Mon, 07 Jul 2003

Video Art Festival, the first of its kind

John Badalu, Contributor, Jakarta

This week, Galeri Nasional in Central Jakarta will not be the same place as you may have imagined before, at least from the public perspective.

Expect a room full of TV screens or walls reflecting huge images, like walking through a TV shop with loads of displays, as the Jakarta Video Art Festival goes on air. The main exhibition hall is divided into four different rooms with themed video art on politics, mass culture, private/public space and body/identity.

Ruangrupa, the organizer of the Jakarta Video Art Festival, is an artists' initiative that focuses on the integration of fine arts, the urban community and contemporary culture. Unlike other art organizations, Ruangrupa builds and provides space in areas where video artists were usually not allowed to show their work.

Over many years, the television culture of Indonesia has become strong, but unlike Western artists who countered the existence of TV, Indonesian artists simply took TV for granted as a new medium.

"Most of the time, we are connected to moving images on a daily basis, so this is why we want to give a different perspective through this video art festival. It's a different viewpoint, and we hope the public will have a different perception after attending and watching all the videos in the festival.

"Organizing an event that can be justified conceptually and technically is not an easy task. This festival involves a lot of existing elements, but we needed to do extra work to meet all the different visions from artists, academics, government institutions, the organizer, and public and private institutions," said Ade Darmawan, director of Ruangrupa.

There are about 60 video art pieces from 15 countries in the festival played, continuously in a looping cycle. Some international arts organizations have also joined the force with their own presentations. Among the participants are PULSE from South Africa, Videotage from Hong Kong and Videoart Centre from Japan.

All will present video art from all over the world, each with their own, unique characteristics. PULSE, for instance, does not limit themselves to the video art medium, but also utilizes other mediums and techniques to provide audiences with a broad spectrum of contemporary culture. Videotage (Video and Montage) is more specifically focused in developing video and new media, while Videoart Centre is dedicated to the development of video art and temporal genres.

Curated by Ade Darmawan, Indra Ameng, Hafiz and Farah Wardani, most of the entries were selected from media art festivals and database archives from several different countries. There are even a few reels of research videos.

The concept behind the festival is seen through the expression of language and in the depiction of contemporary issues.

For instance, take a look at Krisna Murti's video Beach Time. The video captures women in their jilbab, or Islamic headscarves, enjoying swimming in the sea. For some people, seeing jilbab-clad women going for a swim is an unusual image, and this video might provoke some reactions from the audience.

"We went for a road show early this year to Bandung, Malang, Purwokerto and Yogyakarta as a sort of a warm-up to the festival," said Indra Ameng.

"We held some presentations and discussions to measure the enthusiasm for the festival, and we tried to find some video art pieces that we had never seen. The result was quite overwhelming. For instance, we got this video called Dangdut Koplo from Martin Kristanto, that we find very interesting. It's about the dangdut phenomenon and exploring what goes on backstage."

Dangdut is a popular musical genre mixing Arabic and Indian influences, while koplo is an illegal drug.

Apart from the main exhibition and presentations from several video art organizations, there are workshops, a discussion on video art and contemporary culture, talks by the artists and a separate section on music videos. Ruangrupa is planning to release a compilation of the video art after the festival and touring to a few other cities in Indonesia.

Hopefully, this festival can be a platform for promoting Indonesian artists abroad and a medium of cultural exchange. Sadly, though, the government does not see this event as an asset -- no funding whatsoever were contributed by any government institutes.


The Jakarta Video Art Festival will run from July 7 to July 20 at Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur 14, Jakarta Pusat.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 1 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.- 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.

For more information, contact Ruangrupa, Jl. Tebet Barat Dalam I, No. 26, Jakarta 12810, Tel/Fax (021) 829 4238. Email: Website: