibrant culture and creative art scene, Yogyakarta is a wellspring of talented artists and artistic inspiration.
Jogja Biennale, an art and culture festival organized every two years, aims to strengthen this reputation for the city, which is also known as Jogjakarta. The festival has become one of the city’s most eagerly anticipated events for both local and foreign tourists.
The 10th edition of the monthlong event begins on Thursday, under the name “Jogja Biennale X: Jogja Jamming, An Art Archive Movement.”
Wahyudin, a member of the festival’s curating team, explained the theme: “Just like music jamming, we want people from different kinds of backgrounds to enjoy art through this festival. We want people to see that everybody can enjoy art and everybody can be an artist.”
He added that the focus on an “art archive movement” was because “we don’t have documentation of many things from the past that shaped art in Indonesia and Yogyakarta today. We are asking people, especially artists, to be aware of the importance of the history of art.”
Ong Hari Wahyu, a member of the festival committee, said the first festival took place in 1988. But initially the focus was only on painters. In 1992, a diverse group of artists organized a rival festival, called “Binal” (“Naughty”), as a response to Jogja Biennale and to make the point that art involved more than just painting.
In 1997 in answer, Jogja Biennale diversified its focus to become a festival inclusive of all kinds of art. “We realized that art was not exclusively about paintings and painters,” Ong said.
This year the festival will include indoor exhibitions with works from 130 artists, street art created by at least 150 participating artists and groups, an art archive exhibition and public events such as discussions, lectures and workshops.
The festival will present some of today’s biggest names in art, as well as works by emerging artists. Entang Wiharso, a veteran artist who recently participated in the Prague Biennale, will exhibit his latest creations — huge aluminum statues — at Jogja National Museum during the festival.
“These figures look great — they’re up to five meters wide and three meters in height,” Wahyudin said.
People can also see Indonesian expressionist painter Putu Sutawijaya’s works at the festival. Famous for his depictions of people, this young painter is one of Indonesia’s most in-demand artists. In 2007, his painting “Looking for Wings” sold for Rp 1.3 billion ($138,000) — the highest price paid for the work of an Indonesian artist that year — at a Singapore art auction, Wahyudin said.
Samuel Indratma, from the festival’s curating team, said the main attraction for many visitors would be the unique and unusual artworks on display on the city’s streets.
He said artist Wilman Syahnur plans to take a fiber-glass figure of US President Barack Obama around the city on a becak (a traditional bicycle taxi) to meet the people of Yogyakarta.
“This is Wilman’s way of criticizing the first black US president for sending more troops to Iraq, despite receiving a Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year,” Samuel said.