Monday, October 7, 2013

Art: The Indonesian Calling (translation of Dunia Seni Terbuka Untuk Anak Indonesia)

*This piece is the translated version of an article I wrote for entitled Dunia Seni Terbuka Untuk Anak Indonesia

“There is little difference between an artist and an unemployed man,” said one of new friends, a veteran artist and writer. Even though a decade has flown by since I first stepped foot into performance arts and writing world, this is the first time I heard those bitter words flutter through an artist’s lips.
“Then, why Sir, did you become an artist?” I asked, barely satisfied with his statement.
He turned to me and said, “May I ask you something first?” He deliberately paused before continuing, “Why are you studying theatre?”

Snapshot of the IM Article
The question hovered in my head and quickly became one of most intriguing and monumental question to appear on this art student’s table. After a few minutes worth of pondering, two more questions emerged. First, could art improve the social situation in Indonesia? Second, would the knowledge of art enrich the lives of those who do not revel in the art world, such as businessmen, bankers, athletes, teachers, etc.?

If art is not valued as a profession, why did I put myself at the other side of the world to study it? Somehow, this question rarely appears in my head. Perhaps it is due to my parents’ constant support, as well as Sarah Lawrence curriculum’s tendency to encourage students to delve into a variety of subjects. Most likely, the answer lies in my past and identity. As a theatre, literature, and art lover, I have never ventured far from arts.
My parents, who are, neither artists nor comfortable art dwellers, presented me with opportunities to learn art through after school lessons. Even though I am a sensitive person, rarely do I feel angered or bothered by questions and/or comments that degrade the value of arts. I have grown to believe that art is a pertinent aspect of my identity. Working in the theatre, while being a freelance writer, is second nature to me. With time what were hobbies initially have become part of my identity and passion.
The Steps To Nirvana
Indonesia, in my opinion, can use arts as positive mechanisms. Each time, I visit the art market or meet senior artists, I experience friendliness and warmth; they are very open about their inspiration and not threaten to keep their ideas secret. Often, I was awed by their ability to welcome new people without examining the newcomer’s background. Unlike business dwellers, which tend to find power in knowledge, artists tend to take a step back and observe the individual at the present. For instance, the first question that are uttered to a new person revolve around the latter’s current projects or interests, perspectives on certain art project, instead of the person’s origin, profession or age.
The interactions with artists made me realize that the society tends to value others based on their possessions such as cars, bags, income, where do they live, or age. While artists value others based on their appeal, passion or mission? By focusing on the individual’s attributes, rather than their tangible items, I think Indonesians are more likely to work together and accept one another openly. Moreover, the existence of two, often contrasting, passions is not a taken as a threat, instead it reminds us that two opposite talents and/or interests could only complete each other.
Art should be an imperative part of our professional lives. Art can be divided into a variety of concentrations and functions, which would change one’s lives in different ways.  I often meet students or professionals who are having mental blocks when they need to present their ideas both verbally and on paper. These problems can be solved easily by implementing proper breathing, posture, vocal and doing basic acting, which is regularly done in performing art classes.
Finally, art appreciation is beneficial for those who have other interests. Creative writing class are a godsend when it comes to teaching us how to write freely and explore our imagination. Visual arts often aid us in problem solving. In turn, the performing art world is known for the strict discipline, strict ethics and accountably, which are attributes that are highly desirable in professional settings.
Batik Brainstorm of Myself circa 2009
Choosing to be an artist is often stigmatized, as it is associated with unemployment and financial difficulty. Society regularly labels artists as 'lazy' or 'messy', however the openness and warm culture that artists cultivate might be a viable positive reinforcement to strengthen bonding in the society.
I love the world of theater and writing. In addition to enriching my life, it has changed my identity and passions for the better. Indonesia is a nation of culture and art. Home to a large group of artists, Indonesia is a nation of culture and art. You may see yourself in the mirror and see someone who is not artistically in tuned, just remember that art is an interaction of both nature and nurture. Learning art is an invaluable process that may take you towards different directions. And if all fails, you will find yourself much more appreciative of art, which is highly required to build our country.

*Author owns all photos used above

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