On Appropriation

A Curatorial Introduction
On Appropriation
The Spectrum of Appropriation Practices in Indonesian Contemporary Art

Rifky Effendy

Western Myth and the Spectres of History

The term ‘appropriation’ frequently comes up in talks on contemporary art and culture. It is true especially for discussions on the cultural development of postmodern art. The term is ever side by side with postmodernists’ jargons that include allegory, parody, eclectic, or bricolage. Appropriation always implies likeness or similarity between images.

 

 

Fine art with the tendency of appropriation has in fact been commonly practiced in the West since early 20th century. In the Wikipedia website as well as historian Robert S. Nelson’s, it is said that appropriating something involves the attempt to ‘take over’. In the Western art, the term appropriation often refers to the adoption of borrowed elements in a work of art. What to borrow include images or pictures, formations or styles known to art history or popular culture as well as materials and techniques from non-art sphere. Since the 1980s the term has also referred to something more specific, namely quoting from the work of another artist to make a new work. The new work may either change or not change the image of the former work. Examples for this are the works by North American artists of the 1970s such as Sherry Levine, Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman .1 ) The same site describes how aspects of appropriation occur predominantly in the history of the twentieth century modern art, if we consider the foundation of art making in terms of borrowing imageries or concepts from the surrounding world and reinterpreting them into works of art. Some scholars even regard Leonardo Da Vinci an artist of appropriation as he adopted complicated methods, made borrowings from various sources that include biology, mathematics, machinery engineering and the arts, which he synthesized in his inventions and creation of works of art.

It follows that in this postmodern era such issues as authenticity, originality, highness, independence, geniality, and nobility no longer provide the necessary parameters or utmost values of art. Art has become a practice connected with symbolic power and capital, and is subject to the system that supports it. At this point the writing of Walter Benjamin (1892 – 1940) has become highly pertinent and influential regarding art practices and studies in contemporary culture. In his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, 1936, he observes that the ability of image reproduction mechanical technology impacts greatly not only on traditional methods in creating works of art and the essential values of the traditional character of art (the auratic element); moreover, it has significantly shifted our viewpoint of what we perceive.

The background of Benjamin’s thinking includes various significant events in painting taking place then in Europe, aside from the phenomena of photography and film as important agents in constructing the modern perspective. The history of Western art notes the appalling acts of Marcel Decamp of exhibiting a lavatory (1917), bike wheels, and the portrait of Mona Lisa with mustache (1919). Even earlier, Pablo Picasso (1912) and Georges Braque (1913) had invented cubistic painting that incorporates ruptures or fragments of daily objects set on the surface of their works. Painting methods shifted along with the way modern people see things. High values as known in the history of art seem to merge with values found in the daily life. Here appropriation art emerges as a form of representation politics closely and constructively connected with the introduction of the printing machine in Europe and, next, photography in the mid-19th century. Massive distribution associated with them creates what the French writer Andre Malraux calls “the museum without walls”.
The coming of photography very significantly affects the development of image technology and indicates the modern era. Photography – according to Susan Sontag in her On Photography (1977) – provides modern people’s medium and agent of knowledge that has an important role in giving a society the liberal access to the external world surrounding them. Fragments of information (as well as memories of a past) contained in every individual photograph have changed many things in modern people’s life. They become reflective references for modern people to decide on the attitude to take and the goal of life to attain.

Photography, to be coupled later with the effects of capitalism on printing, liberal regulations in publication and transmission as well as developments in electronic and cyber information, has made today’s world borderless and created new interesting issues in cultural life. Currently, the rapid information inflow is obviously irritating the established value system known to the cultural life of a given society. It follows that changing values in a life system also affect people’s position in viewing the world. In this regard Sontag maintains that “to photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge – and, therefore, like power.” 2 )

In turn, the process of giving meaning to photography implies the existence of an individual in a cultural setting and amid the cultural progress of his/her social surroundings. Appropriation provides a political manifestation in the face of some cultural power and domination. As Robert S. Nelson says, semiologically the practice of appropriation is not the opposite or negation, but, rather, distortion of ‘the prior semiotic assemblage’. It is mutable; the signs change. Appropriation resembles a joke, contextual and historical, never stable, varying along new settings and histories, becoming new signs. 3)

In other words, appropriation is a strategy to tame myths. According to Barthes (Myth Today: 1957), myth is a system of communication, a speech. It is constructed out of meta-language, out of robbed or stolen language, with the function of naturalizing a certain invented value, distorting a signification process. Everything has its potency to be a myth. The best way to fight a myth is creating artificial myth. 4 )

To Barthes, myth is doesn’t merely comprise stories of the past, tales, and the like, but also its current popular manifestation including magazine covers, ads, promotion billboards, and films. Myth is like a masked ghost ever tailing the history of modern people. Appropriation provides a sort of protection to paralyze, neutralize, and then implant different meanings to it. It doesn’t cast away myth thoroughly.

From Imitation to Appropriation
“They are imitative, and though genius in this art may not have yet appeared among them, there is reason to believe that, with due encouragement, they would not be found less ingenious than other nations in a similar stage of civilization.” 5 )

In the Indonesian scope, the emergence of modern art practices becomes problematic and attractive at once. In the first place, such painting practice was introduced through colonization process taking place particularly in the nineteenth century when an indigenous person like Raden Saleh Sjarif Bustaman (1807 – 1880) learned painting from Dutch instructors then got exposed to European life later. It was the time that saw the emergence of works in Indonesia imitative of European classical and romantic ones that later provoked ‘resistance’, particularly in the case of the work “Penangkapan Diponegoro” (1857).
The work was made after Raden Saleh had seen the work by Nikolaas Pieneman (1809-1860) that records the conquest of the leader of the Java War, Pangeran Diponegoro in 1830 by a force of the Dutch Indie Colonial Goverment. Raden Saleh’s painting is a form of ‘revision’ of the earlier work. Observers and historians then assume that the Javanese painter was launching political resistance. Raden Saleh was in Europe when he heard about the political realities in the Netherlands-India then. 6 )

Raden Saleh’s particular work provides an early and obvious model of appropriation art with respect to Western works. That an imitation then assumes a political dimension reveals individuals’ efforts (from among a colonized people) to re-articulate given values. The phenomenon also reflects the ambivalent nature of colonial discourse. In the thinking of a renowned expert of post-colonial studies, Homi K. Bhabha, appropriation represents mimicry as an effective and elusive strategy in facing colonial knowledge and power. Mimicry provides a representation of a variation that contains a process of disavowal underway. Mimicry is then a double articulation, a complicated strategy to handle change, regulation and discipline, by appropriating the other as a form of visual power. 7 )

The second point concerns the way art interacts with colonial discourse to lead to the emergence of nationalism as an ideology. This springs from the fact of the change in the colonial politics in the 20th century Dutch-India of allowing certain indigenous elites to enjoy Dutch/Western education. It would sometimes involve journeys to the West. In the process of formal learning in education institutes, they read books provided in the libraries.

Knowledge helps Indonesians to develop their wide perspectives as illustrated in the novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s hero by the name of Minke, an ambivalent fictional character, in the famous work entitled Bumi Manusia (This Earth of Mankind in Max Lane’s English version). “One of the products of science at which I never stopped marveling was printing, especially zincography. Imagine, people can reproduce tens of thousands of copies of any photograph in just one day: pictures of landscapes, important people, new machines, American skyscrapers. Now I could see for myself everything from all over the world upon these printed sheets of paper.” 8)

To some part of the Indonesian natives the interpretation and articulation of colonial knowledge invoked the idea of a nation free and independent of colonist power. Supporting this were the social-economic conditions and Dutch policies in the colony that time. In addition, the enhanced ‘printing capitalism’ created ‘museums without walls’ where educated young Indonesians learned Western images thoroughly and were amazed by Western modern art. Such printed information was among the major factors in the transfer of Western esthetics into the intellectual life of the Western-educated natives.

Issues around a national identity in the arts, fine art in particular, evolved from the 1930s through early 1970s. Marking the beginning was the emergence of PERSAGI painters’ organization that housed activist artists of a nationalist movement. With S. Soedjojono as the spokesperson, the PERSAGI artists lay out a manifest on the import of a national identity in painting. Works by PERSAGI generation often feature the realities of the struggle for national independence. That was done by appropriating modern European painting such as expressionism, Vincent Van Gogh’s, Goya’s or Monet’s. 9)

And, indeed, Soedjojono and his friends were able to insert distinct, local values in their works to attain what was phrased as “jiwa khetok” (“visible soul”) that implies nationalist spirit. In this sense, their claim on modern painting is also a form of their politics of identity while politically appropriating the Western modern art. Therefore, in the 1950s, when a number of young people who learned painting from a Dutch instructor, Reis Mulder from Bandung, ran an exhibition of their academic works of abstraction, cubism, etc., PERSAGI exponents and their supporters reacted strongly. Trisno Sumardjo, a famous critic of that time, was concerned that an art academy that proceeded along the methods taught by a Dutch person in Indonesia might brush away the dimension of national identity. Based on his canon, Trisno Sumardjo regarded the art school in Bandung served as the laboratory of the West. 10)

Sudjoko strongly objected the charge by saying that in Bandung were already developed a method of painting education that gave more emphasis on experimentation, analysis, and discussion, through the esthetics borrowed from Western modern painting. The debate triggered discourses on art education institutes in Indonesia adding to the continuation of the controversy about the identity of Indonesian painting.

The third issue in point is appropriation art in a time when popular culture made its entrance into our life through ads that led to massive delusion under a military regime. A group of young artists organized an exhibition entitled Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru Indonesia/New Art Movement (GSRB) in 1975. The exhibition presented works that were considered peculiar at that time. Jim Supangkat, for example, presented a replica of Ken Dedes torso set upon a wooden box with the painting of a woman’s lower body wearing jeans with the zipper partly open. The others, like F.X. Harsono, Nyoman Nuarta and Bonyong Muni Ardhi also presented objects as well as paintings that were “familiar”, easily recognizable in the daily life.

Critic and curator Hendro Wiyanto observes, “The development of our modern art generally begins with and is marked by newly introduced painting by painters. However, since the 1970s this role played by painting has been challenged. Artists have abandoned the specific medium or ‘mystical medium’ of painting. Breaking free from the characteristics of the medium, artists most intensely introduce mixed forms that no longer draw purely on fine art traditions”. 11)

In terms of idea and artistic work, GSRB, artists borrowed much from non-art as well as elements and objects from the surroundings. Apparently, their works resemble those of pop-art in the USA of the 50s through 60s. They borrow popular non-art imageries and symbols and use “low” mediums and materials like screen-print, resin, and found objects. From the viewpoint of people’s cultural scope, the introduction of esthetics to the works by GSRB exponents began reflecting the strong influence of politics as a subject-matter in art. The GSRB’s manifest tries to dethrone the dichotomy or border between low and high esthetics, the profane and the sacred, and art and non-art.

The fourth issue refers to the stage where the realm of information and reproduction technology is increasingly sophisticated and it creates a global perspective not bound by geographical, geopolitical, and cultural borders. Some observers in the social and cultural fields consider this phase highly crucial in that it involves the astonishing leap and acceleration of information in the life of today’s people that is still marked by disparities. Various imageries are flooding private spaces via the television, the internet as well as the cellular phone. Sociologist Arjun Appadurai calls this borderless perspective ‘technoscape’ and ‘mediascape’ as the powerful and rapid current of information circulation and media technology is eventually capable of producing alternative realities and potential to displace/cover up the previous realities. 12)

Art has entered an era where the uncertainty about origins prevails, as if entering a Platonic alley. Images in their current level of sophistication have the capacity to interact freely with extra meanings. Cultural signs are getting mixed up, hybrids, mutating into discrete signs without any fixed structure and are beyond clear interpretations. Since the middle of the 90s, in this country there have been a lot of art exhibitions to present various works that adopt appropriation approach. Take for example the exhibitions of Agus Suwage’s and Tisna Sanjaya’s works and those by Yasumasa Morimura (a Japanese artist), Asmudjo J. Irianto (in the exhibition Kleptosign) and through the works by the current generation of artists. On various levels, the works of appropriation can deceive the viewers, particularly among Indonesians that still lack historical references on art.

The Spectrum of Appropriation Today: From Iconic through Kitsch
Contemporary art in Asia has been thriving in this last decade, especially as reflected in the visual explorations by young artists from the 1990s up to now. Particularly in Indonesia, the celebrations of the entrance to a visual culture have been lively among the young. They solemnly infiltrate a world of virtual images as well as the daily life. Those images range from the iconic through the common, the canonic through the latent, the elevated through the popular as well as the low ones or kitsch. The exhibition “In Appropriation” offers the opportunity to further examine the art practices of today, especially as carried out by those who have from the beginning been interested in the issue of “the other’s” world of images as the starting point of their ideas and inspirations to create works as well as develop their artistic creativity.

Agus Suwage in mid-1995 took on works of appropriative nature by borrowing the artistic mode of the German Anselm Kiefer and the British Francis Bacon among others. Later, however, he tried to develop his own fashion as he began featuring his own body and face in various poses and expressions in realistic rendering as his means to convey socio-cultural issues in cynical, ironical and parody atmospheres. Yet, overall, Suwage’s artistic explorations have as the basis photographic images that he develops with his sensitiveness and manual skills in drawing, adding support from digital manipulation, to produce images. The end products include paintings, drawings as well as objects in realist rendering with multilayered meanings.
Suwage’s works illustrate how the constructed image of Western avant-garde art has been inspirational, through “museums without walls”, to the culture of the world’s modern art. His body has entered the image world as if disturbing its established value. Sometimes he will let the original image retain the opportunity to feature just as it is, but its ‘identity’ has already been appropriated by “the other”: Suwage himself, in this case. Suwage’s mode of appropriation is by borrowing iconic imageries as his reference, to serve as metaphors for values actively working between love and hate, amazement and derision at once, in parodying, and so on.
The young artist Ariadithya Pramuhendra adopts his own photograph and transplants it into the iconic portraits of the world’s prominent figures by means of computer technological manipulations to produce blurred images impressive of motion and lacking focus. He then transfers the result onto the canvas in charcoal. His sensitivity and manual skills are so predominant that the practice results in black-and-white photographic images of the classical nuances yet enigmatic at the same time. The images regain their auratic nature. It is as if Pramuhendra was putting to test again traditional drawing; appropriating technological images, the contemporariness of his works shows up in the artistic blurring while featuring the issue of identity in dealing with the subject-matter of mass imaging.

Aminudin T.H. Siregar’s point of departure is almost the same with Pramuhendra’s. He presents watercolors that begin with photographic images, which he creates by reconstructing works by established artists like the photographs of performance art scenes by A Wei Wei (a contemporary artist from China) and Gilbert & George (from England, involving living sculptures England). The nature of his works is in fact disturbing the established icons in art history and shifting the point to the issue of discourse and the chaotic perceptions of art history in this country currently.

Yogie Achmad Ginanjar reconstructs by developing hybrids; he mixes works by Western maestros known in art history with the reality of today’s life. He distorts the portraits of prominent figures in the classical paintings of the Renaissance, portraits from the eighteenth century, and sometimes combines them with the images popular today such as found in works by Yue Mingjun and others. He also reconstructs part of the images in the painting of the modern maestro Piet Mondriaan to provide the background for the featured local (Indonesian) figures. As does Aminudin, Yogie challenges the Western art history very ambiguously, between refutation and acceptance.

Gede Mahendra Yasa is more interested in exploring the details of the visual textures of Western iconic works, appropriating by borrowing artistic styles and reinterpreting the works of contemporary art maestros like Gerhard Richter and Cy Twombly by transferring them to more illusive and enlarged images. Some of his works even reconstruct certain portions of the appearances of textures, colors, and brush strokes. He presents the quotation from the images contained in the work to rearticulate the potency for fragmentation in the photographic perspective, which is connected with the issue of art work creation. So on some levels the reference work is already annihilated. It takes some profound knowledge of art history to further comprehend Mahendra’s works. Anyway, his oeuvre reveals his keen observation; he doesn’t merely watch and imitate his references but also reinterprets them and assign further signification to them so as to produce fully independent works of his own.

Galam Zulkifli presents a series of paintings that has a parodying spirit, “Model Rambut dari Masa ke Masa” (“Hair Styles Time to Time”), that features the portraits of world’s icons like Soekarno and Marilyn Monroe. It is only that their hair styles are already changed. Subversively he changes the main parts of the identities of the images that are already parts of people’s collective memory or of each of the persons’ charisma and stereotypes, namely their hair or certain marks on their heads. Changing their hair styles to those of different times can trick viewers. Galam creates the differences through reversed images the way they appear in negatives, also with the application of the digital logic.

Dipo Andy reintroduces famous figures like the pop star Madonna and Mother Theresa. Such figures appear with additional graphics that are neatly and dynamically arranged to result in more attractive imageries. Graphic elements are appropriated by manipulating them using computer software. It is as if Dipo re-appropriated technological images by transferring them to paintings. Viewing through the computer medium forces us to repeat the question about the meaning of genius and the like. But Dipo’s works could perhaps lead us to thinking that anyway technology was invented by human beings for the life of the next human beings.

Dadan Setiawan appropriates the main element of imaging technology into his paintings. He deliberately reconstructs pixel, as a construct in digital images, from the cellular telephone camera along with its distortion and magnifying effect to produce portrait images of human beings as well as objects or nature. Pixel as the basis of imaging in this information era has attracted great world’s painters like Chuck Close and down to today’s young artists. The potency to manipulate images is a commonly known visual phenomenon nowadays. Dadan’s works introduce esthetic and artistic values to the series of pixel unities, even penetrating farther into the spiritual realm of the virtual. The forms of his figures and still-life as depicted on his canvas convey the result of his observation of mediascape rather than providing the means to reinforce his subjects.

Radi Arwinda and Wiyoga Muhardanto start with appropriating images from the popular, industrial and non-art to articulate contemporary culture. Radi Arwinda’s paintings offer hybrid imageries, comical images, children’s toy robots as well as wayang characters. However, he always inserts the issue of the pressures received by the local by the global. In this case, it concerns cultures in Indonesia. In each of the images of robots, revisions are made by Radi by introducing Indonesian decorative motifs, and even the photographic images of himself, to certain parts of the individual robot as subjects in his paintings. By so doing, he effectively represents the problems of national identity in a borderless world and the consumptive way of life. The strategy he pursues, leveling or synchronizing various cultural elements in a single body (bricolage), results from the contemplation on globalization by a young generation.

Wiyoga Muhardanto presents a line of strange objects of human bones but they altogether feature as functional forms familiar in daily life: bags, hangers, shoes, and headphones. He makes bricolages/assemblages out of branded daily objects and the replicas of the human skull in common use in the biology class at school. With his good techniques in working at forms, and familiarity with his materials, he manages to offer attractive experiences to viewers. Since his early works, Wiyoga has featured duality in a single form, combining contradictory values found around us. For example, in some of his previous exhibitions he presented rifles, pistols, knives wrapped in Louis Vutton, or, his famous replica of “Barcelona Chair” in full made from cement. The motif of difference (in terms of both materials and forms) to disturb viewers’ perceptions and memories provides for him the artistic strategy to discuss the issue of consumerism.

Bambang “Toko” Witjaksono presents the appropriation of ‘low art’ visual materials of the kitsch nature: stickers commonly sold by street sides and usually seen decorating trucks, public transportation and motorbikes, as well as various other embellishments found in social environments regarded marginal or “uncivil”. His works incorporate written texts commonly taken as over sentimental, garish, but in fact ever intriguing in that they represent the expressions of the weak crushed beneath the ongoing progress. Bambang Toko re-presents such marginal imageries, in parody, into ‘high art’ (painting) as well as industrial items. Furthermore, he renders those written texts having equal significance with the imageries and materials in the works in question. This tendency to equalize the literal signification of written words and pictures marks people’s ever diminishing philosophical perception of symbols and signs. Bambang Toko offers the interpreting viewers a sort of overview of the structures of his imageries.

Astari Rasyid and Hamad Khalaf appropriate mythological images or symbols known to a cultural setting to reveal actual socio-political issues. Astari Rasyid offers the theme around women’s identity through the symbolic image of herself in the classical Javanese attire metamorphosing to a present-day figure. She challenges the evolving and hegemonic morality rooted in the supposedly sumptuous (Javanese) culture as well as the manipulative industrial world. His works borrow the artistic aspects of the Javanese traditional blouse (kebaya), but her kebaya is metal embellished with elements coming from the popular world. The borrowing of the Javanese esthetic idiom to be merged with elements of pop image is her artistic strategy in offering discourse on the aspect of her womanliness and consumerism.

Hamad Khalaf appropriates images from the ancient Greek mythology to question war as a practice throughout human civilization. He borrows depictions in ancient paintings commonly found on the ceramic fragments kept in archaeological museums. He transfers such images onto the surfaces of found objects that include, among others, gas masks, soldiers’ boots, rubber gloves, and soldier helmets left by the Iraqi force in a desert region of Kuwait by the end of the Gulf War in the early 1990s. Hamad collected such objects and made the replicas of some of them. Behind the objects camouflaged by that series of such ‘archaeological’ artifacts, are metaphors of the global political situation now drenching the world. Hamad’s appropriation is total, in that it involves from the adoption of (Greek) mythological imageries, the narratives behind symbolic prominent figures, and through his found objects. He unearths the values of old cultures to contemplate behind metaphorical layers artistically rich.

Celebrating Images
Contemporary art practices show that technoscape or mediascape has constructed a new vision among artists in perceiving their world not only externally but internally as well, in trying to explore, unearth, and invent alternative values. Technoscape or mediascape has provided contemporary artists with the impetus to explore the world of images even though that should also mean the casting aside of the so-called identity in the more conservative sense. Nevertheless, that doesn’t necessarily nullify impulses toward personality; instead, the search for identity is also going in the globalization era and such pursuit involves some local cultural strategy (the jargon of ‘Glocal” has become quite familiar).

The strategy of appropriation provides a main phenomenon in contemporary art practices not only in the 60s North America but also, later on, in developing Asia including Indonesia. In the mainland of China, the artistic strategy of appropriation has so extensively and radically developed that it amazes critics, observers and art lovers in western countries. In Indonesia and perhaps some other developing countries, the phenomenon of appropriation art requires that artists, observers and critics improve their awareness of the history of Western modern art as well as their perceptions of local socio-cultural life. Art practices in the framework of appropriation strategy as sampled in this exhibition are expected to orient us to an extensive horizon densely populated by jumbled global-local values in an atmosphere of visible parody, irony and surprises. It follows that the temptation to divert one’s attention from the inner signification is indeed big. ***

Jakarta, June 26, 2007

Endnotes:

1. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appropriation_(art)
2.Susan Sontag, On Photography. Penguin Book. 1977. Pp. 3-24.
3.Nelson, Robert S., Critical Terms for Art History. The University of Chicago Press, USA. 2003. Pp. 163-164.
4. Barthes, Roland. “Myth Today”. A Roland Barthes Reader. Edited by Susan Sontag. Vintage. 1993. London. P.123.
5. Warner Kraus, “Raden Saleh di Jerman”, Jurnal Kalam No: 21. 2004. P. 7.
6. Warner Kraus, ibid. This painting by N. Pieneman is with the KIT Museum, Amsterdam. Raden Saleh’s work is at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta. For articles on this work, see http://bataviase.wordpress.com/2007/04/23/penangkapan-diponegoro/
7. See Homi K. Bhabha, “Mimicry of Man”, Location of Culture. Routledge, London. 1994. Pp. 85-86.
8. The novel Bumi Manusia by Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1925 – 2006), was reprinted in 2005 by Lentera Dipantara, Jakarta. (Translator’s note: the English version of the quotation is from Max Lane’s translation of the novel, This Earth of Mankind. Penguin Books (U.S.A.) 1996). See also Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. Anderson sees Indonesian nationalism as an appropriation of the European modern world in a different and unique fashion. Consequently, he concludes that modernity (nationalism) in Indonesia is of a distinct and “original” character.
9. Painter Nashar once maintained, “In our painting today, we learn much from the West, that’s why we are heavily influenced by them… In my opinion, the works we have produced cannot be as yet categorized into schools/”isms” as they are not clearly distinguishable here, different from the situation in Europe. What is the reason? Our painters learn about Western painting from books, reproductions, and such other sources. But, once they paint, they don’t start with the premise of one of those schools known in the West but, instead, they have processed all or some of those “isms” in their souls”.
10. Nashar, “Pameran Empat Ekspresionis Indonesia” in Seni Rupa Modern Indonesia ; Esai-esai Pilihan, edited by Aminudin TH Siregar and Enin Supriyanto. Nalar. Jakarta. 2006. Pp. 293-295.
11. See Trisno Soemardjo’s and Sudjoko’s criticisms. Ibid. Pp. 113-121.
12. Hendro Wiyanto, in his curatorial remark for the exhibition “Surface” at Emmitan Gallery, Surabaya. 2006.
13 Appadurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and Difference In the Global Cultural Economy” in The Cultural Studies Reader. Edited by Simon During. Routledge. London. 1993. Pp. 222-223.

On Appropriation’s exhibition will be held at Galeri Semarang : http://www.galerisemarang.com/

From 28 of July to 6 August 2007

Review :

KOMPAS. Minggu, 12 Agustus 2007

Apropriasi: Perayaan Kaum “Pencuri”

Djuli Djatiprambudi

Perupa yang hidup di dunia seni rupa kontemporer memang enak. Praktik “curi-mencuri” ikon visual atau gagasan dari karya seniman lain dianggap sebagai suatu praktik yang lazim. Bahkan, praktik semacam itu diberi label mentereng, yaitu apropriasi (appropriation). Robert Atkins dalam Art Speak menjelaskan,”To appropriate is to borrow. Appropriation is the practice of creating a new work by taking a pre-existing image from another context—art history, advertising, the media—and combining that appropriated image with new ones. Or, a well-known art work by someone else may be represented as the appropriator’s own.”

Jadi, jelaslah. Apropriasi adalah praktik menciptakan karya baru dengan cara mengambil ikon-ikon seni yang sudah ada sebelumnya dari berbagai konteks (sejarah, iklan, media, atau mengombinasikannya). Praktik ini dilakukan sesuka hati oleh perupa, karena proses ini tanpa melalui mekanisme yang rumit. Perupa tinggal mengambil, meminjam, atau “mencuri” apa saja ikon-ikon yang disukai, kemudian dipermainkan, diolah, dimanipulasi, dan bahkan dijungkirbalikkan menjadi suatu karya yang lain.

Penjungkirbalikan itu bahkan sampai pada level ontologis karya awalnya. Karena itu, bisa dibayangkan, maknanya menjadi jauh berbeda. Karya agung Leonardo da Vinci, “Monalisa”, misalnya, dalam sejarah seni rupa telah banyak dijadikan bulan-bulanan praktik apropriasi. Contoh yang fenomenal, Salvador Dali mengganti wajah Monalisa dengan potret dirinya dengan kumis mendongak ke atas dan mata melotot. Tentu, praktik semacam ini menggugurkan citra keadiluhungan lukisan Monalisa, yang telah menjadi mitos kuat dalam sejarah seni rupa pada zaman Renaisans di Eropa. Praktik apropriasi menurut Atkins menggejala kuat pada POP Art dan Andy Warhol merupakan dedengkotnya. Warhol sering meminjam ikon-ikon budaya massa yang amat populer, misalnya bintang film paling top di tahun 1960-an, Marilyn Monroe, potret dirinya disablon beberapa kali menjadi sebuah karya baru.

Ternyata, praktik apropriasi juga menggejala di Indonesia. Setidaknya dalam kurun sepuluh tahun terakhir ini, Asmujo Jono Irianto, misalnya, pernah dijuluki “Si Raja Maling”. Julukan itu menjadi semakin kuat ketika ia menggelar pameran Kleptosigns, tahun 2000. Pameran ini memperlihatkan jurus “maling”, karena ia dengan sewenang-wenang menjungkirbalikkan berbagai tanda atau kode seni rupa dunia yang sudah sangat lazim dikenal. Dengan teknik manipulasi digital, misalnya, Asmujo dengan gampang membuat Monalisa bunting, dengan wajahnya yang telah berubah rupa menjadi wajah Asmujo. Gejala apropriasi semakin semarak ketika salah satu dedengkotnya asal Jepang, Yosumasa Morimura, menggelar pameran di Galeri Soemardja Bandung, tahun 2001.

Gejala semacam itu beberapa waktu lalu mencuat (lagi) di Galeri Semarang. Pameran yang dikuratori Rifky Effendy ini terang-terangan ingin melihat gejala apropriasi sebagai semacam politik representasi para perupa kontemporer. Melalui tajuk “On Appropriation”, pameran yang digelar pada 28 Juli hingga 6 Agustus itu tampak ingin menegaskan kembali bahwa praktik apropriasi semakin menarik untuk diamati.

Praktik apropriasi walaupun kelihatan sepele, tetapi praktik ini menghendaki basis intelektual yang memadai. Perupa yang memasuki wilayah ini tak hanya cukup bermodal kecakapan teknik, tetapi ia harus memiliki wawasan yang cukup tentang sejarah seni rupa (dunia). Dari sinilah perupa mengenal berbagai tanda, kode atau ikon dalam sejarah seni rupa dengan berbagai konteks historisnya. Tanpa pengetahuan semacam ini, praktik apropriasi hanya akan meninggalkan kesan vulgar, sekadar main-main, dan tidak cerdas. Manipulasi visual yang dihasilkan tak akan memiliki efek parodi atau alegori yang menggelitik sensibilitas. Sebab, praktik apropriasi ujung- ujungnya juga akan menawarkan parodi atau alegori. Perupa yang melakukan alegori terhadap ikon seni rupa tertentu tidak menemukan gambaran, tetapi ia mengambil alih ikon yang dipermainkan itu. Kata Craig Owen, “the allegorist does not invent images but confiscates them”.

Untunglah, pameran ini diikuti oleh perupa-perupa yang memiliki basis intelektual yang baik. Ini kelihatan benar pada karya-karyanya. Apropriasi tak hanya dikembangkan secara sempit. Artinya, karya mereka tak hanya berhenti pada perkara “curi-mencuri” ikon, tetapi karya mereka memperlihatkan lapis-lapis praktik apropriasi yang beragam. Ambillah karya Ariadithya Pramuhendra (L. 1984) yang memperkarakan citra kabur (blur), yang terkesan bergerak dan tak fokus dalam teknik foto. Ikon-ikon yang digambarkan seperti Chairil Anwar, Vincent van Gogh, dan Semsar, muncul samar-samar, dan seperti bergerak.

Sebaliknya, Gede Mahendra Yasa (L. 1967) malah tertarik pada detail. Karyanya bergerak dari metode ekstrem close-up, yaitu mengambil bagian tertentu dari ikon karya perupa tertentu, yang sengaja diperbesar sampai mencapai batas citra visual yang jauh berbeda. Di sini ia melakukan dengan pendekatan fotografis. Torehan cat yang terkesan tebal dan menggumpal, dilukis dengan cara pandang fotografis. Rinci bentuk, bayangan, dan sifat obyeknya benar-benar tampak mencuat kuat, menggelitik sensibilitas.

Dadan Setiawan (L. 1979) berbeda lagi. Ia asyik mengapropriasi elemen utama teknologi digital ke dalam karya-karyanya. Dalam teknologi digital dikenal istilah piksel. Bagian ini merupakan bagian yang paling rinci dari teknologi pencitraan digital. Konfigurasi piksel inilah yang menjadi fokus utama karya-karyanya. Dalam karya “Fashion Series no. 4”, misalnya, terlihat ada bentuk yang terbangun dari jajaran warna yang saling tumpang-tindih. Konfigurasi warna-warna itu mengingatkan pada konfigurasi piksel dalam teknologi digital.

Karya lain yang menarik tampak pada karya Wiyoga Muhardanto (L. 1984). Karya “The Latest” menurut saya sangat mengesankan. Karya ini berupa lima buah bentuk (patung) yang diletakkan di sebuah bok besar. Bentuk-bentuk itu sekilas memperlihatkan bagian-bagian tulang manusia. Akan tetapi, setelah dilihat secara mendetail, ternyata bentuk-bentuk tulang itu diapropriasi lebih jauh dan menghasilkan citra bentuk baru.

Karya Aminudin T H Siregar, Yogie Achmad Ginanjar, Dipo Andy, Bambang “Toko” Witjaksono, Hamad Khalaf, dan Radi Arwinda, yang tampil di pameran itu, terhitung karya-karya yang menarik. Namun, sayang, karya Agus Suwage, Astari, dan Galam Zulkifli justru kurang tampil meyakinkan. Karyanya terlampau biasa, kurang ada eksplorasi yang maksimal.

Praktik apropriasi biasanya menyisakan perkara seputar originalitas dan otentisitas. Dua soal ini telah lama menjadi perkara dominan di seni rupa modern. Akan tetapi, dengan praktik apropriasi semacam itu, barangkali perlu ada difinisi ulang soal originalitas dan otentisitas. Atau mungkin, barangkali praktik apropriasi di pihak lain sedang mendekonstruksi soal itu secara mendasar dalam konteks wacana seni rupa kontemporer.

Djuli Djatiprambudi Kurator Seni Rupa

Sumber Asli: http://www.kompas.com/kompas-cetak/0708/12/seni/3759499.htm

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Selasa, 31 Juli 2007 BUDAYA
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Tafsir Ulang Apropriasi

  • Oleh Rukardi

SEMBILAN panel kanvas berlukiskan wajah tokoh-tokoh legendaris dunia terpacak di salah satu dinding Galeri Semarang. Ada Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Tze Tung, Adolf Hitler, Soekarno, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Lenin, Che Guevara, dan Saddam Husain.

Bukan perkara sederhana menengarai wajah tokoh-tokoh itu, sebab pelukis Galam Zulkifli menampilkan mereka dengan gaya rambut yang tak biasa.

Gandhi yang berkepala bersih justru dicitrakan dengan rambut kribo, Mao ber-shaggy, Hitler dengan rambut rasta, dan Soekarno berjambul mohawk. Sementara Marilyn Monroe ditampilkan berkepala botak, Lenin berponi ala personel The Beatles, dan Saddam dengan rambut gaya Superman.

Dengan kenakalannya, Galam membuat reproduksi foto wajah yang dipajang dalam pameran bertajuk “On Appropriation” itu menjadi berasa segar. Ada polarisasi ideologi yang dipapar. Ada pewacanaan baru yang dilempar.

Dalam konteks seni rupa kontemporer, karya semacam “Seri Pencitraan: Rambut” itu dikategorikan sebagai apropriasi. Ia adalah kecenderungan menggunakan karya lain sebagai pijakan.

Mengutip kurator Rifky Efendy, apropriasi telah jamak dipraktikkan pada awal abad ke-20. Nama-nama seperti Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, dan Georges Braque dikatakan sebagai pionernya. Praktik itu kian dikuatkan oleh Sherry Levine, Barbara Kruger, dan Cindy Sherman di Amerika Utara.

Namun jauh sebelumnya, Raden Saleh Syarif Bustaman (1807-1880) justru sudah memunculkan model seni apropriasi. Dia merevisi lukisan “Gevangenneming van Diponegoro” (1830) karya N Pieneman menjadi Penangkapan Diponegoro pada 1857.

Semacam Jendela

Pameran “On Appropriation” sendiri menjadi semacam jendela untuk melihat perkembangan karya dengan kecenderungan apropriasi di Indonesia. Selain Galam, pameran menyajikan karya-karya Agus Suwage, Aminudin TH Siregar, Ariadithya Pramuhendra, Astari, Bambang “Toko” Witjaksono, Dadan Setiawan, Dipo Andy, Gede Mahendra Yasa, Hamad Khalaf, Radi Arwinda, Wiyoga Muhardanto, serta Yogie Ahmad Ginanjar.

Agus Suwage membuat serial potret berjudul “I Want to Live Another Thousand Years” yang menampilkan potret Benyamin S, Sitting Bull, John Bonham, dan Kurt Cobain. Mereka seluruhnya tengah mengisap sigaret.

Dengan gaya nyaris serupa, Ariadithya Pramuhendra menggunakan wajahnya sebagai model ikonisasi potret Chairil Anwar (“Mengenang Chairil”), Van Gogh (“Mendengarkan Van Gogh”), dan Semsar Siahaan (“Mengenang Semsar”). Pun Dipo Andy dengan “Image # 5 (Madonna)”, “Image # 6 (Theresa)”, dan “Image # 7 (Beckham)”.

Sementara Aminudin TH Siregar memamerkan foto-foto prewedding-nya. Salah satu foto, yakni “Singing Sculpture” hasil apropriasi seni performans Gilbert dan George.

Bambang “Toko” Witjaksono mengeksplorasi stiker-stiker naif yang banyak dijual di pinggir jalan. Kenaifan teks yang melengkapi kebersahajaan komposisi bidang dan warna, justru menjadi faktor penguat karyanya.

Simak misalnya, “Besar Pasak daripada Tiang”, “Cantik Wajahnya Belum Tentu Jenis Kelaminnya”, dan “Yang Cakep Duduk di Muka (Dekat Mas Sopir)”.

Selain itu masih ada karya Astari yang memunculkan sosok dirinya sebagai objek utama, Hamad Khalaf, perupa Kuwait, yang melukisi permukaan benda-benda peninggalan Perang Teluk, Radi Arwinda yang mengawinkan wayang dengan karakter monster dalam komik Jepang.

Wiyoga Muhardanto dengan fantasi benda-benda menggunakan kerangka tubuh manusia. Yogie Achmad Ginanjar yang meminjam karakter manusia Yue Minjun serta latar lukisan “The Scream” (1893) karya Edward Munch untuk menggambarkan kengerian terhadap tsunami dan Amerika.

Adapun Dadan Setiawan dan Gede Mahendra Yasa mengadopsi citra visual hasil olah digital ke dalam bidang kanvas mereka. Pembesaran gambar berresolusi rendah menghasilkan efek pecah yang khas. Dalam hal ini Gede meminjam karya ekspresionis Cy Twombly.

Ya, apropriasi merupakan pencitraan baru terhadap karya lampau. Dengan apropriasi, sebuah karya ditafsir ulang untuk menghasilkan nilai-nilai baru yang lebih segar dan menggetarkan. (45)

sumber asli: http://www.suaramerdeka.com/harian/0707/31/bud01.htm

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