press release

POLA - Patterns of Meaning
15.11.2017 - 28.02.2018

Ace House Collective, Cahaya Negeri, Eldwin Pradipta, Restu Ratnaningtyas

With participation of the Danar Hadi Museum, Surakarta,
and supporting artists: Angki Purbandono, Jim Allen Abel, and Terra Bajraghosa

Curated by: Mella Jaarsma
Research by: Arham Rahman

The Jim Thompson Art Center and Danar Hadi Museum, Surakarta are pleased to present POLA – Patterns of Meaning Exhibition, curated by Mella Jaarsma, a leading Dutch artist and curator based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The exhibition is the intersection between the traditional batik from the Danar Hadi Museum Collection and the new commission works by Indonesian contemporary artists. It explores the significant role of the batik in Indonesia’s history and cultural identity. The meaning of batik has changed over the years and its connotations relate to the various aspects of Indonesian culture and society.

Mella Jaarsma says about Batik, “When we look at batik developments in Indonesia, we realize they reflect cultural transfers and changes while they also contribute and relate to political and economic policies. Currently, if we go to the local market to buy batik, we will find piles of cotton silk-screened with batik motifs, fulfilling the demands of batik trends with cheap mass production. When we talk about batik, are we talking about the technical aspects of the wax application and dye techniques on a woven fabric? Or, is this about batik motifs and patterns? There are various definitions and interpretations to sort through as we try to understand the meaning of batik in its cultural context.”

A part of the historical collection of the Danar Hadi Museum in Surakarta has been selected for this exhibition to reflect upon various aspects: Batik as Identity Environmental and Foreign Influences Gender Political Developments Batik as a Commodity

These batiks will be shown together with archival materials and related works by contemporary artists from Indonesia, and we are pleased to announce the following artists participating in the Pola Exhibition:

Fervent Base, is a sculpture Installation using chocolate fountain machine, batik wax, paraffin, iron techniques, with a single channel video installation by the artist group Ace House Collective. This work examines the batik manufacturing process at the present time as batik is generally known for its motifs and characteristics, and no longer for the traditional production method.

Significant Scenarios is an installation of batiks on cotton by the artist group Cahaya Negeri. We found a significant difference between ornaments and motifs in batik. As we understand, ornaments are batik designs that do not refer to any narrative. There are batik designs that are “empty of meaning” and used generally for decoration, but there also designs that contain cultural and historical context with meaning embodied in designs dictating social history, context, and protocol. The audience is invited to enter a batik structure that resembles a labyrinth. Whereas batik is usually worn when entering the batik labyrinth, the audience will be surrounded by various sensations of new visual motifs that are composed of ornamentation, aromas, light play, and leveling gimmicks that involve gestures and postures of the viewer. The audience will meet facades of motifs, and the shadows of the viewers’ bodies will merge with the entire scenario.

Regrowing: Hierarchy, Cotton, Indigo, Synthetic Color, and Tapioca is a single artist show by the artist Restu Ratnaningtyas. This work is based on her interest in women’s position in the batik industry that is not limited to their role as laborer (usually applying the wax to the cloth), but also as the “locomotive” that steers a batik home industry. This work strives to translate these concepts and perhaps, in general to encourage us to question the models of gender relations in other cultural practices that tend to position women in subordinate roles.

The final single artist show is Shadow Stamp / Tjap Bayang. This is a three video projected through copper stamps of batik design by the artist Eldwin Pradipta. This piece grows out of two previous works that concern the commodification of the culture and history of the city of Bandung, a city with a colonial inheritance. Thus, this piece reexamines the position of batik in Bandung as a commodity and as an element of local identity. Batik is one of the cultural traditions and is imbued with philosophical values. However, because of subsequent development throughout the years, the traditional values originally embodied in batik have lost their importance. This work is a celebration of presenting contemporary batik motifs that are not imbued with traditional philosophy and do not have ties with collective social values.