Artists and the People: Ideologies of Art in Indonesia

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by Elly Kent

Exploring the work of established and emerging artists in Indonesia’s vibrant art world, this book examines why so many artists in the world’s largest archipelagic nation choose to work directly with people and in the studio. While the social dimension of Indonesian art makes it distinctive in the globalised world of contemporary art, Elly Kent is the first to explore this engagement in Indonesian terms. What are the historical, political and social conditions that lie beneath these polyvalent practices? How do formal and informal institutions, communities and artist-run-initiatives contribute to the practices and discourses behind socially-engaged art in Indonesia? What do artists do when they locate their practice in a broader social milieu, and what tensions arise when artists integrate communities, governments, politics, history and people into their practice?

Drawing on interviews with artists, translations of archival material, visual analyses and participation in artists’ projects, this book presents a unique, interdisciplinary examination of ideologies of art in Indonesia. It portrays the ways art practice and theory are understood within Indonesia and inside Indonesian-language discourse. Indonesia's artists have continued to explore, resist and draw on the methodologies and discourses of social responsibility and artistic autonomy generated by Indonesian arts practitioners through their early 20th-century encounters with modernity and the founding of the nation state. This book brings contemporary practice into conversation with art history in Indonesia.

“This is a major work in Indonesian art history. Elly Kent’s insightful book is based in Indonesian theories of art and society, deployed through an intimate knowledge of contemporary artworks, artists, curators and writers on art. Starting with the aesthetics of Sanento Yuliman, she shows how modern and contemporary art is immersed in daily life.” –Adrian Vickers, Sydney University

"Artists and the People is a significant and original study and essential reading for those wishing to understand the dynamic contemporary art of the world’s fourth most populous nation. Stylishly written and based on exemplary research, Kent elucidates the critical nexus between artists and society in ideologies informing Indonesian art." – Caroline Turner,  Australian National University 

Elly Kent is a visual artist, translator, researcher and educator. She edits New Mandala and is the Deputy Director of the Australian National University's Indonesia Institute.

Publication Year: 2022
284 pp, 229mm x 152mm
47 b/w images
Paperback
ISBN: 978-981-325-163-2