The story of Indonesia, through an artistic engagement with its food industry

A long mural at the entrance of the exhibit, by printmaker Adi Sundoro   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In Bahasa Indonesia, the saying “makan ngga makan asal kumpul” refers to a gathering of family and friends, highlighting the importance of togetherness in Indonesia. The idea is to hang out and share whatever possible. Especially food.

It is this concept that Haryo Hutomo, an Indonesian trans-disciplinary artist with a recent focus on curatorial work, was mulling over for months. When he saw a call for submissions from the Korean Cultural Centre in India, he knew that this concept, through an exploration of Indonesia’s food industry, was a great way to present a broad picture of the country’s social, cultural, and political landscape overseas.

Bringing together individual showcases by six artists, Haryo’s project is now showing at the Korean Cultural Centre in the capital, through July.

Opening with the 28-year-old printmaker Adi Sundoro’s tiled 18 x 4 feet long mural, Come Closer to the Sea the exhibit also has conceptual installations, showcases, and research-backed video art. For instance, Fajad Abadi uses a clear boxing bag stuffed with fritters and other dry street-food, to talk about the fight for territory between local food-sellers. “It’s almost like a mafia within the street food industry sometimes,” says Haryo. In Jakarta-based artist Natasha Gabriella Tontey’s dystopic looped video installation, the celebrated heroes are common household pests, which she thinks could lead us into a sustainable future.

More academically, Fransisca Retno shows life-size projections of slides of human cells that have been affected by some of the food we consume today. A showcase called ‘Cooking Under Pressure’ by Bakudapa: The Food Study Group, turns around to look at Indonesia’s history of agrarian conflict of the 1960s, which altered people’s relationship with what they ate.

The last of these is a futuristic showcase by the all-women collective, XXLab. The group, which works at the intersection of art, science, and technology, creates leather-alternatives from the effluents of Indonesia’s soy production facilities — a major source of pollution in the country. Edited excerpts from a conversation with two of the participating artists.

The XXLab team

The XXLab team   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Irene Agrivina, XXLab

What’s the response to the exhibit been like so far?

A lot of people thought it’d be like food-food. The sort you can eat. This is one of the perceptions that Haryo is trying to challenge actually, that food isn’t just fun, but it’s also a tool of diplomacy. There’s more to food than just cooking and eating.

How did XXLab start?

I’m also a part of House of Natural Fiber (HONF), which is the first new media art collective in South East Asia. XXLab is one of the many smaller collectives within HONF. It comprises some of us (Eka Jayani Ayuningtyas, Atinna Rizqiana, Asa Rahmana and Ratna Djuwita) who attended the workshop by Mz* Baltazar’s Lab, an Austria-based feminist creative space for hackers, back in 2013. It was a bunch of us who were interested in bio-hacking. That’s how we started a project to research and find new materials for the future. We license our work through a creative commons license.

Shoes made of XXLab’s soy leather

Shoes made of XXLab’s soy leather   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

What else does XXLab do? Do you have investors?

No investors. Since we are an open collective, it really depends on the interest levels of the members at any given time. But what we are doing now is finding new ways to develop the concept we have — of making sustainable materials for the future. This is very important to us because we need to replace animal leather, which will reduce pollution and water pollution too. Apart from soy-waste, we are also looking at using rice milk to make undergarments and paper.

Have you patented the idea, or are you pitching it to players in the fashion industry?

We are still trying to find the right model to work with industry. Because we still want to keep the tech open source, yet have economic value for it. A lot of people ask us if we get paid for the new material we make. But it’s not about that, it’s about having a technology and making it open-source so anyone can really adapt and use. The message we try to spread to people is that the budget may be limited, but there’s always space for innovation.

Adi Sundoro

Adi Sundoro   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Adi Sundoro

Adi, you have a whole wall of frames, the medium of which you describe as kitchen lithography. What is that and when did you start practising it?

So printmaking has four main branches: relief print (on raised surface, like on stamps), screen printing (like on mugs and t-shirts), intaglio (on cut surfaces, like etching), and planography (a done on flat surfaces, with a mix of water and grease). This last is the hardest for me, because there’s only one facility in Indonesia to do this, and it’s far away from me. In my last year at Universitas Negeri Jakarta (doing a B.Ed. in Visual Arts), I really wanted to get into planography. So I looked up the internet for alternative techniques to practise planography. That’s when I found kitchen lithography. The process was invented in 2011 by a French artist called Émilie Aizier. I got in touch with her to learn the medium better. A year after that, in 2014, France held the world’s first kitchen lithography contest. I sent some of my works there and won a “public prize” — meaning by the public’s choice.

Take us through the big mural at the entrance

That is one of my biggest works in terms of scale. I’m a professional print-maker. Indonesia is an archipelago with close to seventeen thousand islands with a lot of sea area. I basically wanted to show my viewers, especially the Indonesians, that our country has a lot of potential and power in its maritime resources.

You say that you’ve made an India-special series for this showcase?

It so happens that when Haryo called me, asking me to participate in this exhibit, I was watching videos on this Youtube channel called Grandpa Kitchen. It’s an old Indian man with close to 5 million followers! He makes so much food and feeds children. I’d been watching his videos for a while — thanks to Youtube algorithms, and I thought that I ought to make a tribute to India and him. I adopted a new technique for this: made prints of screenshots, drew those out, re-processed them digitally, and then finally made screenprints of that. But when the ink was still wet, I accented them with chilli powder!

At Korean Cultural Centre, A - 25, Lajpat Nagar IV; on until July 30th; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 2:28:29 PM |

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