28 December 2018 By Publikasi IIS

Art Performativity for Peace Activism: ‘Unjuk Rasa’ Book Review

Art Performativity for Peace Activism: ‘Unjuk Rasa’ Book Review

Demonstration is often seen as a nuisance done by a group of people – sometimes involving violence – towards the authority. This shallow understanding continues to  echo and spread to common people and thus limiting a deeper understanding of this act.

Whereas when done in a non-violent method, demonstration could become an effective way to pressure the authority. Especially when it involves numerous non-violent methods as well as art. Therefore, demonstration can express messages in a way that everyone can enjoy.

Yayasan Kelola (Kelola Foundation) tries to bring forth that model of demonstration by initiating Cipta Perdamaian Grant as a platform for artists to intervene social problems through their artworks and artistic activities. With the support of Danish Embassy, Yayasan Kelola held Cipta Perdamaian Grant program since 2016.

Cipta Perdamaian targets Indonesian provinces categorized as conflict-prone areas and are experiencing slow infrastructure growth, especially in the case of art infrastructure. Artists who receive the grant are challenged to raise various problems, be it in the scope of everyday life or political, sociocultural, economical, or historical issues. The understanding of those conflicts are then translated to collaborative projects between artists or art communities to bridge the distance between the artwork and the public as spectators.

This results in the form of artistic intervention towards life and public discourse in each region are then compiled in a book titled ‘Demonstration: Art-Performativity-Activism’ (Unjuk Rasa: Seni – Performativitas – Aktivisme) launched last Thursday (6/10) in Yogyakarta.

This launching and book review agenda was held in Digilib Café Fisipol UGM, and was attended by Arham Rahman (curator of Galeri Lorong), Muhammad Al-Fayyadl (author and alumnus of Arts, Philosophie, Esthétique, Univ. Paris-VIII) and Lisistrata Lusandiana (Director of Indonesian Visual Art Archive). This event was also attended by Brigitta Isabella as book editor and Diah Kusumaningrum as content contributor as well as Institute of International Studies UGM researcher.

Brigitta in the opening session stated, “Reviewing Unjuk Rasa book is like doing a post-mortem operation, where words that have been written by the artists became headstones that are reopened. Peers here are invited to see the person inside is still living and thriving, after that we need to realize what we want.”

This book becomes a contribution towards Indonesian politics, where inside there are critiques in the form of aesthetics attempting to critic things from development to cultural concussion. This is agreed by Diah: in her writing, she stated that peace process is more than a black-on-white show. There is a reconciliation process that needs to be done wholeheartedly by stimulating the success of performativity through daily acts, including arts.

Lisistrata said that this book is a demonstration of artists’ experience that are trying to deny the byword “If it’s confusing and not understandable, it is already art”. For her, art belongs to everybody. A space where everyone breathes and interprets with their conflicting life experiences.

Al-Fayyadl continued with a reflection that Demonstration has succeeded to pass beyond the pro-contra dichotomy, and a seemingly-existing separation between aesthetics and politics. However, according to him, there is still a weakness in this book by only offering an inward-vision (only towards arts), but not outward (mapping of the ruling structure of political object in Indonesia).

The reflection above becomes an important note towards art as a political statement to be able to voice out and act out susceptible societies due to extractive rezime and capitalistic logic. Performativity attempted by artists hopefully transcends narcissistic tendencies that can lead to pseudo-activity, a condition more dangerous than pacifism in the path towards peace.


Writer: Wilibrordus Bintang Hartono
Editor: Imas Indra Hapsari
Translator: Heidira Witri Hadayani