Ade Darmawan: I am one of the co-founders of ruangrupa. We were formally founded in 2000, but the other co-founders and I actually met during art school around the mid-1990s, just as the military regime was collapsing. During the 1998 reformation, we could openly share our ideas.
My first question for Andan is: Why school? I met Andan in 2005, and we later set up the Gudskul project, which is a collective study. Gudskul is not just about studying how to practice collectivism, but also promotes collaborative thinking and practice. Moreover, for us, it is about how to learn together and share that moment in time with people.
So I would like you to share your own experience––why school is really relevant for Indonesia in particular, and also in other contexts. And also how it relates to your own background, as you yourself are Indonesian, from Makassar, South Sulawesi, and spent six years in an Islamic boarding school.
Mirwan Andan: Why school? Well, the idea for “school” originated with Indonesians who went to study abroad––people from the middle classes who studied in the Netherlands. While they were there, they decided to establish an organization called Perhimpunan Indonesia (Indische Vereeniging). It was actually an initiative or movement against the colonizers at the time. Then later on, in Indonesia, there was a brilliant man called Ki Hadjar Dewantara, who initiated an educational platform called Taman Siswa, which means “student park.” This student park idea really inspired us, because that was how we realized that education didn’t have to be in a classroom. Taman Siswa showed us that any place could be a student park or classroom. And we found this such a groundbreaking idea that it became one of the most important notions of our practice. Since the establishment of ruangrupa in 2000, many people consider us mainly to be an organization that focuses on setting up festivals, which is partly true. We do organize festivals, but the festival is only a kind of medium. At the beginning of ruangrupa, education was already on the table as an important keyword to discuss, develop, and practice.
Ade Darmawan: You haven’t actually answered the question…
Mirwan Andan: What was your question?
Ade Darmawan: Why is school relevant? Even for us, as a collective practice which also practices transformation of knowledge. Because forming a school is a formalization of education and an institutional practice in itself. How do you think it is really relevant and important?
Mirwan Andan: So it’s not about belief?
Ade Darmawan: I think I still believe. I think it’s like when on the one hand you have art, and on the other you have life, and those things are in dialogue. I think most of the time, art is reduced, and that makes disconnections. Institutions or events like biennales are systematic mechanisms for disconnecting. We invest a lot into them. So I’m really glad to hear about Raqs [Media Collective]. They are talking about really generating [their project] from a year before the actual time [of the exhibition] to deal with the knowledge and people involved and also how to create actual dialogues. I think we should really think again about how far the ideas of curating and making exhibitions can go. I think there is the word “beyond” somewhere, in the title [of this symposium]. I think it should be: go beyond––maybe not beyond Asia, but first beyond these walls, beyond the [museum] building.
Ade Darmawan: I’m going to ask you about lumbung, the rice barns. You spoke about the natural farming community you recently researched in Sulawesi. It’s really interesting how the agricultural side of society can be so inspirational.
Mirwan Andan: A few months ago I went to South Sulawesi. It’s actually my hometown, where I was born and raised. I regularly visit my partner and son there. When I was there last, I used my time to visit a remote area to meet certain groups of people who practice what they call “natural farming.” Natural farming is a practice they choose to do in their daily lives. Before, they used to use fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, and chemical fertilizer, and they found that these things really destroy human health and the human body. So that’s how they started––eight years ago they began digging up all this knowledge from their ancestors, from YouTube and books. So they gathered all of this information, and they curated all of these things and used it as a curriculum to start this natural farming. Eight years later they have become a really good organization. They plant their rice paddies and also vegetables. And the most important thing they have learned from their ancestors is the concept of lumbung, or the rice barn. The knowledge they have learned from their ancestors about the lumbung is a way to keep all of their resources in common and as a community.
Ade Darmawan: It’s a surplus, right?
Mirwan Andan: Yes, it’s a way of storing all the surplus from their harvest season. This is one of the lumbung shapes typical to a particular area in Indonesia. These are not the only shapes. There are many different types of lumbung. What I found is that they are now really happy practicing this natural farming in comparison to the past, when they only had time to meet as farmers, and then only to discuss how much money they lost. After practicing natural farming, and because they are not using chemical fertilizers or pesticides, or herbicides, the insects and plants began to converse with each other. They saw how even ants changed their paths because there’s no chemical fertilizer anymore. Another good thing is that in economic terms, they have also become happier in comparison to their earlier farming practices.
Ade Darmawan: How do they protect themselves from a bigger system?
Mirwan Andan: This is interesting because it’s knowledge, it’s a curriculum. They have an educational platform for anyone who wants to learn this way of natural farming, and it’s free. So they don’t sell the knowledge. Anyone can come and learn it. If you have time to visit this place, you will find that it’s like a hospital. Patients come and talk and bring their rice and vegetables and then discuss how to practice natural farming.
Ade Darmawan: Do you think it is possible to scale up?
Mirwan Andan: Up until now, it has taken three thousand farmers [coming together] for them to become an organization. They are aiming to increase [their numbers] to five hundred thousand farmers in one province. This is very interesting, because it all started with the notion of lumbung—where farming is supposed to make you happy and provide enough food to consume as a community rather than buying rice from somewhere else.
Ade Darmawan: It’s only in one place, right? Do you think it is possible to replicate this in another context, for example?
Mirwan Andan: I think it is very possible, because they are often invited to share their knowledge in other places throughout the archipelago.
Ade Darmawan: Are there any actual examples of it working outside the original context?
Mirwan Andan: In South Sulawesi, yes. Not in that particular region, but somewhere else. And interestingly, it’s always started by traditional communities. They are often invited by traditional communities to share their knowledge and practice of natural farming.
Ade Darmawan: This is like going back to the old knowledge. In what situation do you think this can be combined with modern knowledge? So that one is not going to consume or repress the other?
Mirwan Andan: As far as I understand, they use multimedia to record their practice, and sometimes they share their knowledge through WhatsApp to anyone who wants to learn it. It’s really applicable in the contemporary sense as a practice, if we bring it to our community and follow through. They really started it from universal values. It’s not only about food, but about how to communicate as human beings and how to behave as a person. If we say that there are seven deadly sins, and one of them is greed––
Ade Darmawan: I thought that you were a Muslim?
Mirwan Andan: Yes, I’m a Muslim. But you don’t have to be a Christian to understand that greed is one of the seven deadly sins. That’s what they started to fight against, all the greed in the chain of the food industry.
Ade Darmawan: For me, this question of traditional versus modern knowledge is always a really relevant question. We came up with the lumbung idea, for example, for Documenta, and the challenge is not only how to scale up, but if it is possible to bring the idea into a different context. This is also about sharing the idea of the common or collective and about the redistribution of resources. And how these ideas can actually be adopted and help us find another model. I think these ideas must be shared and practiced in many places.
But now in art, there is a certain kind of currency or transaction, a kind of mythical capital, which is only shared or occupied by a certain elite. So this kind of exchange value or distribution should really be rethought. That’s why I’m getting inspiration from that lumbung, for example, which we practice now in Jakarta. And that also brings me to my next question for you: in what conditions can this lumbung survive?
Mirwan Andan: They always say they will survive as long as they practice this lumbung concept. They really believe it.
Ade Darmawan: Lumbung has been practiced for a long, long time, but there was a moment, very special in South Sulawesi, that actually changed the mechanism. That was logistical storage. The lumbung model was taken over and organized by the government. So these things are really possible.
Mirwan Andan: It’s very possible, because they set up their own lumbung. As I mentioned before, as long as they practice these lumbung values, this lumbung concept, they believe it will last for a long time. We’re pretty sure it is not only in farming, but also in fishing, and there are many other examples. Natural farming has always used things available from your surroundings so that you don’t need to buy materials. It’s consumable by humans, but it’s not only for humans but also for the animals and plants. So it really is amazing.
Ade Darmawan: Our next challenge and question is how to bring that mechanism into an exhibition. It’s like bringing a resource pot of ideas into an exhibition. It’s a move from the representational into the occupational, so rather than representing a practice, we move it into an occupational practice. For example, we bring one practice to one place, chop it up, and bring that into a certain system.
Mirwan Andan: This is possible.
Ade Darmawan: We’ll see.
Ade Darmawan lives and works in Jakarta as an artist, curator and director of ruangrupa. He studied at Indonesia Art Institute (ISI), in the Graphic Arts Department. In 1998, a year after his first solo exhibition at the Cemeti Contemporary Art Gallery, Yogyakarta (now Cemeti Art House), he stayed in Amsterdam to attend a two-year residency at the Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten. His works range from installation, objects, drawing, digital print, and video. Exhibitions include “Magic Centre” (solo show held both in Portikus, Frankfurt, 2015, and Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, 2016), Gwangju Biennial and Singapore Biennale (both 2016) and “Doing Business with the Dutch” (Lumen Travo Gallery, Amsterdam, 2018).
Mirwan Andan studied at the Islamic Boarding School for 6 years in Watampone and Makassar. From 1999–2004, he studied French Literature at the Universitas Hasanuddin, Makassar. In 2012, he graduated from Political Science in the Universitas Indonesia, while working in ruangrupa as a researcher and developer since 2007. He took part in Jakarta Biennale 2015 as researcher and co-curated TRANSaction: Sonsbeek 2016 in Arnhem, NL.
His writing and book editorial works include All for Jakarta – a note on the tenth anniversary of ruangrupa: Decompression #10, Expanding the Space and Public (Journal of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 2011); and 20Kuldesak: Networking, Rebelling, Maneuvering, Moving (Kuldesak Network, 2018). Some international forums he has participated in are Independent Creative Art Spaces Leadership Training, Trans Europe Halles & ASEF (Paris, 2007); Enhancing Asia-Europe Meeting Visibility Through Cultural Visibility, ASEF (Halong Bay, 2010); State of Independence: A Global Forum in Alternative Space, Roy And Edna Disney California Arts (Los Angeles, 2011); Youth Initiative and Civic Engagement Training, UNESCO (Jakarta, 2013); Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Conference (Surabaya, 2015); Berlin Meeting, Responsibility of Religions for Peace, Federal Foreign Office of Germany and Ministry For Foreign Affairs of Finland (Berlin, 2018) and Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, U.S. Department of State (Washington D.C., 2018). From 2016–2018, he worked as advisor for Director General of Culture, Ministry of Education and Culture, Republic of Indonesia. He now lives in two cities, back and forth, Jakarta and Makassar, mainly for family reasons. He recently opened a small library called Riwanua, at Gudside, Jakarta, while continuously running a project initiative called Jalur Timur in Makassar with his fellow researchers, artists, and cultural activists.
He now lives in two cities, back and forth, Jakarta and Makassar, mainly for family reasons. He recently opened a small library called Riwanua, at Gudside, Jakarta, while continuously running a project initiative called Jalur Timur in Makassar with his fellow researchers, artists, and cultural activists.
|Issue 8 Reformatting Documenta with lumbung Formula: documenta fifteen|
|Editorial / Reformatting documenta with lumbung Formula: documenta fifteen||Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo|
|Harvesting and a Single Story of Lumbung||Putra Hidayatullah|
|The Politics in the Ramayana / Ramakien in documenta fifteen: Decoding the Power of the Thai Ruling Class||Jiandyin|
|Malaise of Commons: on the Quality of the Relationships in documenta fifteen||Hsiang-Pin Wu|
|Issue 7 The Heterogeneous South|
|Editorial / The Heterogeneous South||Hongjohn Lin|
|The South - An art of asking and listening||Manray Hsu|
|Uncharted Territory: The Roots of Curatorial Practices in Eastern Indonesia||Ayos Purwoaji|
|South Fever: The South as a Method in Taiwan Contemporary Curating||Pei-Yi Lu|
|Issue 6 The Beginning of Curating|
|Editorial / The Beginning of Curating||Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo|
|Are Curators Really Needed?||Bùi Kim Đĩnh|
|The Documents 15 and the Concept of Lumbung||ruangrupa|
|The Three Axes of Curating: Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics||Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo|
|Issue 5 Curatorial Episteme|
|Editorial / Curatorial Episteme||Hongjohn Lin|
|Epistemic Encounters||Henk Slager|
|The Curatorial Thing||Hongjohn Lin|
|Ethics of Curating||Meng-Shi Chen|
|Issue 4 Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism|
|Editorial / Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism||Manray Hsu|
|When Kacalisian Culture Meets the Vertical City: Contemporary Art from Greater Sandimen||Manray Hsu|
|Pathways and Challenges: Art History in the Context of Global Contemporary Art||Jau-Lan Guo|
|Curating Commemoration: Conditions of Political Choreography, a Performance Exhibition in Retrospect||Sophie Goltz|
|Issue 3 Curating Performativity|
|Editorial / Curating Performativity||I-wen Chang|
|Choreographing Exhibitions: Performative Curatorgraphy in Taiwan||I-wen Chang|
|Living and Working Together in the Now Normal: Visual Arts and Co. at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre||Pawit Mahasarinand|
|The Curatorial as A Praxis of Disobedience||Miya Yoshida|
|Issue 2 Curators' Living Rooms|
|Editorial / Curators' Living Rooms||Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo|
|Extended Living Room: Space and Conversation||ruangrupa（Ade Darmawan, Mirwan Andan）|
|Freeing the Weights of the Habitual||Raqs Media Collective|
|Curating Topography||Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo|
|Issue 1 Curatography|
|Editorial / One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward||Hongjohn Lin|
|What is Curatography?||Hongjohn Lin|
|Les fleurs américaines||Yoann Gourmel, Elodie Royer|
|There are No Blank Slates||Eileen Legaspi Ramirez|