'Art Turns, World Turns'

'Art Turns, World Turns'

Let's be honest here, I was never a museum visitor kind of gal. It's probably odd for a designer not to enjoy museum visits but hear me out. A designer's mind is not always identical to that of an artist although in some cases, the two may merge. I've talked about this before but unlike art, design leans more towards the logical side of things, the science and functionality. As a designer, I am more accustomed to digesting things with logic as opposed to feelings. This results in my inability to consume art on a whole emotional level. But when our friends invited boyfriend and I to check it out, we decided to give it a go.

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The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, abbreviated as Museum MACAN, has been a hot topic among youth and designers lately. As the "first institution of its kind in Indonesia" dedicated to international modern art, Museum MACAN is a privately funded museum that "can support conservation, is fully climate-controlled and has spaces for education." I believe the reason why this minimalist exhibition gains such tremendous hype and popularity is due to its evolutionary take that goes against what we know about museums — at least in Indonesia where we only have old and dusty public museums, never a modern and international looking one.

Located in West Jakarta on the 5th floor of a high rise building built by ARKdesign, the museum is dominated in white, lots of space and room to breathe. There is also a small coffee booth by 1/15 Coffee and clear, transparent chairs for visitors to chillax. The multipurpose building also gives a lovely, broad panoramic view of the outside world. Situated in a 2,000 square meter space that includes exhibition galleries, an audio visual mini theater and an indoor sculpture garden, every nook and cranny of this exhibition screams minimalism to me. Unfortunately, when boyfriend and I arrived there, it was quite crowded so I didn't get the chance to actually snap some pictures of the interior and coffee booth. I think we had to line up for around 60 minutes or more just to get in. It really felt like queuing up for the entrance to an amusement park!

Entrance ticket varies between age group. For adults, it costs IDR 50k / US$ 3.7, children IDR 30k / US$ 2.22 and students IDR 40k / US$ 2.96.

Founded by Indonesian entrepreneur and art collector Haryanto Adikoesoemo and directed by art curator Aaron Seeto, the museum became accessible for public audience on November 4, 2017. Following the opening, its first exhibition — entitled "Art Turns. World Turns. Exploring the Collection of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara" features 90 artworks from the Museum's collection, Indonesian and international artists. To quote the website itself,

"Co-curated by Charles Esche and Agung Hujatnika, the exhibition features 90 artworks from the Museum’s collection, showcasing artworks by Indonesian and international artists. ‘Art Turns. World Turns.’ presents a narrative that explores the resonances between Indonesia and the world and offers a reading of Indonesian art history in dialogue with global art history."

I think it's interesting how they decided to focus first on Indonesian art history because while I am not a fan of observing abstract art or paintings in general, I am someone who is more interested in western art history as opposed to Indonesian's. By showcasing Indonesian art history in such a way, I feel like this creates a different, more exciting approach that will hopefully encourage locals to appreciate our culture better.

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One installation that I really, really wanted to try seeing for myself was Japanese artist and writer Yayoi Kusama's 2014 version of Infinity Mirrors: Brilliance of the Souls room. The so-called 'traveling' exhibition, however, was jam packed thus making it impossible for me to try it out. Also, because the museum's closing hour is at 19:00 it's just not possible. To say I was disappointed is quite the understatement since I was really excited for this. I mean, look! It's amazing, isn't it? Ah, I'm still bitter about this especially since it's like a once in a blue moon thing.

But, that doesn't mean I completely ignored the other installations. In fact, here are some snapshots.

This is one of my favorite installations from the exhibition. On the surface, it's just a symbolism for the countries helped by the U.S. To me, it goes beyond that. A part of me sees this artwork as a way to say that America is great, the greatest even and that everybody depends, glorifies and wishes to be like America or its culture. When I think of it that way, stomach twists to a knot. I don't like it but that's how I see it. Maybe I'm overthinking too much into this. Maybe I was influenced by the American orchestra we see playing in our world today. Who knows, that's the beauty of art, isn't it? The ability to perceive things without right or wrong.

in regards to the 2008 Chinese milk scandal

These typography-based artworks happen to be another favorites of mine. I think I actually observed them in a way I didn't with other artwork. There's just something in these words that made you think. At some point, some of these make valid points though not always the case. If I have to pick one, I'd probably choose the one about China's 2008 milk scandal where melamine is found in infant milk and formula as well as other food materials and components, killing 6 babies and made 300,000 ill. While the story behind it made me sick, I love it when artworks tackle controversial issues like this.

please read this, it's hilarious!

this piece is quite the special one. I'm not sure why but it evokes a dark emotion, at least in my mind. it makes me think of the olden days where young girls were bred to obey, to stay at home and to keep quiet. it reminds me of the oppression young girls were made to think, that the female gender is and will always be less than men. at the same time, it also makes me think about the dark, dark reality of human trafficking, the bitterness and the hell.

however, it may not be any of the things I thought of. maybe it's not what the artist wanted to convey. nevertheless, those thoughts were what my mind came up with and I couldn't not take a picture.

This was probably one of the most, if not the most, unique artworks from the exhibition. These "framed flags" were made of sand and linked together by plastic tubes. What's fun about this artwork is that there were around 5,000 (or was it 50,000 or 500,000?) ants inside — yes, live ants. The concept is that no matter how different one country is to the next, in the end we are always linked to work together. It takes the idea of 'six degrees of separation' (a theory that all living things and everything else in this world are connected in six or fewer steps away from each other, following the chain of 'a friend of a friend') and morphs it in such a unique way that you cannot help but to stop by and gaze. I heard that these ants are also monitored, probably because some of them may not survive the journey.

panoramic view from the building

Certainly I did not take pictures of every artwork available because that'd be time consuming but overall, it was an interesting experience. Outside the exhibition gallery and near the coffee booth was an inflatable Hulk pushing a carriage of flowers. I don't think this was an artist submission but it's a nice touch nonetheless. My friends and I left the gallery at around 6 pm and the Yayoi Kusama's exhibition was still jam packed it's crazy! I'm still upset over it but oh well, shit happens and I guess you can do nothing but shrug it off.

In the end, while I appreciate every artwork I came across in my lifetime, I have to admit that I still have a hard time finding an emotional connection to any of them. My boyfriend thinks the same way too and it's probably because both of us are UX designers while our friends are more of the uh, 'visual' kind if that makes sense. I do, however, understand artworks that tackle political issues, propaganda and am able to perceive them (as shown with the above examples.) But I'm still not very good with it. I guess this is what it means when people say you don't have a very high emotional intelligence. Nevertheless, I did not regret it at all.

What about you, do you like museums? How do you perceive fine art?