by Grace Siregar
The exhibition was of photos by Mohamad Iqbal and
a video installation by my husband, Alexander Davey, with a performance art
piece by Kommunitas Hitam Putih, choreographed by Dibal, with traditional
Jaipongan music and dance by Marga Selayu, who perform there every night
(except Thursday). The exhibition stays there till the evening of Saturday
14th October and then moves to Galeri Antara for a discusiion day on Sunday
On the opeing night on Saturday, the whole of the
street under the bridge was full of an unusual and extremely enjoyable
mixture of Indonesian artists and art students, foreigners of various kinds
local people. Although chaotic in a charming way, the atmosphere was really
friendly and expectant. The jaipongan stage was open and the dancers and
musicians were there, waiting to perform. Above the stage were two TV
monitors with grainy close-up, slow-motion images of a jaipongan dancer's
hands moving. After about an hour of drinking warm beer and cold Tehbotol,
Kommunitas Hitam Putih's silver-faced, white-clad performers started to
move along the wall opposite the stage. They had set up three bamboo,
cloth-covered cubes with bamboo torches inside so that when dancers moved
inside the cubes, their movements were sillouetted on the white cloth. At
the culmination of the piece, accompanied by the musicians on the stage
behind us, the performers reached a peak of frenetic dancing and then a
becak brought out Iqbal's photographs of the Jaipongan, which were hung on
the concrete wall by the performers, moving slowly and deliberately.
Then the fun began, and the rest of the evening was spent listening to the
jaipongan, with locals dragging embarrassed bules, including Alexander, to
dance with them in front of the stage.
Today I went to see the exhibition in its daytime state, with the TV
monitors peeping out from holes cut in the wooden slats which close off the
stage during the day. Now the two hands are accompanied by a head. The
dislocated hands and head represent the spirit of the Jaipongan, still
emanating from the stage even though the dancers and musicians are at home,
sleeping off the night before. On the wall opposite are Iqbal's
It was great to watch the curious reactions of the passersby,
schoolchildren, 'preman' (street gang-members), drivers of trucks, cars and
public transport of every shape and form (becak, microlet, bajaj, etc),
customers at the Warteg (street cafe) all in the midst of a motorbike parts
market, with street tailors peddling away on their Singer sewing machines
under Iqbal's work. This is real public art, giving people the chance to
see something from their everyday life which they take for granted through
the eyes of artists - people outside their normal range of
The exhibition got a nice write-up in The Jakarta Post on
(source: javafred's e-group, 8 Oct. 2000)
Multimedia show aims
to redeem Sundanese dance
by Charlie Stevens
The Jakarta Post, Saturday 7
Jakarta (JP): The female dancers, sinden, dress
meticulously and paint their faces. They breathe in the incense smoke and
recite chants to increase an allure which has already been enhanced by
susuk, the magical art of placing gemstones under the skin to create bodily
radiance. When the preparations are complete, they look truly stunning.
Every night beneath the Jatinegara flyover in East Jakarta, the sinden and
musicians from the jaipongan dance group Marga Selayu perform under a green
veil of light to an audience of bajaj (motorized rickshaw), becak (pedal
rickshaw) and taxi drivers, market vendors and other locals.
In villages across the archipelago, women perform traditional dances as
symbols of beauty and strength and as a source of inspiration, allowing
spectators to escape momentarily from the pressures of daily life.
The Sundanese dance form jaipongan, which is performed in various areas of
West Java, is an example of this. Despite its rich tradition, however, it
is a dance form which is threatened by an increasingly negative public
Jaipongan is a social dance and is characterized by sensual and elegant
movements, which are derived from a mixture of the banjet and serimpi dance
forms, with elements of silat, Indonesian martial art.
During the performance, male spectators, known as bajidor, show their
appreciation by giving money to the dancers. This, combined with a rising
religious fundamentalism, has led to a perception that jaipongan is a
purely exploitative form of entertainment, with the sinden functioning as
sexual objects for the lusty gazes of the bajidor. This is however, a
misperception and an underestimation of the ritual, spiritual and social
role which jaipongan plays in harvest and wedding ceremonies throughout the
Sundanese parts of Java.
In an effort to redeem this once popular dance form, a multimedia
exhibition celebrating the grace and tradition of jaipongan will be held
from this Oct 7 to Oct 14 under the Jatinegara flyover on Jalan Pisangan
Timur in East Jakarta.
The exhibition will feature photographs by Mohamad Iqbal, a video
installation by Alexander Tristan Davey and, on the opening night, an art
performance by Komunitas Hitam Putih, choreographed by Dibal.
"The aim of this exhibition is to take a small step toward reclaiming
jaipongan for ordinary people. We hope to remind people of the depth and
meaning of this dance form, and that it is something to be proud of and
perpetuated." said photographer Mohamad Iqbal. "By presenting
images of the sinden as both ordinary people and consummate artists, this
exhibition hopes to restore their honour in the eyes of those who see the
Marga Selayu jaipongan group, which was the inspiration for the
event, has held nightly performances under the flyover since 1990 and in
Jakarta since the 1950's.
As you pass under the flyover, there are market stalls on the left which
back onto the railway and are closed at night. On the right is a
10-meter-high concrete wall, at the base of which street barbers and
tailors operate every day. It is on this wall that Iqbal's photographs will
"The focus of this project is to restore the honour of this dance form
and to celebrate the talent and dignity of the women who perform it. The
exhibition will not be held in a gallery but under the bridge itself, at
the location of the daily performances," said video artist Alexander
"This is perhaps the first time that an exhibition of this kind has
been held within the local community in Jakarta, rather than in a gallery
far from the people represented in the work," he said.
The photographic exhibition will feature a photo essay consisting of 40
black-and-white prints focusing on the life of N'cih, one of the sinden. During
the day, passersby can see the images, and in the evening the bajidor
(spectators) can view these works while watching the dance.
"Many of these people stay for several hours and so have plenty of
time to see and absorb the photos," said Iqbal.
A video installation by British/Dutch artist Alexander Tristan Davey will
accompany the photographs. "During the day, while the market is in
full swing, the stage is closed off with the typical Indonesian numbered
wooden slats," said Davey. "Three holes will be cut in the slats
and monitors will be placed behind the holes. The monitors will display
slow-motion images of a sinden's head and two hands with the upper monitor
showing the head and the others showing a hand each. These slow-motion
images will loop so that they repeat every 10 minutes or so," said
Davey. "This installation represents the sleeping spirit of the
jaipongan, which is always present on the jaipongan stage even when the
performers are not present." said Davey.
Davey is also working on a narrative-form documentary film of the whole
event, including the dance form itself, Iqbal's photographic project, the
opening night and the exhibition period.
The exhibition will be rounded off by a discussion and Kerawang Sundanese
food festival at Galeri Antara in Pasar Baru, where the photos and
installation will be moved to on Sunday Oct 15. This project received
funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Jakarta.
[Slightly edited for factual inaccuracies (originating from the
artists!) -- Grace Siregar]
an artist's involvement...
About the Jaipongan, this Jaipongan is from the
Kerawang and Subang area. Apparently it's different from Bandung, Bogor
Jaipongan. But, to be honest, I'm not quite sure about prostitution aspect
but whatever the reality is this dance is about a lot more than sex and it
deserves respect as such. If women simply want to earn money in the sex
industry they don't need to go to all the trouble of learning a traditional
I was asked to join this project by the photographer, Mohamad Iqbal. I was
recommended to him by Oscar Motuloh the chief photographer at Antara and
coordinator of Galeri Antara. He saw my five-minute video, Pangaradeon Ni
Oroan (Preparations of a Bride), which was an interpretation of an
installation exhibition by Altje Ully, (who also happens to be married to
I'm just getting going doing video work in Indonesia, but potential
subjects abound. (The vast number of interesting subjects here almost
becomes a problem in itself! How to chose...). I'm not just interested in
dance, but I do find that Indonesian traditional dance and music are a good
compensation for what I feel is the poor state of Indonesian contemporary
popular music, (creative and innovative contemporary pop music being a
passion of mine).
-- Alexander Tristan Davey
(source: javafred's e-group, 12 Oct. 2000)