The Sensation of Contemporary Indonesian-Yemeni Discussions

Kunjungan Salwa Aleryani ke studio Agus Suwage

Salwa Aleryani’s visit to the studio of Agus Suwage

On the eighth day of the Jogja Biennale XII residency period – Thursday, August 29, 2013 – Salwa had the opportunity to visit the home that had once been the studio of Agus Suwage, a senior contemporary artist who has worked largely in drawing. Also participating in Salwa’s visit was Devie Triasari (Residency Division Coordinator, Biennale Jogja), Yolandri (Artist Assistant), Irine Octavianti Kusuma Wardhanie (Coordinator of Fine Arts and Journalism Writing Internship, or PMPSK), and Ferika Yustina Hatmoko (PMPSK apprentice), sharing stories about the worlds of Yemen and Indonesia – especially Yogyakarta.

The conversation was light, beginning with Agus Suwage’s question about how Salwa found the taste of Jogja’s food, and intensified as Agus Suwage showed one of his works – a trumpet-shaped statue and a muezzin facing the direction of its echoes, standing with raised hands, as if delivering the call for prayer. This trumpet produces the sound of the call to prayer with a chant, modified in a way to sound more classical and refined, yet that doesn’t change the actual chant. Observing this work, we engaged in an extensive conversation related to Islam and Islamic culture in Indonesia. The call to prayer of a few mosques echoing at the same time results in a voice that is howling with a clashing frequency. In Agus’s opinion, the sound isn’t comfortable to hear, such that he called it “noise pollution.”

Our opportunity to observe his work space led us to a long, interesting conversation. Agus Suwage frequently shows strong results in the form of artworks, media, ways of working, all the way to exhibition catalogues.

“In my work, I often recycle old projects, like my work Luxury Crime, 2007-2009, Stainless Steel, Gold Plated Brass and Rice, 124 x 77 x52 cm, to become a new work with different media”, said Agus Suwage.

Cultural differences that are significantly varied for these two artists helped them conceive of exciting, new ideas. Aside from cultural difference, there are similarities that emerged from them, as both have a concentration in the field of design symbols and motifs. This shared background led them to create a combination of motifs and symbols representing Islamic and Western culture. It could be said that these two are opposites, but both are in the realm of contemporary art.

The brief, yet expansive and interesting, conversation was closed by a guitar and ukulele performance by Agus Suwage accompanied by the singing of Salwa and the rest of the participants.

(Text by Ferika Yustina Hatmoko, translations by Colin Cahill)