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Jakarta Biennale: Artists turn city into `Battle Zone’
City News – January 29, 2009

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The city’s artists will interact with the public through quirky and site-specific artworks, putting them up across the city as part of the five-month art festival ARENA Jakarta Biennale 2009.

One artist has painted a mural with comforting words for the ambler, while others will set up a park for playing chess, put up street signs warning people of nail-spiked roads, and wrap banisters at a TransJakarta pedestrian overpass in bubble wrap to entertain queuing commuters, among others.

These art projects, which involve practitioners from different fields – historians, architects and street artists – are the second part of the Biennale, organized by the Jakarta Art Council. Dubbed the Battle Zone, it aims to create new spaces where artists and the public can interact and appreciate one another.

The ’09 Biennale highlights the issue of public space, taking art into public places, including shopping malls, bus stops and parks.

Program director Ade Darmawan said he saw the city as an arena.

“The urban area has changed into an arena – becoming larger with the increase of production and consumption – where there is a tight battle for space,” he said.

The first part of the Biennale, the Understanding Zone, was held from November to December. Collaborating with different organizations, the Understanding Zone saw events such as the Jakarta International Film Festival (JiFFest), the Jakarta Literary Festival, the Jakarta Theater Festival and the Jakarta Choreography Festival.

For the Battle Zone, some 15 works will be splayed across abandoned buildings, train stations, museums, parks and traffic lights. The artists have previously participated in workshops Outdoor Urban Billboard Workshop or the On-Site-Specific Project (Redefining Space and Memories) workshop, held in November last year.

Ardi Yunanto, curator of the Battle Zone program, said the artists’ works delved into themes such as comforting people in waiting, warning the public about danger and reminding people about history.

Mural Artist Rizky Aditya Nugroho, alias Bujangan Urban (the Urban Bachelor) had painted on the weekend the wall by a toll road across the walking path in front of the Cilandak Town Square, South Jakarta. This path is a place for people to wait for public transport or for personal pick-ups. On the big wall, Bujangan Urban, who has a penchant for poetic phrases, painted the words “Sabar Sebentar, ku kan Datang.” (Patience, I will come.) to comfort the waiting public.

The mural will stay up until the February.

On Tuesday, under the overpass in front of Tebet Station, South Jakarta, artists Saleh Husein and artist collective KudaPoni – Yusmario Farabi and Aprillia Apari – refurbished the area where locals hang around to play chess. The artists, members of the indie pop band White Shoes and the Couples Company, collaborated with the local residents to build chess tables. They also painted murals with pictures of pawns on the overpass pillars.

From Jan. 16 to 19, graphic designer Enrico Halim asked passengers on the Tanah Abang-Serpong economy class train to draw pictures while being entertained by the tunes of street singers Laapa’ze. Laapa’ze is short of Lagu Apa Aze, slang for Any Song.

Enrico wanted to draw out expressions from the passengers in the form of drawings and interaction among passengers. Some of the drawings have been uploaded to and will be exhibited at Tanah Abang Station from Tuesday to Friday.

On Friday, art collective Carterpaper – Wendy Maulana, Alfan Sudrajat, Sakti Fhana, Syarifudin Haromain, Juan Zaki Ershad and Anditya W – will point out danger spots in the city where vehicle owners fall prey to nails deliberately scattered onto the street. In South Jakarta’s Jl. Tebet Raya, Jl. Gatot Subroto and Santa in Blok M, the group will put up street signs proclaiming the areas as nail-prone and will put up signs pointing out the nearest tire patcher.

Illustrator Restu Ratnaningtyas will try to give users of TransJakarta buses at Dukuh Atas, Central Jakarta, a way to kill time while queuing for the bus at the pedestrian overpass that leads to the bus stop. Restu has many times had to endure long lines at the location, and so decided to wrap the banister in bubble wrap so people could pop the bubbles. The public will be able to pop the bubbles up to Friday.

All artists had to deal with city officials for permits to display their work in public spaces.

“It becomes interesting when all these processes are no longer only about how to place an artwork in a room or an art gallery so the public will see, but becomes a direct experience with the public, the location and the entire system surrounding it,” Darmawan said.

The Battle Zone will also see an exhibition of the best of the works from the 2004, 2006 and 2008 Jakarta 32ø Celsius Art Exhibition at Senayan City Mall.

The last leg of the art event will be the Fluid Zone, which will show works from young Southeast Asian artists. The art event will end in March this year.


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