RUANG PER RUANG: Spaced Out in Jogja

by Michelle Chin

Yogyakarta is simultaneously a centre of traditional Javanese culture and contemporary Indonesian art. Full gamelan orchestras create soundscapes from the past; classical and contemporary Javanese dancers exhibit beautiful control and poise; wayang kulit (shadow puppet) performances keep locals and visitors spellbound. It is as if the city itself has an extraordinary life force and captivating charm.

Contemporary art has grown in the fertile soil of Yogyakarta's sophisticated culture. The Indonesian Institute of Arts (ISI Yogyakarta) is an important centre of arts and Yogyakarta itself has given its name to an important school of modern and contemporary art in Indonesia.

The Ruang per Ruang project in Yogyakarta showcases contemporary art in an alternative space. According to Georgie Sedgwick, one of the original participants of the first Ruang per Ruang project held in 2002, "The Ruang per Ruang 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. In 2002, Soboman 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 area within the confines of Soboman. Responses ranged from the emotional to the literal, humorous to spiritual, but all of them personal. 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.

"Responses elicited from visitors to Soboman, be they neighbours, friends or fellow students, ranged from mild bemusement to unrestrained delight. Many came to ponder on the house’s altered energy, interacting with - and in doing so unknowingly influencing - its constantly shifting dynamics. Others just came to chat, laugh and drink tea."

The currect project and exhibition is the second time that the Ruang per Ruang project has been held in Yogyakarta. In September-November 2004, a house on the sleepy outskirts of Yogyakarta 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 were important considerations as the artists created their art works.

The resulting exhibition features the work of 11 young Indonesian artists who created art works in response to the environment in and around the house. The art works are best described as "indoor-outdoor art" - mixed media sculptures and installations, a wall mural, a traditional Javanese children's game incorporating Balinese stone sculptures, and video art. The contrast between the traditional architecture of this Javanese joglo house and the contemporary art works that the artists created is particularly striking. It is also interesting to see how the artists coped with the challenge of incorporating the existing art works on display at the house - paintings, sculptures, puppets and stone carvings - into their own creations.

The exhibition will be held between 13 december 2004 to 28 february 2005 at Michelle Chin's house in Jurug, Jl. Parangtritis km 6.5, Sewon, Bantul, Yogyakarta (in the vicinity of the ISI/Indonesian Institute of the Arts campus). For directions to the house, please telephone Made Aswino Aji 0818276506 or Michelle Chin 0811388630 or email: The exhibition will be opened by Dr. Oei Hong Djien on Monday 13 December 2004 at 6.30pm, with special guests including Dr Earl Lu (Honorary Chairman, Singapore Art Museum) and Marjorie Chu (Director, ARTSingapore 2005). Participating artists: Arya Pandjalu, Bambang Toko Witjaksono, Dewa Gede Jodi Saputra, I Made Aswino Aji, I Made Dalbo Suarimbawa, I Made Widya Diputra (Lampung), Ida Bagus Putra Wiradnyana (Gusde), Nur Alam, Roni Wibowo, Wimo A Bayang, Yudi Sulistya.

[published in Jakarta Kini, February 2005]