Introduction to Ruang per Ruang Project #2

by Georgie Sedgwick

Dear Visitor…

After a three-year hiatus, ruangperruang has finally returned to grace you with its presence. We invite you, our esteemed public, to sample this space, indulge in its images, cradle in its creativity and soak up the scent of sweet success.

A somewhat camp introduction deserves a more modest middle.

The ruangperruang (spaceperspace) project was a cheeky little idea that decided it was bigger than its boundaries. So it burst out of our heads and into our home. Soboman in Nitypryan, Yogyakarta – home and studio of I Made Aswino Aji, Narpati Arwangga, Georgia Sedgwick and their dog and mascot Rambo - became its first victim. Each room in the house at the mercy of its whims, each fitting and fixture fair game for its devilish machinations.

Thirteen artists were selected to respond to an assigned area within the confines of Soboman. Artists were given no other instructions other than that the space’s original function not be altered. The aim being to explore how ‘art space’ and ‘living space’ co-exist. Would there be friction between the public and private aspects of the home? How differently would these two spaces function when combined and what elements would be discarded, included or compromised in this process of negotiation? For example how would the relative neutrality of the gallery space in this new location now be read? What affect would a gallery in a domestic setting have on the comfort of those who inhabit the space? For audiences, would this kind of space encourage more easy and fruitful interaction or would the intimacy of a stranger’s home inhibit their enjoyment of the work? Finally, for contributing artists, how would working on site alter their art making practices? How would they respond to thinking first about the location of the work then the work itself rather than the other way around?

The answers to some of these questions were articulated in the works created. The artists’ responses to the space ranged from the emotional to the literal, humorous to spiritual. An altar to the ego, a lantern-filled well, a voyeuristic bath, a caged dove, a talking table and a barking hallway were the resulting manifestations of abstract reactions to the spaces assigned. The work of photographer Angki Prambandono played with the very private nature of the bathroom. Angki pasted and then sealed hundreds of photographs of eyes all over the inside of the bathtub, in essence making the most of private of realms, intensely public. The sensation of being watched was acutely felt by all visitors, in particular those using the space in accordance with its intended purpose!

Artist I Made Aswino Aji’s work was located around a well in the kitchen area. The area was painted all black and lanterns were hung from the roof over the well’s opening. Each lantern was fitted with a light and its surfaces covered with photographs of children from the kampung (village). Hanging these children precariously over a black whole was intended to suggest uncertainty, the uncertainty of childhood and more poignantly, the future. The eerily beautiful works transformed the normally curtained off space into the focal point of the room and in doing so shifted the dynamics of the space.

Artist Arya Panjalu responded to the function of Soboman’s book room in an abstract way, seeing it as a space in which we ‘read’ ourselves and are ourselves ‘read’. He hung dozens of mirrors and self-portaits on the walls of the room to express its dual function. The lights where dimmed and each self-portrait was lit with a small globe. The work was reminiscent of a religious altar and had the effect of lulling visitors into a meditative state so that they may reflect on the meaning of the work and the space.

My own work played with the notion of scale. Photographs of friends were taken in various predetermined poses and the backgrounds cut out. These scaled-down images where then placed around the guest room, for example photographs of people balancing were placed on top of the curtain rail, pictures of people climbing were placed in a vertical line on the wall. The work altered the room’s scale causing viewers to re-evaluate the space, breaking it down into its smaller elements and in doing so distorting its original context.

In general responses elicited from visitors to Soboman, be they neighbours, friends or fellow students, ranged from mild bemusement to unrestrained delight, in particular the children from the kampung whose images had been transformed into lanterns in Aswino Aji’s work. Many came to ponder on the house’s altered energy, interacting with - and in doing so themselves influencing - its constantly shifting dynamics. Others just came to chat, laugh and drink tea.

The enthusiastic responses from audiences and some surprising and thought provoking artistic outcomes have prompted us to further explore the notion of space and in doing so seek more answers to the questions posed at the beginning of the project. More generally, the ruangperruang project has spurred our desire to broaden alternative art spaces in Yogyakarta and our new project aims to continue to engage a more diverse audience in addition to inspiring new approaches to art practices.

And now a return to campness.

If you are reading this then it is most likely that ruangperruang has again seductively lured new victims to attend the unveiling of its most recent acquisition. A house on the sleepy outskirts of Yogyakarta will played host to yet another fiendish exploration of space. The relationship between the private and the public face of the dwelling, its physical and its spatial dimensions, its ability to inspire and amuse will be important considerations as artists and art-lovers alike yet again fall prey to ruangperruang’s siren song.


Georgia Sedgwick