Bandung GraphicBy kedaikebun • Jul 17th, 2008 • Category: Articles
Graphics Subculture, an Offer to fight Apparent Death
There was only one graphic exhibition during 2004, but then there were tens or perhaps hundreds of visual art exhibitions and its variants. Graphics or the arts of printing probably were fated to die earlier, live for short, and then died as fast as it possible. It was never able to be tuned in with other visual arts area in Indonesia.
This writing is about an experience which happened less then 10 years ago, when the writer was still in college at the Indonesian Institute of Arts in Yogyakarta.
When joined for the first time in Graphics Arts Department, in an art school in Yogyakarta, some friends were laughing at my choice, “there is no chance of your paper being sold…”, to some friends who were not close to visual arts area in Yogyakarta, selling artworks or at least able to live through their artworks were the biggest pride. It had more pride than those who expected for monthly salary. At that time, I was not able to response to that satire. The point was it never came up to my mind, not even an inch. I only wanted to be an artist who had not needed to paint. “Painter was an idiot” (I quoted it from Marchel Duchamp, but I forget in what book or magazine), it precipitated, or precisely it crusted in my head, until then, when I finally realized that worked on paper meant that it would not be sold, I just ignored it.
Since I was in college, I felt the inferiority in Graphics Department. The lecturers mostly were losers who even they cannot make art works (In a photography class at the first year in college was given by a lecturer assistant. In shooting practice, all the shoots were burnt out, cannot be printed). Some lecturers were quite good as a teacher and some others were busy with other things which had no relation with education. As students, we had to able to motivate ourselves, so that we would not draw out in that inferiority climate. We resurrected the graphic studio at the corner of graphics room; we held exhibition on the alleys; we held discussions; shortly, we tried to show that the graphics students were not a bunch of losers. Those amateur students were able to make 40 Years of Yogyakarta Graphics Retrospection exhibition (1996, Purna Budaya, Yogyakarta), self-supporting and self-financial. One of the reasons we got the exhibition idea was when we able to break down the storage room of Graphics Department and found that graphics drawing collections were stick to each other, sparse all over the floor just like garbage. We “read” our found works, at that time the term “curator” just had been “found out”, and then we exhibited it into public. Several years later, Bentara Budaya Jakarta did more or less the same thing, with bigger fund for sure.
All those actions above basically were defensive action of the “cruel” dominations of canvas painters. I think we were success in certain scale, because then we able to “humiliate” those painters as a group of idiots who had skills (several years later, my friends then started to paint to support their wife and children. Because I grow old and wiser, I understand their choice). During those years I produced many graphics artworks. My first solo exhibition, for example, abounded with sketches, hardboard cut, and some others were drawings. It was the years for my career as a young artist. We were not realized that what we had done was a subculture forming process. In the middle of the domination of “canvas craftsmen”, we make a community which focus on appreciation to print paper and ink. Not enough only by producing, we also held exhibition and “reading”. Several years later, I realized that this is the key of graphics art sourcing, the forming of subculture, graphics subculture that separated from the painting arts mainstream and its variants.
Mainstream, whether they wanted or not, will be sided to market. It is hard to imagine if they must spare their time to side to outskirts arts such as graphics. So, by forming a “like a community” of graphics art, then, it will form brackets infrastructures: audiences, critics, artists, and finally, buyers. Those kind of independent communities are being applied nowadays, especially on the life-style community: music groups, Punk, vegetarians, and certain religion sects, to distro (distribution outlet) Graphics art subculture can be started from art institutes. It cannot be denied that Indonesian graphics stake holders are the students of graphics art themselves, and from that point this action can be wider.
What we had done less than 10 years ago were sporadic based on students spontaneity which filled with excessive idealism. But in the middle of apparent death of graphics art, those alternatives above can be used as a reference that graphics (for specific strategic needs) should be treated different with the mainstream. That difference should be treated politically. Only by that way so that graphics will be rewritten, and inerasable from Indonesian visual arts area, or at least it can roar in the middle of choir of the painting arts golden boys of Indonesian contemporary visual arts.