About

2015 is numerically interesting. It is Indonesia's 70th Independence anniversary after it was proclaimed on 17 August 1945; 60 years since the Asia Africa Conference was held in Bandung in April 1955, which marked the almost simultaneous independence of many Asian and African nations after World War II. Counting back from 2015, fifty years ago, on 30 September 1965, was a political upheaval—the catalyst of a great change in Indonesia—followed by the hunt for many millions of PKI (Indonesian Communist Party) members, who were then exiled to Buru Island, in the far East of Indonesia. When we line up those numbers—50, 60, 70—2015 became almost mystical. And it inspired dr. Oei Hong Djien—founder of OHD Museum, Magelang, Central Java—to hold an exhibition of OHD Museum collection to celebrate 70 years of Indonesia's independence. I observed 3000 items in the Museum’s collection, and finally arrived at the title “The People in 70 years” after selecting 150 works depicting the people, or social issues, as subject matter. They are works created from the beginning of the 20th century up to the present time. The people refers to a group of individuals or persons existing outside of the ‘elites’ who wielded governmental power. “The People in 70 Years” stems from the question: what has become of the people after 70 years of Indonesia as a republic? The development of the Indonesian art scene can show two images. First, an image gained from a tendency to highlight ever-present social issues throughout the art in Indonesia. Representations within this tendency are very familiar because they are often studied. Representations of society such as this, reflects the spirit of the artist as ‘champion of the silent people’, who embody an ironic condition in a republic that [allegedly] believes in the sovereignty of the people. The second image is not as bleak, because it believes that, within these seventy years, there have been developments that show how the people are no longer the silent people. This is a belief held by artists within the current development of contemporary art in Indonesia, where contemporary art has become the mainstream. Today, artists feel that they are part of a society that has found its voice, and they loudly proclaim, “We are the people”. In a condition such as this, 'the artist as champion of the silent people' is no longer relevant. Who needs to champion whom, exactly? We are the people, said the artists of today. It is generally believed that the tendency to highlight social problems is never lost from the development of art in Indonesia. However, doubt had crept in when contemporary art expanded its reach along with globalization that inspired new perceptions about society. Yet, signs/indicators found within Indonesian contemporary art shows that the tendency to highlight social themes has never left the development of art in Indonesia. The exhibition The People in 70 Years, wishes to show that this unbroken tendency is not limited by periods, developmental eras, or paradigms. To read it we only require one reference: the social reality in Indonesia.