Interviewing Equator: Biennale Jogja 2011 – 2022

Since 2011, BJ has shown a great change in its vision, mission and mechanism of organizing the event. In 2010, the Yogyakarta Biennale Foundation (Yayasan Biennale Yogyakarta/YBY) designed and launched the new project of BJ as a long-term program plan that will be held until the next decade, the year 2022. It came out with the goal of developing new perspectives in contemporary art discourse, as well as opening itself and revising the conventions of programs of its kind. YBY intends to make Yogyakarta and Indonesia more known broadly as a significant site in the constellation of international art scene. Among the dynamics of a global art scene that appears to be inclusive and egalitarian, the hierarchies of centers and peripheries in fact still strongly exist. Therefore, the need  to intervene is urgent. YBY imagines a common platform that can support, intervene and provoke the dominance of the centers, as well as offering alternatives through the diversity of contemporary art practice from the Indonesian perspective.

Within the next 10 years, YBY will organize BJ as a series of exhibition and art activities that adheres to one great theme, EQUATOR. This Biennale series sets the equatorial locations as its main premise and working area, i.e. the particular geographical areas of earth ranged between the latitudes 23.27° NL and 23.27° SL. In every event, BJ will choose to work with one or more countries/regions as its partner, by inviting the artists and art communities from the chosen partnering countries within the equatorial areas to collaborate, create, exhibit, encounter and dialog with Indonesian artists, collectives, organizations and cultural communities, in Yogyakarta.

The countries/regions within the equatorial areas that have been planned to partner with BJ for the next 10 years are:

  1. India (Biennale Jogja XI 2011) – already held
  2. Arab countries (Biennale Jogja XII 2013)
  3. African countries (Biennale Jogja XIII 2015)
  4. Latin American countries (Biennale Jogja XIV 2017)
  5. Countries in the Pacific Ocean and Australia, including Indonesia as an archipelago (Biennale Jogja XV 2019) – for the particularity of this regional scope, BJ XV could be known as ‘Ocean Biennale’.
  6. Southeast Asian countries (Biennale Jogja XVI 2021)
  7. The conclusion of the equatorial series will be summed up with the Equator Conference in 2022.

Why Equator?

The ‘equator’ as a concept is not only imagined as merely a frame to accommodate uniformity but also as a point of entry to explore and interpret the diversities of the current global contemporary societies. ‘Equator’ becomes a common platform to review the world. As a geographical landmark, the equator comprises a set of regions that have their own ecological characteristics. As a socio-cultural area, the regions also have many historical and ethnographic similarities, for instance in terms of their political ‘destiny’ as ‘postcolonial countries’. This area promises many interesting aspects to be explored, for its diversities reflect the cultural richness of the societies, as well as endless resources of life. The equator – the earth zone that runs at a relatively higher rotation speed, stretches around 40,000 kilometers, comprises a plethora of islands and continental regions bound by great oceans – will be an arena of explorations, analysis, encounters, and exchanges of cultures that together raise the values of humanity.

The artistic encounters in the BJ Equator series are done with the spirit of making sustainable networks, so the dialogues, partnerships and collaborations can give birth to new, broader and continuous partnerships among art practitioners in the equatorial regions. This way, BJ hopes to contribute to making a new topography of global art scene, with new formulas and perspectives. The effort has been pioneered by the organization of the Biennale Jogja 2011 last year, with the meeting of two countries, Indonesia and India as two regions in the equator that have great potential and resources in Asia. India was chosen as the first since it is regarded to have a direct political-historical relation with Indonesia, with the history of the Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung, 1955, as well as strong cultural historical relations in the ancient times, with the great interactions between the two regions through spice trade and the distribution of Hinduism and Buddhism.