Ruang Rupa : One of the Most Innovative Museum in Indonesia

Our art critic celebrates the tenth anniversary  of one of the city’s most innovative galleries

The first time I walked into Ruang Rupa was in 2009. In a small, humble building located in the middle of a small and cramped housing complex in Tebet down in South Jakarta, I found a refreshing oasis for creative souls. It was a Sunday, and the small white house was very quiet. Writing and graffiti greeted me from the walls. No one was in sight and the gallery was locked.

I knocked on the door next to the gallery’s main entrance, and a man opened the door to a small room that was softly lit by a white neon bulb. A person was sleeping on a couch, while another one worked away on a laptop. They opened the gallery door for me, I walked in and was instantly mesmerised by the daring comic artworks that were exhibited there. Behind the gallery, there was another open door that beckoned me into an open space. One man was sitting on a chair reading, another was sitting on the floor and working on a computer and a third was sleeping on the floor.

All seemed to be wearing Tees and casual trousers and were barefooted. It seemed as if these creative people worked, slept, lived and created, all in that same space. From that day on I resolved to pay close attention to the goings on at Ruang Rupa, and have followed their projects and exhibitions with enthusiasm. Ruang Rupa is an artists’ initiative space and was founded by six artists back in 2000. The founders were Ade Darmawan, Ronny Agustinus, Lila Nursita, Hafiz, Oki Arfie, and Rithmi Wijanarko. It is a non-profit organisation and is supported by several international NGOs.

This fact always amazes me and has me asking the age old question, “Where is the local support?” Jakarta’s big collectors and those that claim to be art lovers, or art patrons even, seem to keep looking past organisations such as Ruang Rupa, which have given birth to some simply amazing artistic talent.Ruang Rupa’s regular activities now include the Ruru Gallery, which offers an exhibition space for up-and-coming young artists to exhibit their works in. There’s also an Art Lab, in which local and international artists can reside and conduct research programmes.

They also run a biennial programme known as 32 Degrees, which is an exhibition of works by university students who are studying here in Jakarta. Interestingly, the participants in this exhibition are not only art students, and many are following courses in communication studies and other academic fields. Another of Ruang Rupa’s babies is OK Video, a biennial international video festival that also stands independently as a production and distribution centre and a database collection of Indonesian video art.

In the beginning the gallery’s aim, as stated by the director of Ruang Rupa, Ade Darmawan, was to respond to the city, Jakarta, and to offer space, support and networking opportunities to artists. The gallery wished to open people’s minds to the idea that making art is about responding to oneself, as well as to one’s surroundings, and that the process of making art involves some deep thought.

Ruang Rupa believes that artists should grasp that art is a medium in which society, culture and the self are all connected, and that the thinking artist should respond to all of these inputs. Fine art is not the mere result of a technical process, but also works as a tool for effecting necessary changes in our social structures. In the end, contemporary art consists not just in the actual physical reality of the work itself, but also in the collective thoughts and souls of those who are embodied in the artwork.

For artists such as Reza Asung, Ruang Rupa is a place in which artists can create and be supported by a network, a venue where artists have the time and space to forge two paths: one outwards to society at large and one inwards to the inner creative self. The networking and collaborative possibilities down at Ruang Rupa offer connections that can really serve the creative artist. Ruang Rupa began life as a humble and small project back in 2000 and its first public art project invited the Taring Padi and Apotik Komik art groups from Yogya to display their skills.

Now, in January 2011, on the occasion of the group’s tenth anniversary celebrations, Ruang Rupa have organised an arts festival that has won plaudits from many big names in the national art, design and cinematography scenes. Ruang Rupa has retained its humility though, despite the plaudits it now receives. Decompression #10, the official title of the gallery’s anniversary celebration, consisted of various exhibitions and workshops that were spread around the Indonesian National Gallery, Ruru Gallery and Taman Ismail Marzuki.

The exhibitions included Influx, an ex-hibition of videography, curated by Hendro Wiyanto. Ruru Zip, curated by Farah Warda-ni, who has compiled all the documentation on the many Ruang Rupa exhibitions and projects during the whole ten years of its existence, could also be found, along with the 32 Degrees exhibition. The exhibition held at the main Ruang Rupa gallery itself was by artists that have all made their mark on Ruru over the past decade. Decompression #10 has proven that from a small acorn, a big tree can grow.

Now that Ruang Rupa has grown bigger than any of its six founders could have imagined back in 2000, what will come next? Well, Ade Darmawan aims to garner independent financing for the gallery’s operations, to start putting together an educational programme, and to plan an alternative school, one that can allow for more inter-disciplinary types of research. The contents of that small and humble building ino suburban Jakarta have contributed much to the growth and culture of this problematic city. In fact, it probably understands this city better than the Governor’s office does. Here’s to another ten!

Ruang Rupa Gallery, Jl. Tebet Timur Dalam Raya No. 6, T: 021 8304 220,
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Supported By : | Lintang Buana Tourism Services || || |

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