Photo: Torben Brandt

Pameran di Kolong Jembatan Jatinegara
Exhibition Under 
the Jatinegara Bridge

An exhibition & installation 
by Moh. Iqbal, Alexander Tristan Davey, Kommunitas Hitam Putih, Dibal, Marga Selayu



On Location,
Opening Night

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 15th.

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 and
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 photos. 

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 experience. 

The exhibition got a nice write-up in The Jakarta Post on Saturday. 

(source: javafred's e-group, 8 Oct. 2000) 


Multimedia show aims 
to redeem Sundanese dance

by Charlie Stevens

The Jakarta Post, Saturday 7 October 2000

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 opinion.

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 exhibition."

 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 be hung.

"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 Tristan Davey.

"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 dance form.

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 Jim Supangkat).

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) 



Media attention 

by Grace Siregar

After having seen the reaction to Iqbal and Alexander and Dibal's 'exhibition under a bridge', I was impressed by the amount of media attention this kind of event receives and inspired by its ability to reach ordinary people. The average Indonesian has very little exposure to contemporary art and (especially in the cities) less and less exposure to traditional art. Jakarta's open spaces are generally bereft of public art, with the exception of Soekarno's Soviet-style monstrosities scattered around the city and a very light sprinkling of sculptures in Jakarta's Menteng. The majority of works with 'the People' as their subject end up on display in hotels or art galleries where the Indonesian elite, financial, artistic and political takes a peek along with a few Westerners. 

The bridge exhibition, as well as reaching an immediate local public and holding up a mirror to one aspect of their daily lives, was picked up by television stations (without the customary financial inducements!) and broadcast nationwide. Even if people across Indonesia only see a glimpse of an exhibition and hear a moment's explanation, the message is still brought across: we have something immeasurably valuable in this country which is worth looking at and worthy of pride and artists who are interested in making an effort to bring our human cultural wealth to the attention of Indonesia itself as well as the outside world.

(source: javafred's e-group, 27 Nov. 2000)