Ark Galerie, Jakarta, Indonesia
‘Human Resources Development’, the intriguing project by Ade Darmawan at Ark Galerie in Jakarta, presented the artist’s long-time research and observation into the growth of the middle class in Indonesia. Darmawan mainly uses found objects he has collected as the material for his works, which wittily play with the contradictory social meanings of these objects as symbols.
Darmawan’s critical content is also based on popular jokes told by Indonesian’s intellectual youth about the failure of ideology of development that had been established by former President Suharto. Darmawan cynically comments on the way that notions of the State and social life in Indonesia are being organized by the government based on a particular interpretation of capitalism as something between a state ownership monopoly and a liberal economic system. The artist searched for old books on economics, politics and religion – from the ideological explanations of legendary experts to practical self help books. He collected these books and displayed them in a particular pattern to show the chaotic yet intriguing circle of state governance. He even collected data and graphics from the Center of Statistics bureau focusing on demographic information or economic statistics. This visual imagery became his point of departure for transforming those seemingly unintelligible statistics and graphics into abstract drawings and murals.
At the entrance to the gallery, visitors were welcomed by 18 medium-sized canvas silkscreen paintings, made in the artist’s familiar minimalist style. While the silkscreen works look like formalist painting, they are actually new interpretations of statistical representations of the growing middle class, the increase in unemployed youth, and so on. The installation Bagaimana Mendjadi Kaja (How to be Rich, 2012) featured a mural painting on one wall of the gallery including a series of drawings of patterns of leadership, the structural hierarchy of an organization, and an urban city plan.
One of the most dramatic but also humorously satirical works was Permutation (2012), in which Darmawan composed the small used objects he found in flea markets into strange yet witty collages, displaying them as if they were sacred objects in an ethnographic museum. Hanging over the objects from the ceiling were several fake broken crystal chandeliers of the kind commonly found in new lower-middle-class homes in the city in Indonesia during the 1990s. The way he composed the collages told us something about his observations on consumption in his society: a narrative of broken dreams.
One of the most impressive elements of the exhibition was the artist’s collaboration with a pianist to transform all the numbers that he had erased from the statistical charts into a musical score, which was played at the opening on a very old piano, which remained on display in the exhibition space. Stepping out of the show, I realized that numbers and statistics do not have to be boring; in fact, they somehow can define how our history is changing all the time.
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