Sun, 05 Sep 1999

Indonesian artworks on display to the world

By Steve Rhodes.

BRISBANE (JP): At precisely 9 p.m. on the ninth day of the ninth month, in the year 1999, 99 tiny boats, all bearing intense blue flames, will drift down the Brisbane River and arrive at Queensland's magnificent riverside Art Gallery. The end of this symbolic journey will herald the beginning of the Third Asia- Pacific Triennial Contemporary Art Festival.

The Triennial is one of the most important events on the region's art calender, in that it is the only event in the world to bring together artists and their works from Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific islands.

This year more than 75 artists from 20 countries, from Australia to China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, will be represented at the exhibition. Art works will include mediums such as photography, video, CD-ROM, digital art, painting, textiles, ceramics, installation and performance art. Many of the works also offer opportunities for audience interaction.

Indonesia is represented by five artists, including Mella Jaarsma from Yogyakarta in Central Java. Mella is a Dutch born artist who has been resident in Indonesia since 1984. As an Indonesian of foreign extraction, Mella has recently considered questions of ethnic difference and community interest in performance installations staged in the streets of Yogyakarta and in art galleries. For APT3 (the Third Asia-Pacific Triennial) she is developing this theme with a work called Hi Inlander, which translates as "native-born", a derogatory colonial Dutch form of address. The "Inlanders" that Mella greets are figures clad in hooded costumes like Muslim women's jilbab, which are made of chicken and frog skins.

Mella suggests that while people may look different, they live in the same social space. Her work begs the question: "What does it feel like to inhabit another's skin. To look out through their eyes?"

The organizers of APT3 were so impressed with her self portrait that it was selected as the illustration backing the media preview invitations to the event.

As part of their desire for innovation, the organizers have this year initiated a project for children. Known as The Kids' APT, the display features interactive art work and projects developed for the enjoyment of children between the ages of three and twelve. These promise to be stimulating and educational, as well as fun.

While the exhibition is best viewed in person, cash-strapped art buffs who can't afford the trip to Australia don't have to miss out on what's happening, thanks to The Virtual Triennial, an exciting new online component of the festival which has been made possible as a result of extensive international collaborations between organizations such as the Queensland government and Apple Computers, who are providing the colorful iMacs for visitors' access within the gallery.

Launched by Minister for the Arts Matt Foley, the Virtual Triennial not only expands the scope of the exhibition, but also allows immediate online participation for audiences around the world. "This makes the Asia-Pacific Triennial a truly global event," said Foley.

So to be part of all this excitement, simply check out the web site at

Special features of the Virtual Triennial include performance and lecture extracts and an email forum involving leading artists discussing contemporary art and culture. A highlight will be an online conference where artistic issues concerning new technologies such as digital art will be discussed by more than 50 international speakers. Information will be available in eight languages, including Indonesian.

The online conference will be held from Sept. 10 to Sept. 12. Registration is essential and details are available on the web site or by phoning Australia + (61) 7 38407314.

The Asia-Pacific Triennial has always been more than an art exhibition. Its main aim is to increase knowledge within our own multicultural society of the cultures of the Asia-Pacific Region through contemporary art.

The theme of the exhibition also takes into account the concern the artists in the region have about positively contributing, through their creativity, to their communities' present wellbeing as well as the communities' ongoing and hopefully culturally enriched future.