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The Third Asia

5 September 05 words: Emma Lewis
Twenty young artists, from all over Asia and Europe (and Notts) came together for the third Asia-Europe Art Camp in Bandung.

This August, 20 young artists, designers, art coordinators, from all over Asia and Europe, came together for the third Asia-Europe Art Camp in Bandung. Organized by the Asia-Europe Foundation and Bandung Center for New Media Arts this art camp aimed to engage young creatives in critical debate, discussions and presentations surrounding artist initiatives spaces and new media art. I went along to represent Nottingham.

Bandung has a wealth of art galleries, artist studios and creative spaces which encourage involvement from many cross sections of the local community. The art camp introduced the participants to a select few of these, providing information about the wide variety of activities these spaces and organisations are involved in. These included Jendala Ide, a cultural and creative centre for local children, dedicated to stimulate the cultural perspective of children and youth towards workshops, exhibitions, performance, cultural encounters, library development, training for teachers/volunteers and discussions about education and culture.

The contemporary art gallery, Selsar Sunaryo, was the camp’s base for the lecture series and regularly hosts national and international exhibitions in all media forms and also has a number of research programmes, currently commissioning a database of Indonesian performance artists. IF Space is an example of the multi-purpose facilities which many art spaces provide, functioning as a design shop, library, café, music studio and gallery. With regards to art education, ITB – Institute of Technology, Bandung has a celebrated Fine Art Department which is currently preparing to set up a New Media division, which will be the first in the country, providing further provisions for students and artists already very active in this area of their own accord.

36 Frames Project
The participants of the camp were also encouraged to explore the environment of Bandung through a project employing the use of one instant camera each, attempting to capture within a limited number of frames their own particular perspectives on their surroundings. The results of this project have been exhibited at Selsar Sunaryo. Each approach to this project was unique, capturing images from urban graffiti, partying friends, market stalls, the homeless, dense traffic, architecture, even the view from the hotel window, some were very aware of their role as a tourist in this situation and reflected this in their images. The project questioned the participants’ relationship with the places and people that they photographed, how could they comment on and engage with the environment around them.

The diverse range of practices which the participants were engaged in reflects upon the dynamism of young people working in the area of new media and independent art spaces.
Jinghui Gu (China) is pursuing an exploration of the relationship between performance and new media, investigating how the body can be mediated through video and web streaming.
Sohyeon Park (Korea) is promoting dialogue and collaboration between artists and computer scientists in a project based in Seoul.
Lotte Meijer (Netherlands) is examining the role new media can play in supplementing the viewers experience in the gallery/museum space, having recently developed personalised audio guides for the Van Gogh Museum, allowing visitors to select commentary from the perspectives of many different people from the conventional gallery curator to children and old ladies. This work acknowledges the fact that each individual has their own interpretation of an art work and questions the convention of the audio guide which usually only provides one point of view.
Erik Pauhrizi (Indonesia) exemplifies the engagement with eclectic practices, the hybrid approach to the arts, working in textiles, sculpture, photography and video.
Nanna Debois Buhl (Denmark) is a member of the artist collective ‘Women Down the Pub’, aimed at raising the profile of female creatives in Denmark and Rael Artel (Estonia) runs her own independent art space in Pernau.

The lecturers who gave presentations at the art camp were equally diverse computer scientists, performance artists, academics all came together to provide an insight into their own specialist area.

Rob van Kranenburg (Netherlands) spoke of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). how new media technology will permeate everything in our lives, enter every fabric of our environment, move away from the dated interface of screen, mouse keyboard.

Suddhabrata Sengupta (India) of SARAI spoke of the organisations activities in providing creative new media facilities to local people of New Dehli, providing a space for research, practice and conversation about the contemporary media and urban constellations. Stressing there can be no worthwhile connectivity without community.
Akos Maroy (Hungary) highlighted the value of low tech solutions to supposedly hi tech ideas and controversially raised the difficult relationship between artists and technical experts/computer scientists, emphasising the need for true collaboration rather than artists treating such experts as menial workers. Ruangrupa (Indonesia) are a video art collective who curated the 2005 OK video festival in Jakarta, an international festival of video art which this year focused on ‘Subversion’.
Kentaro Taki (Japan) founder of Video Centre, Tokyo is promoting Japanese video art world-wide, exchanging with many different institutions and encouraging understanding of the way in which video works, how it operates, through various workshops.
Mizuki Endo, head of the organisation Rhythm, is encouraging artist independent spaces in South East Asia. He has recently set up an art gallery in the Philippines, has an established space in Fukuoka, Japan and is currently researching artist initiative spaces in Indonesia, with plans to make a publication. He has also recently received the 3rd Lorenzo Bonaldi Art Prize for curating.

After the art camp a group of participants travelled south to Yogyakarta which also has a vibrant art scene. Yogya is thriving with arist spaces, clusters springing up all over the city, including: Cemeti Art Foundation, Kedai Kebun Foundation, Parking Space and Mezz 56. All of these spaces have a particularly strong relationship with local artists and the local community while at the same time engaging in international art discourse and promoting the work of international artists. An example of this is the organisation OCC, Open Circuit Community, which is facilitating exhibitions, workshops and discussions in the local area. At the time Malcolm Smith (Australian video artist and curator), artist in residence at Cemeti, was carrying out a workshop at OCC on how to build your own video projector on a budget of £50. This workshop was particularly relevant to the resourcefulness of many Indonesian media artists and the DIY approach which enables far greater understanding of the technology that they use. A prime example of this is Venzha, a pioneering artist in combining performance and technology, pursuing many collaborative projects which often involve the creation of hand built electronic machines.

At the camp there was much discussion about cultural identity through art. Do artists want to be representatives of their country? Is definition of Indonesian artist, British artist etc. helpful in any way? Can and should artists be grouped together by nationality?
A particular area of debate was the matter of dominant Western systems of producing and curating art and calls for a proposed alternative. At times a polarization of East and West seemed to be suggested, as if these were in opposition. There appeared to be a strong feeling that contemporary art is based on the art history of the West.
Indonesian Art Scene is vibrant and offers a viable alternative. The most impressive feature of Indonesian approach to art is the strong sense of cooperation between all artist communities, the openness of long established artists to the new ideas of the young and a constant willingness to engage in critical discussion with all pursuing their interest in the arts. In the fiercely competitive art world this is a breath of fresh air. Many artists and artist spaces have a strong relationship with the surrounding community, providing services for local people, both creative services but also educational services. Many artists in Indonesia are socially and politically motivated and many hope that their art can be a vehicle for change.

The aim of the art camp is not to bring people together momentarily but for long term dialogue, projects and collaborations to emerge from it. Already different participants are planning to do things together. One of these projects will be coming to Nottingham. ‘Localized Network’ is a project which it is hoped all participants of the art camp will join in. It is designed to explore links between different regions of the same country, investigating how displacement and cultural difference exist even in the same nation. The first of these projects will compare the areas of Bandung and Yogya. In Britain it is hoped a group of artists will begin to examine the differences between Nottingham and one other city.

The next Asia-Europe Art Camp will be held next year in Helsinki.

Please look at the following websites for further information:
Asia-Europe Foundation
Art Camp
Common Room

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