Netzorg and Kerr Gallery
Richmond Center for the Visual Arts
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI, USA
10 January - 15 March 2008
Island Gallery, Bainbridge, WA, USA
11 - 31 July 2008
Taman Budaya Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia,
18 - 27 October 2008
P r o l o g
Living creatures (humanity) are destined to always lay eggs. However, it is not the number of eggs that are laid that is valued. The value is in how many eggs hatch.
Humans do not want to just to live in the midst of nature. Humans always want to process and manipulate nature to create an artificial world as a place to perpetuate life and existence.
Awareness emerges. To process and manipulate nature is actually creating a separation between humanity and divinity. There is a desire to return, to build a balance with natural law. This is a universal realization that gives birth to civilization. In civilization there is an ethical system that encompasses all aspects of life that is referred to as tradition. Humanity lives within tradition. Because of this, tradition continually grows and develops. When traditions, which are born from collective awareness, become the spirit for personal expression, and when that personal expression contributes to the collective interest, then tradition lives from generation to generation.
The saying, “a different pool, a different fish” (lain lubuk lain ikannya), means: on the face of this earth, there exists a myriad of differences between traditions of communities in different places. Each tradition has a characteristic formula for the perpetuation of a harmonious relationship between society and its environment. However, since human civilization is born from a “universal realization,” within the variety of human existence, there is space for cross-cultural dialogue.
Candi Borobudur, which was constructed during the ninth century in Central Java, demonstrates the height of megalithic architecture expressed in the form of a massive stupa. 1 This monument was created through cross-cultural dialog that occurred when the local tradition met with a “greater tradition” (Hindu-Buddhist), in which the non-native culture assumed a dominant presence. Cross-cultural dialogues endured for more than five centuries after which a “local genius” emerged in the Mt. Lawu complex. 2 Here, Candi Sukuh demonstrates the dominance of the local tradition, while Hinduism appears as smoldering ashes. 3
Tais is the art of traditional weaving of the Timor archipelago, which features motifs that are symbols of sacred stories or creation myths. After this local tradition met with a foreign tradition (in this case, Christianity), this was expressed in a local fashion. When missionaries erected a statue of the Mother Mary in a cave, the Timorese responded by placing a tais scarf on her in order to symbolize that her presence was acknowledged and accepted by the local community.
The motifs of Javanese batik that are infused with cosmological symbolism are, apparently also open to nuances derived from other cultural aesthetics. For example, elements found in Chinese ceramics, as well as Japanese and European aesthetics are found in batiks made in Java.
In relation to the creative process, cultural dialogue can occur not only horizontally over space, but also vertically—transcending time. Traditionalism often means the presence of nuances from the past in the present dimension. Thus, many contemporary art works are borne in a spirit of tradition.
In their exploration of ancient Javanese philosophy—a study at the roots of Javanese culture, specifically the tradition of batik—Ismoyo and Nia have uncovered the essence of creative process, which is expressed in an ancient poem, kapti kerdat-ing sukma. It means that the law of creativity is “pure freedom,” completely according to the will of the spirit. Will vibrates because of the deep relationship between the micro-cosmos (ego awareness), the macro-cosmos (society and nature) and a “Divine Radiance.”
When Ismoyo and Nia introduced the poetry of ancient Java to Aborigine artists in the sand deserts of central Australia, the artists of the Anmalyar and Alyawarr communities [Utopia] welcomed them with the dream songs of their ancestor, Altyerr. Henceforth, they “stood together, sat together,” carried away by the creative process that originates in such universal awareness. This approach through the universal [need for] symbolism makes it possible for Ismoyo and Nia to build a network of collaborations of hand-drawn textile art, not only with Aborigine artists, but also with traditional artists from the heart of Africa, as well as Javanese villagers. These collaborative pieces have been recognized as contemporary art.
Babaran Segaragunung Culture House does not intend to promote an art perspective that is anchored in the traditional arts, but rather focuses on the spaces that allow cross-cultural dialogue. Traditional art is always connected with non-artistic dimensions, values involved in the creative process. Collective expression offers an opportunity for cross-cultural collaborations. When this collaborative creative process can be called forth, then the unity of humanity can become a reality. This creative process provides equal rights to all who are involved in it. It is here that humans can achieve the foundations of true democracy!
Agung Harjuno, a cultural observer and writer, is the Director of Babaran Segaragunung Culture House and Padepokan Segaragunung. A trained archeologist (Gajah Mada University) he has done extensive research on the ancient temples of Mt. Lawu near Solo.
1 Editor’s note: Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist stupa, a remarkable engineering and artistic achievement that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
2 Editor’s note: Mt. Lawu, just east of Surakarta (Solo), Java is a place where local spiritualists retreated during the time of Islam’s rise to prominence.
3 Editor’s note: Candi Sukuh is a interesting sacred monument that manifests local concepts in apparently new ways and reveals a strong departure from previous Hindu related monuments.