Urban Art Scene and A Chat with Eddie Hara

You may still recall what I wrote here about my gallery-hopping in Yogyakarta around the time of Artjog. One of the art merchandises we acquired was a lovely scarf screened by the work of Eddie Hara, the renowned Basel-based Indonesian artist. I wanted to wear it, while my travel mate planned to frame it as a wall-hanging. Sounds good, until I told a couple of art collectors, who coldly responded that the only art belonging on a wall is real artwork, not some scarf refashioned as a piece of art.

I’d heard before rejection towards art merchandises, especially wearable art. On one side I can understand how serious art aficionados who have spent years honing on their aesthetics to appreciate brush strokes, perspectives and palettes, in addition to resources to afford a masterpiece, might be miffed when suddenly a happy-go-lucky nobody could score something from the same artist that required less art education or funds.

Yet, can we afford such elitist attitude on art education? During my academic years the art teaching was rudimentary while our public museums were far from adequate, and now “the masses” have grown into the thriving urban middle class with insatiable consumption drive. Having perhaps bought enough luxury bags and watches they now start to travel and peeking at art, even if for social media bragging right, so why not taking it as a chance to educate? Why not granting access to art products that mandate less investment? I inherently believe that once access is granted and joy is gained, interest and appreciation shall grow organically. If by wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with Arkiv Vilmansa’s work or toting a clutch with Hendra Hehe’s sketch they can stop viewing art as an unreachable hoity-toity concept, doesn’t it mean we’re opening them a path to approach Arahmaiani’s daring installations, FX Harsono’s deep political messages, and maybe one day, Ma Han’s and Tom Friedman’s abstracts?

I am no art critic, but I find it intriguing that the local artists that have come to the urban public mind in recent years—Eddie Hara, Eko Nugroho, Darbotz, Indieguerillas, to name a few–come from the genre often called street art. Their colors vivid, their graphics grand, their executions wild—pretty much like the pressure-cooker daily life for most urbanites. It’s smart that this year’s Bazaar Art Jakarta not only returning with affordable art merchandises, but also engagement with art—children sessions with Ronald Apriyan here, adult coloring outlet using Eko Nugroho’s sketches there. You may not able to draw like Eko, but you get to put a piece of you into his work.

Timed on the opening day of the 9th Bazaar Art Jakarta also was the unveiling of Eddie Hara’s collaboration with a few fashion designers and the fabulous pottery maker Kandura at Art Dept, the art section of the local high-street retailer Goods Dept.

I was very fortunate to have been offered a moment to sit with Eddie Hara himself and gather his thoughts on the urban art scene. To begin with, Eddie shared why he’s more attuned to urban living; it’s the posing architecture, bustling business, melting cultures, and constant dynamics that include anxiety and harried traffic as well. Having resided in Switzerland in recent years, Eddie views Jakarta to be getting more urbane albeit the Jakartans still catching up in being urbanites—wanting free mobility but not deigning to use public transportation, for example.

Yet more interestingly was what Eddie observed of the aforementioned street art phenomenon. Whereas in other metropolitans street art originated from peripheral artists that later made it to elite galleries, in Indonesia it’s often coming from students (by definition, the elite class) who might’ve found troubles channeling the genre inside the established art schools. Isn’t that funny, I noted, now that the said arts are darlings of both the gallery-frequenting elites and “the masses”, even if the latter only access it through merchandises and wearable art pieces. In a tongue-in-cheek manner Eddie suggested that the art market needed a fresh genre to work with, hence the lovely timing.

Eddie himself firmly believes that everyone deserves to own a piece of art, and has no problems on making his work more accessible through selected collaborations in limited numbers. I thought that was a grounded thing for an artist of his stature to partake, unlike a certain rising artist, who shall remain nameless, who once indignantly told me at his solo exhibition that his works only belonged to collectors and museums. Personally I think professionally-managed art merchandises give access for upcoming artists to gain revenues to sustain them into their next projects because, after all, creations need resources, often of the capital kind.

Our urban art scene is thriving, more urbanites are directing their eyes and dedicating their wallets to it, I say it’s up for the stakeholders to build better bridges. The classic approach may well be to educate before enabling consumption, but just as Indonesian street art moves in the opposite direction than the norm, perhaps in here we should educate through easy consumption and popular engagements.

I can’t wait to see what the 2nd Artstage Jakarta had in store for us next week. See you all there?

As published: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/08/05/urban-chat-urban-art-scene-and-a-chat-with-eddie-hara.html

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