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Video in Indonesia: Histories, Aesthetics, Networks
2-days of panel presentations, critical discussion and reflection

Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 July 2011

Kedai Kebun Forum  []
Jalan Tirtodipuran No. 3, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia 55143
Tel.+62 274 376 114

To examine video and video art practices in Indonesia via 4 frameworks:
a. Video as/in Art History; b. Video Aesthetics; c. Alternative Histories of Video; d. Video Networks

* Sessions will be bilingual (English and Bahasa Indonesia) with simultaneous translation;
* Sessions may include short video screenings related to the session topic, with material chosen by speakers/moderators.
* Each day’s proceedings will be followed by a plenary session, led by KUNCI Cultural Studies Center and invited guests, with a view to deepening the discussion and providing a digest of the day’s exchanges, to be posted online.





Seminar  Programme
Day 1, WED 20 JUL
1030 – 1300  Session 1 – Video as/in Art History
Presenters: Ade Darmawan (ruangrupa) and Agung Hujatnikajennong (Institut Teknologi Bandung and Selasar Sunaryo Art Space); Moderator: David Teh (NUS)

Since the rise of Indonesian contemporary art in the 1990s, two key shifts have been identified. First, with the liberalisation of the public sphere post-Reformasi, artists have changed their focus from the national political drama to more personal and playful concerns. Second, an earlier, regional-institutional patronage has given way to more muscular market forces. Video has become a very conspicuous medium over this period. How does it reflect, contribute to, or evade these broader movements? Are there specifically ‘Indonesian’ ways of using the medium, or abusing it? Which are the key artists, artworks or exhibitions to have anchored video in Indonesian contemporary art? Is ‘video art’ a viable category, or is video simply another tool in the ‘post-medium’ artist’s toolbox?

1400 – 1600  Session 2 – Video Aesthetics
Presenters: Aminuddin TH Siregar (ITB) and Thomas J. Berghuis (Sydney University); Moderator: Andreas Treske (Yasar University)

In international art discourse, video has been theorised from many perspectives. Early on, its importance as a tool for social activism brought an emphasis on the public sphere, its place in wider processes of media democratisation. Formalist and conceptualist accounts, meanwhile – many inspired by phenomenology – hailed a new, reflexive tool in studio practice, with a special relationship to the body and performance. More recently, video’s migration to the web has brought a renewed focus on the author function (recombinatory strategies, mash-up, DIY, détournement and tactical media). What are the best terms or theories for understanding video’s aesthetics in Indonesia? Do we have the right vocabulary for a critical discussion? Should we emphasise the social or the technical? Can film or media theories be imported successfully, or should local ways of seeing lie at the core of video aesthetics?

1630 – 1800  Digest Session (plenary)               Moderator: KUNCI CSC
Discussant / Scribe: Nuraini Juliastuti

Day 2, THU 21 JUL
1030 – 1300  Session 3 – Alternative Histories of Video
Presenters: Andang Kelana and Mahardhika Yudha (Forum Lenteng, Jakarta) and Hafiz (ruangrupa and Forum Lenteng); Moderator: Antariksa; Respondent: Aryo Danusiri (ragam, Harvard University)

With the explosion of artistic, DIY, community and activist video in Indonesia comes the urgent need for a locally informed media history. Existing overviews, taking the lead from video’s histories elsewhere, tend to privilege its relationship to broadcast and, later, to cable TV. This approach has furnished important narratives of resistance to, and infiltration of, state and then corporate media channels. But is this the whole story? Have TVRI and MTV really defined video’s scope and potential? What are the medium’s other industrial, artisanal or domestic contexts, and how have they informed its development? How have they shaped video access, video reception and video literacy?



1400 – 1600  Session 4 – Video Online: Impact, Effect, Affect
Presenters: Ronny Agustinus (independent critic, Jakarta); Andrew Lowenthal (Engage Media); Moderator: Sujud Dartanto (House of Natural Fiber)

In Indonesia, as elsewhere, networked videos are making headlines. From celebrity sex scandals to human rights abuses, their impact can be viral, immediate and transnational. Which videos have made the greatest impact, and how? What are the crucial factors in their production, distribution, or reception? And how do the politics of the medium affect the politics of the content? This panel will pursue online video beyond the hype, focusing on specific, localised cases and contexts, asking what online videos do to the people who make them and the people who watch them.

1630 – 1800  Digest Session (plenary)               Moderator: KUNCI CSC
Discussant / Scribe: Ferdiansyah Thajib



1030 – 1300  Session 1 – Video as/in Art History

Ade Darmawan (ruangrupa): title coming soon

Abstract: This presentation will address the publication of the book and DVD entitled “Ten Years of Video Art in Indonesia (2000-2010)” by ruangrupa, in 2011. This compilation was the first attempt to map out the development of Indonesian video art in the last decade. The initiative was driven by and based on ruangrupa’s observation that over this time, video has been popular and widely used by artists. Video production has grown substantially in terms of quantity. Indonesian video art is also marked by the diversity of its visual languages and experimentation. Over ten years, we have seen a wide spectrum of techniques, from very simple video recording, performance and animation, to complicated editing, effects, motion sensors, games and large-scale installations resulting from long and exhaustive research. A variety of themes have emerged, from the body and violence, trauma, labor, urban culture and subcultures, the everyday, football, and so on. Video is produced in many regions in Indonesia and not centralized in urban areas that have traditionally been the central dynamos of social, political and cultural change. We argue that video’s position in Indonesian art, and its entry into contemporary art discourse, has been built upon two important factors. First, the shift in the map of global contemporary art since the 1990s. And second, the establishment of institutions and infrastructure, since freedom of expression was re-established in 1998, in the form of festivals such as Ok.Video (established 2003), art spaces, artists’ initiatives and video-makers’ networks. But can these informal ‘institutions’ secure the position of video as an artform? Can projects like the ruangrupa compilation address the art historical lack in Indonesian contemporary art? Is it yet possible to write a history of Indonesian video art? In this presentation, we argue that video, though it has achieved high visibility, is still floating, lacking the processes of mystification or valuation necessary to cement its place in Indonesian art history.

Agung Hujatnikajennong (Institut Teknologi Bandung/Selasar Soenaryo Art Space):title coming soon

Abstract: This presentation proposes a perspective for the making of history of Indonesian video art, namely by looking at the relations between video art practice, contemporary art and the development of local technoculture.


1400 – 1600  Session 2 – Video Aesthetics

Aminuddin TH Siregar (Institut Teknologi Bandung/Galeri Sumardja): ‘The Possibility of Aesthetics: Video Art in Indonesia (They Said…)’

Abstract: Beyond discussions of quality, video art has become more popular in the Indonesian art world in the last decade. It has even recently been absorbed by the art market. Although the scale of transactions is not as big as painting, this at least suggests that video art in Indonesia is no longer marginal; it has entered the ‘mainstream’. This was not predicted by anyone, five or seven years ago. Although in the beginning, video art raised a lot of questions amongst the art scene, it has developed and become accepted without exciting or substantial debate. As a result of the relatively poor critical discourse, we lack a lot of materials that could put Indonesian video art in its context. Other implications: understanding and knowledge of this art form do not occur evenly; only a few people go thoroughly into the ins and outs of video art; the rest are “seasonal video makers”, who pop up whenever a video festival happens. Predictably, the results are often perfunctory – poor technical standards, a poor thematic spectrum, and – in my opinion – a failure to attain the status of “art”. The aesthetic decline of Indonesian video art leads to the trap of certain patterns of communication: vulgar, narrative, naïve, slapstick, cynical, and so on. Besides that, there is another trend: works that are stuck on questions of “technique” (editing, duration, image quality (resolution), and so on. Indonesian video art is poor in terms of thematic and technical exploration, as well as in its ‘aesthetic’ development. When Indonesian artists use the video camera, the media itself is less conceptually explored and exploited. It’s an unfair comparison with what happened when video technology was originally used in the West, but it is worth observing. In Nam June Paik’s works, ‘TV Buddha’ (1974), for example, the camera device succeeds in presenting the working principles of the camera in a very simple way. It not only represents the conception of “self-reflexivity”, as transmitted by the camera technology, but also we can see the working principles through which the media attain their power. Video art is usually combined with sound, music, dialogue and text, and quickly brings a new understanding of aesthetics. Video art explores time / motion / sound / image and processes of viewing. If this new aesthetic experience hinges on the “viewing experience”, how do we distinguish between video art and the experience of other media art? While the basic property of the video is motion and change, how can the contemplative experience, the art of seeing, take place? For the Indonesian context, how do we judge the aesthetic experience of video art?

Thomas J. Berghuis (University of Sidney), ‘Old Tricks | New Media: Press Pause, Play and Performance’


Abstract: This paper spirals from two directions in ‘new media’ arts in January 2010 and January 2011, respectively. The first instance considers a cross-section of  ‘new media’ works by prominent artists from the Asia-Pacific at the inaugural exhibition of Edge of Elsewhere – a three-year project with the Sydney Festival with specific focus on ‘community engagement,’ for which I was one of the founding curators. The focus will be on one of Indonesia’s most prominent artists and activists, Arahmaiani, and the relationship that her practice has to performance, video, and new media. The second direction in this paper will reflect on ‘new media’ (and perhaps old tricks) in relation to the Jakarta-based artist collective ruangrupa, drawing out analyses on the relationship ruangrupa has with video, new media, and, what could be described as the re-mediation of communal performances into artistic, aesthetic, scientific and historically relevant media.



1030 – 1300  Session 3 – Alternative Histories of Video

Hafiz (ruangrupa and Forum Lenteng), Andang Kelana (Forum Lenteng), Mahardhika Yudha (Forum Lenteng), Otty Widasari (Forum Lenteng, Akumassa): title coming soon

Abstract: Video technology used as an artistic medium has been developing significantly in the last ten years. However, in Indonesia, video is frequently seen only as a consequence of technological development and is limited only for the artists or filmmaker for their creativity. As a medium that was born during and after the development of mass media technology, changes in cultural context can’t be avoided, especially since the introduction of these technologies in Indonesia (the inauguration of State Television, TVRI, 1962). Since 1974, the video equipment has been entering the houses of Indonesian upper and middle class in big cities. Looking at the Indonesian history via video become an important movement because for almost 32 years of New Order rule, this technology has mutated into social activism and events that could not be shut down easily by the regime. History is written by the winner, indeed. History is altered in such a way according to the will of the ruler. But through video we are called to rethink our position. We see that video has infiltrated our life, into its deepest and smallest corners. Every event seems imperfect if it does not employ video recording. Wedding, baby delivery, birthday, circumcision, musical performances, almost all involve video.

1400 – 1600  Session 4 – Video Online: form, effect, affect

Andrew Lowenthal (Engage Media): ‘The Truth, Myths and Impact of Online Video in Indonesia’

Abstract: EngageMedia has been working with activist video in Indonesia since 2007, during which time a few incidents stand out as turning points in how the medium has changed public perception. In 2010, the torture of Tunaliwor Kiwo, a West Papuan farmer, and his neighbour, was recorded with a soldier’s mobile phone. After being leaked to activists, the video was distributed on several sites including the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). A few months later, EngageMedia released video testimony of the torture in the Lani language (the language of the Jayawijaya region) with both English and Indonesian subtitles. Human Rights Watch and others used this video to urge the Indonesian government to mount a thorough investigation into the episode, which led to only a light sentence for the soldiers who perpetrated the torture. The same year, another video, the notorious ‘Peterpan sex tape’, led to the prosecution (and recently the severe sentence) of Ariel Peterpan under the new anti-Pornography laws. Even more recently EngageMedia watched closely the publication of what is known as the ‘Ahmadiyah Video’, which documented the murder of three Ahmadi men who had been stripped, beaten and dragged from their house. Police officers appear in the video, making no attempt to stop the violence as scores of young men look on, recording with their mobile phones. Meanwhile, in Australia a surge of public anger has led to the halt of live cattle exports to Indonesia because of a televised program screening footage of their slaughter. This talk will explore the differing impact of these videos and what the implications are for those seeking to use video as a social change tool. The incidents surrounding their production and distribution raise important questions around the factors that generate political impact from the ‘truth’ of videos and how people watch, interpret and use disturbing footage.

Ronny Agustinus (independent critic, Jakarta): titled coming soon

Abstract: Technology enables anyone to make amateur videos with any purpose, and social networking enables them to be downloaded and watched by anyone. For some people this means progress and “democratization”. Institutional barriers have been falling: there are no longer cost constraints (high production costs + profit and loss calculation from box office records); there is no curatorial obstacle (either by festival juries, film and television censors, or critics, etc.); and in addition, there are no longer any formal technical or aesthetic standards. No matter how amateur, users have the right to record the videos they want to, and upload them to YouTube. In the Indonesian context, this phenomenon is not only a means of “democratization”, but also a of “decentralization”: one no longer needs to struggle in Jakarta to become a national celebrity. It’s enough to make a video with a webcam or cellphone camera in one’s own village. Two sassy female students from Bandung and a member of the military (Brimob) as far away as Gorontalo (Sulawesi) have proven the efficacy of social networking to launch them to instant fame. But does video circulated in social networking really have the potential to disintegrate the relations of power (center/mainstream vs. periphery; professional vs. amateur; commercial vs. independent, etc.) in Indonesia? Or is there a new power relation established? My hypothesis: for Indonesia, the impact of video uploaded to social networking still requires mediation by the mainstream mass media to achieve maximum effect. My presentation will highlight these aspects.