The sun shone brightly on the white facades of the colonial building now known as the National Gallery of Indonesia, which has hosted some of the country's most prominent artworks, exhibitions, and cultural activities since 1999. Formerly a Dutch East Indies educational complex, today, two of its main structures (Buildings A and B) host 10 established women artists in an exhibition entitled Indonesian Women Artists #3: Infusions Into Contemporary Art.
Lining up with a number of visitors to get our online bookings verified, I was eager to finally see a National Gallery show since its reopening in February 2022.
My excitement was fortified by the fact that the exhibition features not only artists whose works I have encountered in past local and international exhibitions — such as Arahmaiani
, Dolorosa Sinaga
, Melati Suryodarmo
, Mella Jaarsma
, Sri Astari Rasyid
, and Titarubi
— but also artists whose creations I have not had the chance to cross paths with before, namely Bibiana Lee
, Dyan Anggraini
, Indah Arsyad
, and Nunung W.S.
Reading into the title, the word "infusion" seems to fit the artist selection perfectly, as these women, who were born between 1948–1969, have undoubtedly brought fresh outlooks to the contemporary Indonesian art scene with their active, often provocative artistic endeavours.
The featured artworks strongly reflect this curatorial premise, as they do not seek to represent these artists' womanhood. Instead, the works unveil the artists' criticisms of global issues — be it historical, political, or environmental — which affect them and their local and international communities. In fact, visiting the show felt like a journey through the multiple realities that make up our present world.
Transdisciplinary approaches Each zone is dedicated to one artist and evokes unique aspects of their practice, be it their intelligent commentary and transdisciplinary approaches. One of the first works to welcome visitors, A Taste of Behind
(2018) sees Jaarsma hand-stitch 'clothes' using natural materials such as barkcloth and bamboo to explore human behaviours and social conditioning. These clothes alter the natural shape of the body, and play with the perceptions of which body parts should be covered to challenge beauty standards. On this, she states
I seek to start a new trend by displaying a part of the human body that is still typically covered: the butt."