Inside Out, Ruang per Ruang / Space by Space
in my home
by Michelle Chin
I'm not sure why, but the theme of ruangperruang
#2 (The Space by Space Project)
reminds me of a pop song. I can't remember who sang it all those years ago, but
the words went something like this:
Inside out, boy you turn me, upside down and . . . round and round
Maybe it's because I've just had the experience of eleven male artists working
at my house for two months. What was it like? Inside-out, upside-down, topsy-turvy
and all over the place? No, it wasnt really (always) like that. In fact,
it was a very interesting experience and I have no regrets at all.
The group of artists explained to me that the concept of the ruangperruang project
was to create an artistic response to a given space without destroying or damaging
any part of the house while allowing daily activities to carry on unhampered.
I spontaneously agreed to allow the second project to take place in my home and
so the artists worked at the house during the months September to November 2004.
In order to raise funding for this project, the artists produced original paintings
and limited editions of photographic prints which were offered to potential sponsors
at a special price. Thus, the Ruang per Ruang Project #2 was a "self-funded
project" in that the artists themselves donated their artworks to the project
in order to raise money for the running costs of the entire project.
Actually, it was probably the artists who felt they were being turned inside-out
having to respond to a space that is a Javanese joglo (traditional-style house)
and already quite full of artworks; having to compromise their creativity
by creating artworks that would not clash with the prevailing mood of the home;
allowing the space to remain liveable with the tables functioning as tables, chairs
functioning as chairs and doors functioning as doors. Some of the artists wanted
to rearrange pot plants and stone sculptures, but they had to keep in mind that
a path to water the plants and the washing-line should still be accessible. They
wanted to use the area around the well in the kitchen but they had to leave enough
space to wash clothes and dishes, to be able to draw water up from the well in
a bucket. Some of the artists had to revise or adjust their original plans in
order to fit in to the house and the needs of its resident. Creating artworks
in, and for, someone elses home is more challenging than working in ones
own studio (or home). It is also a lot more challenging than preparing art works
for an exhibition to be displayed in a (empty) gallery space, or (relatively empty)
The eleven artists opted to work as a group where they would have to cope with
the barbed criticisms of their peers. For some of the participants, friendships
were strained to the point that they no longer want to talk to each other. It
is a learning experience to work together in this way; to be flexible, open-minded,
cooperative and willing to share materials, tools and space.
During the initial meeting held at my house, the democratic way in which they
decided on who would do what and where was interesting. One by one, they were
asked where they wanted to create their art work in the house, and if someone
else had already chosen that location, they would then negotiate as to who would
get the spot. When they started discussing the actual work they had planned to
create, it became apparent that two artists (Aji
and Lampung) had very similar ideas, so
one of them (Lampung) agreed to think of a new idea. Aji had almost completed
his installation by the time Lampung
came up with his new ideaa 3-metre tall figure constructed from wire and
covered in string, which seems to emerge from the well.
Gusde had three attempts at
his artwork, although the location (three tables in the house) remained the same.
Arya's location changed totallyfrom his
initial decision to create something on the inside wall of the front courtyard,
he ended up distributing seven laser-printed images of himself throughout the
house. (Wahyudin's comment: How narcissistic!) Bambang Tokos
idea of creating something in response to the numerous doors in the house later
manifested as a row of water-filled light-bulbs hanging from the ends of the rafters
of the front pavilion.
The theme of this Ruang Per Ruang project, Inside-Out, invites
us to contemplate the concepts of inside/outside, indoor/outdoor, insider/outsider,
the externalising of internal/emotional responses, and finally, the ins and outs
of creating an artwork.
Bambang Toko's installation,
Transparan, reflects on the theme of inside/outsidea transparent
wrapping allows us to see from the outside to the inside. Is the wrapping there
to conceal or clarify? Or is it to cover up just a little bit of what is beneath?
Or, is it creating a distance between the outer and inner layers? Bambang commented
that transparent materials provide a transit area or neutral space.
It is the most humorous of all the worksprinted stickers float in water
inside clear light bulbs and the words of wisdom on these stickers
Jodi's installation, Birunya Awan,
created from sculpted, painted wire also reflects on transparency. He wanted to
create something that is both there and not there at the same time. Jodi's artwork
responds to and merges with the house by allowing us to see it through a new filter.
The seated figure is so transparent that we can see straight through its skin
to the plants behind it. The wiry clouds he hung inside and outside the house
are too flimsy to contain any rain. They float calmly through the house, creating
an illusion of the much longed-for rain and cooler weather that had not yet arrived
The works created are best described as indoor-outdoor art. The contrast
between the traditional architecture of this Javanese joglo and the contemporary
works created within it is striking. The architecture of the house inspired many
of the artists to create work that hangs from the high roof-beams and ceilings.
Hanging sculptures or installations were created by Aji, Jodi, Lampung, Bambang
Toko, Arya and Alam.
Of course, the main reason that the artists were unable to create wall-mounted
works is because almost all of the walls in my house already have paintings hanging
on them. One exception was the area around the well in the kitchen. Yudi had told
us that he planned to create something around the well and had mentioned flowers
or plantsso we imagined that he was going to create something along the
lines of an installation comprising sculpted flowers and plants. While he did
create free-standing flowers in pots, he also painted a mural measuring 3- metres
by 9-metres on the three walls around the well. Yudi wanted to bring the outdoors
indoors, the outside to the inside. He said that he wanted to create a feeling
of green fields and blue skies inside the kitchen, so thats exactly what
Many of the artists mentioned that they felt challenged by the existing art workspaintings,
sculptures, puppets and stone carvingson display at the house. Dalbo
incorporated one of his own paintings, Dimana Sisi Aku Menepi, into his
installation, which begins in the kitchen where it seems to pierce through Yudi's
wall mural. It travels through one of the bedrooms and a store-room,
before it emerges through a third wall and his painting, which is hung in one
of the front rooms. The installation physically (and symbolically) traverses the
space of four rooms in the house. His work moves from inside to outside with ease,
breaking through thick walls and passing through furnished rooms on
its journey to the outside world.
To some extent, Aji and Gusde responded to a large painting by
Wayan Danu entitled Pesta Perjamuan. It dominates the front pavilion because
of its size and its rather grisly subject matter: figures with wolves heads
are seated at a feast of skewered infants, penises and testicles floating in jars
of liquid, beheaded women, and various limbs.
Two of Gusde's tables in this
area lie directly in line with Wayan Danu's painting. The gothic feel of the painting
is mirrored in the burned edges of the cloth covering the tables. The hands, painted
in red and black, symbolize ambition, greed, cruelty, envy and hypocrisy: the
major themes of Danu's painting.
Aji's installation, Apa yang
Dicari?, also focuses on the themes of obsession, ambition and desire. It
reacts strongly to Danu's painting by slicing through its centre and
diminishing its overwhelming dominance of the space. Before, our eyes were drawn
to the various facial expressions of the 17 wolf-headed figures seated at their
gruesome dinner party, but now, Ajis striking red installation with its
numerous wire figures clambering upwards towards the light catches our eyes. Various
smaller-sized pieces are scattered throughout the front of the house and one blue
figure (who has attained what he/she was searching for) calmly watches the others
still desperately clambering upwardsin search of something, in search of
Arya Pandjalu placed seven life-sized
figures of himself in front of a sculpture by Supar
Madiyanto and paintings by Edo Pop,
Made Aswino Aji and Wayan
Danu. Another of Aryas figures is engrossed with viewing Ajis
installation. Arya created an artwork that could be placed in front of another
work, thereby simultaneously becoming artist/creator and viewer. He is both an
insider and outsider, inside the ruangperruang project as artist/participant
and outside as viewer/audience of the artworks that make up the project.
The lines between inside/outside and insider/outsider become blurred.
One section of Yudi's mural deals
with the issues of long-distance relationships enacted via telephone and SMS.
The male figure is trapped and unable to communicate with the outside world except
via telephone. He longs to get out, but is hampered by something he cannot define:
he feels that he needs help in order to break the chains (or telephone cords?)
that bind him. He is inside, but he really wants to be outside.
externalising internal/emotional responses
Wimo Ambala Bayang created a
video in which artworks in the house appear to move or spin. He told me that when
he first arrived, he was struck by the fact that most things in the house did
not move. Well, I thought, isnt that true of the objects in most houses?
Maybe he made this observation because is a film-maker; he likes things to move.
Some of the objects that Wimo chose to animate are the Balinese stone sculptures
in the front courtyard, a pair of stools entitled Two Tails by Singaporean
artist Lim Shing Ee and a painted wooden
turtle from Vietnam. His video is both a response to the artworks displayed in
the house and a god-like desire to give life to inanimate objects.
My house reminded Roni Wibowo of his
childhood. Having grown up in a village near Malang, he felt a familiarity with
the spaciousness of the compound and the large yard surrounding the house; the
dirt roads; the trees and rice-fields; and the smell of smoke coming from the
neighbours wood-fire stoves. Recalling how he and his friends would play
Dam-daman and Dam-daman Macan, he used many of the Balinese stone
carvings displayed in the front courtyard to recreate these two traditional Javanese
The installations created by Jodi and Alam respond both to the space and to the
weather conditions we experienced during the project. It was extremely hot and
we were all wishing it would rain. Jodis
yellow man seated in the kitchen courtyard looks exactly as we all
feltlacking the energy to get up and work in the relentless heat bouncing
off the cement walls. The sculpted figure has placed himself amidst the greenery
of the open courtyard. Jodi added 22 blue clouds, which brought a sense of relief
with their promise of rain. Alam
had a similar response to the heat and created a feeling of refreshing greenery
in the two bathrooms by creating an installation of water plants which hangs against
The ins and outs of creating an art work
A project such as this allows us to observe and document artists at work. The
exhibition is only the end-point: the project started from the day the artists
began their work. It is fascinating to witness the transformation of raw materials
into a work of art. A ball of string, a roll of wire, lengths of bamboo, a pile
of newspaper, a spool of thread, cans of paint, a bundle of string, a box of light
bulbs, planks of wood, pieces of cloth and various other materials might be fashioned,
twisted, glued, torn, taped, tied, sculpted, cut, burnt at the edges or painted.
Eventually these materials are transformed into something that will be free-standing
or hung, painted on the wall, set up on the ground/floor/table, or photographed
and processed into an animation video. As non-artist observers, we have the pleasure
and privilege of witnessing the processes involved in this creation. All in all,
the Ruang per Ruang project has been an experience which reinforces my
idea that living with art is the best way to live.
Ruang Per Ruang (Space by Space) 13 December 2004 - 28 February 2005 @
Michelle Chin's house in Jurug, Jl. Parangtritis km 6.5, Sewon, Bantul, Yogyakarta
(in the vicinity of the ISI/Indonesian Institute of the Arts campus). For directions
to the house, please telephone Made Aswino Aji 0818276506 or Michelle Chin 0811388630
or email: email@example.com
Michelle Chin is a writer and art curator.
[published in Latitudes magazine, Feb 2005]