Category Archives: Bandung

Curatorial Introduction for “Revisiting Bandung: 
Four Decades of Personal Approach in Photography”

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[Ed: This is one of the main exhibitions in the inaugural Bandung Photo Showcase 2015, curated by Henrycus Napit Sunargo.It aims to chart the evolution of photographic practices in Bandung, West Java, over 40 years through the perspective of “personal approach”. This is the curatorial introduction, written by Sunargo, with minor edits by Zhuang Wubin.]

Venue: 
Selasar Sunaryo Art Space, Ruang Sayap, Bandung
Date: 7-29 March 2015

Curated and written by Henrycus Napit Sunargo

“… trusting the photograph was probably a huge mistake from the beginning.”
Arthur C. Danto

The medium of photography, which presents appearances and commands authority, creates a sense of self-entrapment in practice. This has led to debates amongst practitioners and critics since photography’s invention. As the equipment technology evolves, interpretations and appreciation towards photography have also become more complex and specific. Numerous theorists have put forth the idea that photographic images have a special authority in terms of objectivity and transparency. In the past, photography was valued for its documentary authority as proof of an event, which made it useful in ethnography and forensic science. In this way, photography serves as proof of history and research.

On the other hand, appearance is often understood as an absolute in every photograph. Documentary authority and the accuracy of appearances are two ideas that continue to inform the discourses of photography today.

“A photograph is a two-dimensional, bounded, still image, often in black and white, and the choice of lens, exposure, angle, and contrast, among their things, all have profound effects on the results. Through photography, appearances can be radically transformed…”
Barbara Savedoff

The statement above is a clear description of how photography has been used as a personal medium in Bandung. Much like other cultural practices, photography does not exist in vaccum. The medium relates itself within the realms of geography, geopolitics, formal/informal institutions, and social system, amongst others.

During the colonial era, the camera was only accessible to the bourgeois, which included the Europeans, aristocrats and rich merchants. The Dutch also set up a training centre for art teachers in Bandung, the predecessor of the present-day Faculty of Art & Design, Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB). The bourgeois and ITB provided the backdrop in which photography has been used as a personal medium over the last four decades in Bandung.

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Documentary Authority After Accurate Duplication

The desire to use photography as a means of accurate description emerged early on in Bandung. The importance of technical accuracy has been heavily emphasised by Perhimpunan Amatir Foto (PAF), the oldest existing photo club in Indonesia. Over time, the convention of technical accuracy has become the convention of photo clubs across the country.

Meanwhile, the term “seni foto” (art of photography) also gained traction, allowing photographers to indirectly address the issue of aesthetics relating to art.

ITB played an important role in elevating the medium as a modern art form by responding to it seriously. Mochtar Apin, A.D. Pirous and Haryadi Suadi were artist-lecturers who were quite familiar with photography. They started using photography as a personal mnemonic tool. Subsequently, Apin used photographs as reference for his paintings. A.D. Pirous also used photography in a similar way. He acquired an intimate understanding of photography during his studies at Rochester Institute of Technology, New York (1969-1972). At the time, he learnt about darkroom techniques at Kodak Center. This experience prompted him to introduce photography to ITB students. Back in Indonesia, he recruited Prof. Soelarko, a senior at PAF, as lecturer on basic photography from the mid to late 70s.

This led to a new perspective of photography within the Bandung art community. “Seeing things differently” led to “new ways” of working, which diverged from the convention of photography as accurate duplication. It eventually led to the formation of Forum Fotografi Bandung (FFB) in 1986, with their first exhibition held in the same year. Chaired by Jirman D. Martha, who was educated as an architect and trained as a photographer in London, FFB had 25 members initially. Its members came from various backgrounds and pursued different ways of expression vis-à-vis photography. Apart from Jirman, the likes of Sjuaibun Iljas, Hari Pochang, Andar Manik, Ray Bachtiar and Marintan Sirait helped to cultivate a sense of diversity within the forum. Despite criticism from PAF, FFB persisted and held its second exhibition in 1988, with the inclusion of new members Tiarma Sirait and Krisna Satmoko.

In general, the photographic practices of the 1970s and the 1980s, initiated by A.D. Pirous, Sjuaibun Iljas and Krisna Satmoko, display two tendencies. First, they used photography to record personal memories in relation to specific places and time. Secondly, they used it as a medium for visual art experiments. Pirous’ photos of his hometown, Iljas’s panoramic images and Satmoko’s slides of his travels are different means in which photography is being used to record personal memories. On the other hand, Pirous’ sketchbook of photo collages, Iljas’ relief prints and Satmoko’s solarisation images clearly belong to the second tendency.

Both tendencies helped to move photography away from accurate duplication to documentary authority, which constitutes appearances as ways of “seeing things differently”.

 

“In fact, every photograph is a fake from start to finish…”
Edward Steichen

Memory and History Reconstruction

From the 90s to the early 2000s, the boom in fashion and advertising photography in Jakarta drowned out those who used photography in a personal way. That was the golden era of commercial photography, which benefited many photographers, including those from Bandung. However, there are individuals who persisted in creating personal work in photography.

Adhya Ranadireksa, who studied photography in Italy, is one notable example. His still life photographs often feature daily objects pictured in a controversial manner. Discussion of politics surrounds Adhya’s social and family life, informing his photographic practice. With advanced technical expertise, he creates satires of the sociopolitical life in Indonesia during the early stages of Reformasi.

Deden Hendan Durahman, a graduate printmaker from ITB who continued his study in Germany, employs a different approach. He includes or erases objects in his photographic images through digital manipulation. In the series After The War (2010), Durahman combines archival photos of the aftermath of WWII with images of human beings and advertisements from the same place but from a different era. The interventions of these two artists transform appearances beyond their current state with the intention of creating new meanings.

This process of reconstruction reflects a response towards post-modern and contemporary thoughts, departing from heroic ideologies in order to convey something more layered, reflective and analytical.

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Most artists of the millennial generation… talk more about “personal and identity problems” and “personal wounds”… In Indonesia, in the midst of chaotic social and political conditions… Artists chose to remove themselves as well, more interested in building their worlds.”
Aminudin TH Siregar

Domestic Circle: Personal Narrative for “Being” in the Small World

The breaking of boundaries in the photographic practices of Bandung occurred through the opening up of the personal domain by individual photographers. This development has not come out of nowhere. In modern society, people are familiar with family albums, which strive to preserve distinct moments of their lives.

Afterimage (2000-10), a ten-year project by Henrycus Napitsunargo that has been exhibited at the intimate space of Ruang Depan Gallery-S14, is an example of how the photographer’s domestic environment becomes the small universe to build his personal narrative. The images are presented randomly to eliminate the aspect of time and the explicit meaning in the appearance of the objects. This approach of directing documentary authority towards the personal domain, fused with a sense of aesthetics, was quite noticeable in Bandung during the early 2000s.

The Orchestra (2011) by Sari Asih utilises the panoramic format and strong colours as means of personal expression. Guadalcanal Report (2009-2011) by Gyaista Sampurno, which takes the form of a photobook, reveals a different way of evoking and displaying memories through photography. Ari Syahrazad, a graphic novel illustrator who is relatively new to photography, also employs a similar approach. His seniors Adhya Ranadireksa and Henrycus Napitsunargo introduced him to photography in 2006. What is unique about Ari is his deliberate attempt to let go of the visual illustration approach that he is familiar in his work. His photographs often look rough, spontaneous and dark, revealing his personal character. He became the first applicant from Bandung to be accepted for the international workshop at Angkor Photo Festival, Cambodia, in 2008. It was a great achievement, given that he was very new to photography then.

Syahrazad then passed on his experiences at Angkor to his juniors and that helped Sandi Jaya Saputra, Meicy Sitorus, Arif Setiawan and Tandia B. Permadi enter the Angkor workshops.

Tandia B. Permadi is the last to pick up photography within this group of practitioners. Starting out in 2009, his dedication and productive nature, together with the help of prominent mentors like Zhuang Wubin and Magnum photographers Antoine D’Agata and Jacob Aue Sobol pushed his work to maturity. His Self Portrait (2011) series breaks yet another boundary in terms of addressing the personal through photography. On the receiving end of psychological pressure since childhood, Permadi uses a strong sense of narration in his representation of the self. He places himself in front of the camera, playing both the roles of object and subject in his personal narrative.

For an extended period after FFB had become dormant, there were few communities/collectives that encouraged the use of photography as a personal medium in Bandung. In 2005, a group called KOMVNI was established, based on the desire to accommodate the diversity of individual and personal approaches towards photography. Initially, the platform attracted lots of interested individuals. Nowadays, its main members remain: Adhya Ranadireksa, Deden Hendan Durahman, Henrycus Napitsunargo and Sari Asih. At the same time, in terms of photo publication and highlighting photography from Asia, Blackmanray Project has been somewhat successful. Founded in 2011 by three photographers Eric Setiawan, Budi Sukmana and Dicky Juwono, who have been actively fostering communication on the Internet, they started showcasing the work of photographers from various Asian countries. That became the catalyst, which brought Deden Hendan Durahman, Henrycus Napitsunargo and Sari Asih to Singapore to exhibit their works. Curated by Zhuang Wubin, A Certain Grace: Photography From Bandung (2012) highlights the diversity of photographic practices in Bandung, which cannot be categorised reductively. The phenomenon sparked the idea to form Bungkus! Bandung Photography Now, a public initiative-zine that hosts a recurring open call for publication according to specific themes. The aim is to map, publish and expand the photographic practices that privilege the content, context and concept of each individual.

Henrycus Napitsunargo, 2015

Roundtable Discussion: Photo Communities in Indonesia

By Aditya Pratama; Edited by Zhuang Wubin

[Editor’s note: In conjunction with the inaugural Bandung Photo Showcase (BPS) 2015, organisers of the event proposed a roundtable discussion on the proliferation and continued importance of photo communities in the development of photographic practices in Indonesia. Invitations are sent out to various photo communities across Java and six of them are represented in this candid yet critical roundtable. This is an excellent summary of the discussion, written by Aditya Pratama.]

Roundtable Discussion: Photo Communities in Indonesia

Venue: Lawang Wangi Creative Space, Bandung
Date: 8 March 2015
Time: 11 am to 3 pm

Panellists:
Ng Swan Ti (Panna Foto Org, Jakarta)
Aji Susanto Anom (Srawung Photo Forum, Solo)
Arif Furqan (Walking in Ngalam, Malang)
Budi Dharmawan (Kelas Pagi Yogyakarta)
Tandia Permadi (Bungkus! Bandung Photography Now)
Arum Tresnaningtyas Dayuputri (Kami Punya Cerita, Bandung)

Moderator: Zhuang Wubin

The roundtable begins with the panellists introducing their respective collectives/communities. It is important to note that this discussion does not include all the photo communities in Indonesia. Those missing include Matanesia from Surabaya and MES 56 from Yogyakarta. Those present in the panel represent communities from five different cities across Java.

Bandung

In the roundtable, Bandung is represented by two photo communities: Bungkus! and Kami Punya Cerita (KPC).

Bungkus! is initiated by seven friends with the idea of publishing a photo zine. From the onset, the key motivation for Bungkus! is to map the photographic practices of Bandung. The magazine has a rather unique approach in choosing work for publication. First of all, editors of the magazine invite submissions from the public based on the chosen theme. Those who make submissions have to defend their work on presentation night. The editors will then choose the best project, in accordance to the theme.

KPC is founded and managed by Arum. Relocating to Bandung some years back, Arum tried to find a place to discuss photography. Instead of seeking an existing photo community, she built a new one by opening a space for members of the public who have an interest in photography or in using the medium to create stories in a fun and relaxed manner. Storytelling, not photography, is the main focus of KPC’s free workshops. It has “graduated” ten batches of participants.

Solo

“Srawung” is a Javanese word, which means “jalan bersama” (walk together). In 2012, five people founded Srawung Photo Forum because they were envious of other cities with existing photo communities. Before Srawung, photo practitioners in Solo largely kept to their own circles. Broadly speaking, followers of photojournalism and salon photography made up the two camps of photo practitioners there.

Srawung aims to be a place for discussion and discourse in photography. They strive to cover everything from street photography to photojournalism. While the initial aim was to establish a space for discussion, Srawung has expanded into exhibition-making and photobook publishing.

Malang

Walking in Ngalam also started as a small community of five founders on August 2012. It became more active in 2013. With Malang evolving rapidly, the aim of the community is to encourage the public to document these changes, instead of using photography merely to take selfies. To do so, they host discussions and workshops to highlight the potential of photography as a documenting tool. Programmes also include exhibitions, photobook sharing and collaborations with photo communities in school.

Yogyakarta

Kelas Pagi Yogyakarta (KPY) started in 2009 as a loosely affiliated branch of Kelas Pagi Jakarta, which was founded in 2006 by photographer Anton Ismael. Initially, KPY aimed to offer free classes to members of the public who displayed an interest in photography. Since 2014, KPY has reorganised into two divisions: education and programming.

Budi was previously part of the collective, Chepas Photo Forum, which was founded in 2010 because the founders felt that most discussions then centred on the technical aspects of photography.

Jakarta

Compared to the aforementioned communities, Panna Photo Institute is more institutionalised. Its founders hail from a professional photojournalistic background. In 2006, they initiated Panna to focus on photographic education.

Panna administers grants to journalists, offers training to trainers, organises photo exhibitions and publishes photo books. It runs classes on visual literacy and the crafting of personal projects. It also has a library. The classes are being expanded to cities outside Jakarta.

In short, the communities represented at this roundtable are created for different reasons. One common thread is that they aim to create a space for discussion while educating their audience to photography.

The cities where these photo communities are located present different challenges, especially in relation to sustaining and growing the collectives. For example, Malang and Solo are relatively small cities compared to Bandung, Jakarta and Yogyakarta. As the capital city, Jakarta experiences a different magnitude of problems, which makes it a hotspot for news and the logical base for working photojournalists. Malang and Solo are less intense cities but their residents encounter issues of their own. These differences affect the evolution of each collective.

The differing structures of these communities also affect their development. For instance, Srawung is loosely regulated, as the founders come and go as they wish. Nowadays, it is relatively dormant because its founders have become preoccupied by diverging interests. Walking in Ngalam faces the same issue. In contrast, Panna is the only community at the roundtable, which is founded from the onset as a foundation. The legal status has made it easier for Panna to work with sponsors and reputable organisations in Indonesia and beyond. It is fair to say that most photo communities in Indonesia are founded in a more fluid and informal manner.

Zhuang Wubin archive

Institution-Building Skills

As the moderator, Wubin notes that most founders of these photo communities are practitioners of photography. To organise communities requires institution-building skills, which they may or may not have. This is the challenge that they face as organisers of collectives. Some of them like Ng Swan Ti already had experience in managing organisations before founding Panna while Aji Susanto started without any experience. Budi Dharmawan notes that he learnt about organising communities through his involvement with other collectives while Tandia still finds it difficult to manage a collective—let alone build a community like Bungkus!, which is relatively different in structure, compared to others.

Regeneration

Kurniadi Widodo, a member of KPY present in the audience, raises the issue of sustainability amongst these photo communities. He notes that he always sees the same faces who attend events and activities organised by KPY. Can a collective survive for a sustained period with no newcomers?

The panellists have differing views regarding this question but in general, they agree that even if there is no regeneration within a collective, there will be other communities that will continue to sprout, extending the existing collectives in other ways.

Budi believes that it is better to develop the vision of each collective instead of worrying about the issue of sustainability. In effect, each community has to develop its own system of regeneration. Wubin observes that, compared to ten years ago, there are more photo communities now in Indonesia, a trend that suggests that the audience for photography has expanded. It is clear that individuals from the audience will move up the ladder to take on organisational roles in existing communities or to establish new ones.

In the case of KPC, even though members of its alumni have increased, the community is still managed by Arum. Students from previous batches advertise its programme through word-of-mouth. In this way, Arum does not see regeneration as an issue.

Attitude of Art Audiences Towards Photo Communities

Regarding the issue of regeneration, Ridzki Noviansyah from The Photobook Club (TPC), who is present in the audience, notes that he has tried to expand the audience of TPC by reaching out to other communities of other disciplines, for instance, people working in design. Extending his comment, Wubin raises another question: “What is the response of art audiences towards photo communities/collectives?”

The general consensus is that art audiences’ interest towards photo collectives is minimal or negligible. It is true that some tertiary art students have participated in KPC and that many of the shows in BPS are hosted by art galleries. At the same time, there are also art students present at BPS who wonder why photography is being exhibited in art venues. Even in Yogyakarta, the audiences of MES 56 and KPY rarely overlap, even though members from both communities sometimes hang out together. Budi suggests that it is probably because KPY is heavily oriented towards education and the work produced by its participants are mostly at “student” level, which does not warrant the interest of art communities.

Starting From What He Thinks: Deden Hendan Durahman

By Julius Tomasowa

According to Martin Heidegger, the power of art is in its capacity to describe an experience that is not visible. Good artists are not only armed with good technical skills. They also have the ability to describe experiences in perceptive ways. As an artist, Deden Hendan Durahman truly subscribes to this view.

Born on 6 December 1974 at Majalaya, West Java, Deden Hendan Durahman displayed a love for drawing from a very young age. While studying in junior high school, Deden recreated Hans Christian Andersen’s work in Indonesian vernacular and “style”, and made other drawings based on Lelucon Petruk Gareng [ed: Indonesian vintage comic series]. In 1993, he enrolled in the Faculty of Art and Design (FSRD), Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), specialising in woodcut. In 2005, he obtained a Diploma in Fine Art from the Braunschweig University of Art in Germany, before graduating with a Meisterschüler from the same institution in 2006.

Returning to ITB, Deden helped to set up the Intermedia Studio at FSRD. Away from work, he continues to pursue his artistic practice. Starting from what we think, in response to what happens externally—this is how Deden often describes his artistic process.

Detail of "Reconstructio; Faces" (2006) / Deden Hendan Durahman
Reconstructio; Faces (2006) / Deden Hendan Durahman

In the Reconstructio series, the title suggests that Deden first witnessed something, which he then reconstructs for his art-making. Reconstructio; Faces (2006), for instance, is made in response to the culture and environment that he encountered in Germany.

In After The War (2010), Deden uses archival photographs of Germany in the aftermath of WWII as his starting point. He reconstructs them by adding new things into these photographs.

“If you look carefully, there is something strange in the images,” says Deden. In these two projects, Deden uses photography as source material, reconstructing images and displaying them as digital prints. Both projects have been exhibited in Germany and Indonesia.

"After the War" (2010) / Deden Hendan Durahman
“After the War” (2010) / Deden Hendan Durahman