RALLY: Contemporary Indonesian Art at NGV

Bravo to the National Gallery of Victoria and its new Director in featuring a stunning and edgy contemporary art exhibition RALLY: Contemporary Indonesian Art by two contemporary artists from  Yogyakarta’s vibrant art scene, Jompet Kuswidananto and Eko Nugroho. Having attended the launch I was provoked and moved by this visually and socially evocative display. 
RALLY: Contemporary Indonesian  Art – Jompet Kuswidananto  & Eko Nugroho present two perspectives on modern Indonesia through the works of  Kuswidananto; a sound, installation, and video artist,  and Nugroho; whose colourful murals, paintings and embroideries spill across the floor, walls and ceilings of the NGV.
Tony Ellwood, NGV Director, said contemporary Southeast Asian artists have come to international prominence over the past decade.“This is a unique opportunity to discover contemporary Indonesian art in Melbourne through the works of Kuswidananto and Nugroho, two acclaimed members of Indonesia’s new generation of artists.”
The artists speak through their work of contemporary life in Indonesia and the struggles faced by the emerging generation. As Indonesia moves into democracy there are many voices. The display highlights the challenges of life for a population that is large and has a huge percentage of young people under 30. These artists are presenting a commentary and representation, not a protest.
Both artists are exhibiting in the contemporary art space on the ground floor at NGV International. In addition, Nugroho is utilising his street art-inspired aesthetic to create a specially-commissioned mural on the iconic NGV Waterwall and Kuswidananto’s The Commoners, which features nine figures playing mechanised drums, are dramatically suspended in Federation Court. 
This is the first time contemporary Indonesian art has been featured by NGV in this way.
Nugroho’s works are grounded in both traditional and modern Indonesia; fusing street art and popular culture with traditional embroidery styles and Javanese shadow puppetry. His humorous yet unsettling social satires express strong comments on Indonesia’s politically-charged climate in a dynamic and lively manner, often featuring characters that draw on comic book graphics and graffiti from the streets of his hometown of Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Having been to Indonesia several times I can appreciate the commentary of the artist in portraying the struggles of life. This is edgy art with a powerful message. Compelling in fact.
Kuswidananto creates installations and performances using musical instruments, video projection, personal computers and assorted found objects. His work combines visual and audio techniques to explore political and cultural identity, particularly about the people and history of Java. His works often adopt the forms of traditional Indonesian authority figures such as Java’s royal soldiers, clad in typical Dutch colonial costumes, to discuss the hybrid nature of Indonesian culture in its relationship to colonisation.
Kelly Gellatly, Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, NGV, said Kuswidananto and Nugroho are members of the energetic arts community of Yogyakarta. “Like Kuswidananto and Nugroho, many artists cite Yogyakarta as a major influence on their work due to the city’s immense cultural heritage, with ancient and contemporary sitting side by side.
“Both artists grew up in post-reformation Indonesia; a period of great transition following the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998. This era saw a push within Indonesian society for a stronger democracy and more open political environment and it is this social-political commentary that appears strongly in their works, often in a playful yet powerful manner.“
Fight for Rice, an initiative started by Nugroho to assist local Yogyakarta artists in funding their art practice, has opened an exclusive pop-up shop within the NGV Shop at NGV International. Artist merchandise, including embroidered bags and patches produced in collaboration with local Yogyakarta craftspeople, and clothing, stickers and clocks are available alongside a range of zines from Indonesian comic collective Daging Tumbuh. Fight for Rice also selsl limited-edition 
figurines based on Nugroho’s distinctive artwork characters.
The exhibition is accompanied by an e-book, RALLY: Contemporary Indonesian Art – Jompet Kuswidananto & Eko Nugroho, which will be available for free download in the iTunes Store.
The opening weekend of RALLY: Contemporary Indonesian Art will be celebrated with RALLY at the NGV on Saturday 20 October. From 10am to 5pm, hear Kuswidananto and Nugroho discuss their art practice and learn about Indonesian art, politics and music from special guest speakers. Kids will also be invited to make their own Kuswidananto and Nugrohoinspired artworks. For the full program of events, visit
This exhibition forms part of NGV Summer, an exciting program of exhibitions and events at the NGV encouraging visitors to engage with and participate in great art over the warmer months.
RALLY: Contemporary Indonesian Art – Jompet Kuswidananto & Eko Nugroho will be on display from 18 October 2012 to 1 April 2013 at NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road. Open Wed–Mon, 10am–5pm. Free entry.

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