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Technology, Food, Community and Art: Looking Back on This Year’s OK.Video - Indonesia Media Arts Festival in Jakarta

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Technology, Food, Community and Art: Looking Back on This Year’s OK.Video - Indonesia Media Arts Festival in Jakarta
OK. Video 8th edition exhibition view. Image courtesy of OK. Video.

OK. Video – Indonesia Media Arts Festival took place in July and August of 2017.  In its 8th edition, the Ok.Video event expanded its scope to include a packed public program of workshops and performance, as well as the sound art, digital imaging and internet-based works that the festival is famous for promoting. The Artling caught up with the curator Renan Lauru-an after the close of the event to reflect on the program of exhibitions, residencies, workshops and performances

OK.Video started with the desire to understand how video and it's almost default denomination in artistic contexts as “video art” are used by artists, creatives, communities, and other agents of cultural production in the urban landscape of Jakarta.

Aside from co-curating the 8th Ok. Video Indonesia Media Arts Festival, Renan Laru-an (b. 1989, Sultan Kudarat) acts as a researcher, curator and founding director of Philippine-based DiscLab. He is also a member of the founding team of the new public institution Philippine Contemporary Art Network temporarily housed at the Vargas Museum, where he leads and designs the research program Public Engagement and Artistic Formation. He also directs the transregional project Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene and the ongoing Lightning Studies: Centre for the Translation of Constraints, Conflicts, and Contaminations (CTCCCs).

Curator Renan Lauru-an. Image courtesy of the artist.

The Indonesia Media Arts Festival has been running now for over eight years. Could you tell us a bit about how the structure of the festival and its goals have shifted over the last decade?

OK.Video is a division of ruangrupa, and the festival serves as its most visible event and largest production entity. OK.Video started with the desire to understand how video and it's almost default denomination in artistic contexts as “video art” are used by artists, creatives, communities, and other agents of cultural production in the urban landscape of Jakarta. The terms “video”, “video art”, “new media”, and “Jakarta” became the familiar associations to OK.Video.

Since its initiation in 2003, it has occupied diverse roles as an initiator and a platform, and consequently, it has worked as a node and a networked institution. In 2013, the festival changed its identity as “Indonesia Media Arts Festival” to reflect its scope and history, to unload some of its commitment to other initiatives, to trace broader lines of inquiry and production through contemporary concerns in Indonesia and the region—Southeast Asia, and to actively participate in the global formation of discourses.

Through the festival we have tried different approaches and methods of presentation that could work with “video” as the medium. For example we tried several workshops with communities (OK. Video Militia, 2007), creating an open platform for popular culture (MuviParty, 2016), and also Open Lab as a way to reveal the artistic process of what is called ‘media art’ (OK. Video MUSLIHAT, OK. Video Orde Baru). The ideas to involve and engage with the public are what made us goes through various changes and adaptation.

Artist talk by Ales Cermak at OK.Video 2017. Image courtesy OK.Video.

What were your hopes for the inaugural “Open Lab Virtual Residency”?

We hoped that they would inhabit the discomfort of being detached from the context of Indonesia, of being remote. We were also interested in the participants approaching "becoming virtual" as a serious material and political condition for production. While the notion of virtual residency evokes efficiency, we wanted their participation through conversations with mentors to be an experiment in modes of production and knowledge transfer.

The residency was made possible by the collaboration of a number of Jakarta based non-profits art institutions, including Forum Lenteng, pad.ma and the Indonesian Visual Art Archive. Is this cross-institutional partnership common across the Jakarta arts scene?

The Indonesian arts scene enjoys a dynamic and collaborative community. We have seen in the past years how a number of institutions from the so-called “West” refer to the practices of working together in Indonesia. With the virtual residency, we tested if this could be translated without the physical contact or without the usual privilege of initiating collaboration.

Artist talk by Gelar Soemantri. Image courtesy of OK Video.

What other curatorial/festival/Biennale projects in Jakarta are doing similar things, or would you say the media festival is unique in its aims and reach?

A number of projects have a close relationship with OK.Video. For instance, the upcoming Arkipel Documentary and Experimental Film Festival was co-founded by Hafiz Rancajale, who also initiated OK.Video and served as Artistic Director until 2013. He also recently initiated “Pekan Seni Media”, a national event in the context of Media Art.

OK.Video stands alongside major art events in Indonesia. However, its subject and economic background make the festival flexible – it is always reforming and un-forming itself. It has the burden to initiate and sustain research on media, media art, new media, video, and video art. Then, you have the question of distribution and education. Its metabolism is unique because it performs the obligation of an art institution. So OK.Video seems to be a para-institution within an institution (ruangrupa) within their so-called “alternative” art practice. Indeed, OK. Video is unique in terms of methodology and also a delivery mechanism to the public.

Workshop program OK. Video 2017. Image courtesy of OK.Video.

What were the challenges in terms of developing your particular curatorial vision for this year’s festival?
 

We worked on a very loose curatorial vision: with, through, and in food. We aimed to (re-)introduce food as a medium, technology and context within the festival. The most challenging part involved gathering practitioners and organizations or institutions from very different sectors, who could collaborate with or who could open up discussions with artists, individuals, or initiatives mainly attached to art. Of course, material limitations and infrastructural conditions remain the constant concern in organizing a festival. With its history in Jakarta and as the longest running festival of its kind in the region, the audience and the participants tend to naturalize the organization and management of the project similar to structurally-funded institutions or festivals. OK.Video is still a self-organized artist-run festival. It means that as curators we have more complicated positions and decisions to make in order to realize it.

 

Julien Togar Abrahama and Konsiparsi Air Seni Workshop at OK.Video 2017. Image courtesy OK. Video.

Why food? Because it is political...

What local practices or philosophies were important in defining the theme?

Practically and philosophically, “Food” is simply a continuation of our previous event called "Orde Baru" in 2015, which talked about the new order regime which has been very decisive for Indonesians accross multiple sectors. “Food” is one of its fundamental focuses for development.

Then, why food? Because it is political, in the sense of having intertwined histories with the geography and politics of both South East Asia and the world. For example, “The Green Revolution” policy changed a lot of things in relation to food supply, availability and fulfillment, as well as the technology used, its social impact and wider economic, cultural and political structures. “The Green Revolution” has strongly changed people’s paradigms regarding food, from soil to the dinner table. That policy is also a milestone when the regime is controlling knowledge and power by telling people that this is the “true” system and anything else is “wrong” or saying that the old systems are going to fail.

Performance Caroline Caycedo at OK Video 2017 Jakarta. Image courtesy of OK Video.

Therefore, “The Green Revolution” is the dictum of the truth of a food management policy.  What has been called knowledge in the traditional farming system is suddenly considered inefficient or difficult as there is no surplus result and supposedly we are unable to solve the growing need for food. The regime then created a phrase: “Food Crisis” to justify the system that they will apply for the global environment. In the Indonesian context, “The Green Revolution” is affecting the rhythm of life, especially those who live in the villages who have become “the barn” and continue these revolutions. It has had a serious impact, such as the destruction of the socio-ecological, the land grabbing and the industrialization of food from upstream to downstream.

From that perspective, putting “Food” as our main frame and focus is important in terms of analysing how the perspective of the “New World Order” is effecting people's ways of life on the ground. Indeed, starting from this theme, we explore a lot of important things that include energy, water, and a lot of fundamental things in human life. So from one point to another, there is always a strong link that connects us, and we believe that through art there are a lot of things to explore, analyze, discuss and disseminate.

We are in the middle of a “narrative war" and we need to look back at our history, the knowledge and empirical facts produced by our farmers and breeders, and everyone at that intersection, to understand how ecologies function to create equilibrium, which has worked for centuries. Without understanding this, we always get trapped by alarmist or “hype” stories which work to create and repackage new knowledge that actually already existed a long time before.

We are in the middle of a “narrative war" and we need to look back at our history, the knowledge and empirical facts produced by our farmers and breeders, and everyone at that intersection, to understand how ecologies function to create equilibrium, which has worked for centuries. Without understanding this, we always get trapped by alarmist or “hype” stories which work to create and repackage new knowledge that actually already existed a long time before.

Looking out how then those issues come to the relationship with media and technology, we tried to put this “narrative production” as a core connection. How a technology that has been supported by the main narrative is delivered through the use of mass media. While at the same time there are many peoples could produce and contributed to shape the “narratives” or knowledge. Then the next question is what kind of “narration” do we need to put on stage in the context of media art that could relate to our current situation? That will be the particular role of contemporary media art and media artist now.

Jen Liu, 'Pink Detatchment Paintings', 2015- present. Image courtesy of the artist.

Could you tell us about the works in the festival and also workshops or artist talks that stood out?

We designed the festival in such a way that different publics could access it in various temporalities and intensities. We also thought of how this iteration could speak to the past and future initiatives, and how to enable a sustainable bridge for dialogues without exoticizing local contexts or over investing in the international standard of presentation and communication.

Jen Liu’s works The Pink Detachment and a new version of her old work, The Red Detachment, speaks to past and contemporary contexts of Indonesia through meditations on labor, communism, the feminine, and the neoliberal.

We have been lucky to work with generous artists and collaborators who have the patience and a particularly flexible threshold in terms of accommodating the conditions of the festival. This openness and politicised artistic positions allowed the works to adapt to our contexts, to go beyond the studios where they were initially produced and to expand outside the sanitized walls of galleries and the well-funded biennials. For example, Jen Liu’s works The Pink Detachment and a new version of her old work, The Red Detachment, speaks to past and contemporary contexts of Indonesia through meditations on labor, communism, the feminine, and the neoliberal. Her new work, The Red Detachment: Bai Wei’s Natural History is a discreet intervention in a zoological museum in Bogor, a city less than one hour away from Jakarta.

Bakudapan Program Belajar Workshop. Image courtesy of the artist and OK. Video.

Accidentally, the theme of food also connects to issues of food security, which are becoming a focus of politics and will continue to be so throughout 2020. Without the intention of heightening that worrying issue, some workshops and also artworks were directly talking about food security and survival. For example, Bakudapan Study Group departed from a series of orally communicated food recipes collected from women held in a special woman's jail accross several cities, as a result of the 1965 tragedy. This historical and personal backgorund was then activated by the activity of mixing and cooking with vegetables and raw plants from around the Gudang Sarinah Ekosistem. Soon humans will need to be more creative in finding alternatives for our food. Through hearing the stories from the woman's prison in this artwork, we learn that there are a lot of creative things that we can do to survive outside our comfort zone. 

 

 


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.



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