In a busy part of Jakarta, there used to be a rather infamous art installation called Getah Getih, created by artist Joko Avianto. This is the picture:
Every time I look at it, I can’t help by thinking how fugly it was. It looked like carrots that were so deformed, they almost looked like a reclining nude body. Half a billion Rupiah was spent on that monstrosity. As the governor claimed it was meant to be a temporary installation, it was eventually disassembled… thankfully.
In a comment section of a newspaper’s Facebook page, me and other readers bashed the artwork for its ugliness. Unsurprisingly, there was that one person who thought the installation was beautiful and the haters were uncultured peasants.
He praised the installation because it was made out of bamboo, which he said was traditionally Indonesian, and it supposedly signified the battlefield flag of the soldiers of an ancient kingdom; I did find out Getah Getih was the flag of the Majapahit kingdom.
The more I think about those arguments, the more I find them idiotic.
The installation was an abstractly-shaped, bamboo-based public art work that supposedly depicted a historical event, located in an arguably westernised Indonesian big city dominated by concrete-dependent international style architecture, asphalt roads, machinery and strong disregard of the country’s own heritages.
As it was meant to be public, it had to blend in with the surrounding; but, instead of doing so and -as it was meant to be artistic- enthralling the urban inhabitants with visual beauty, the ill-conceived contrast made itself a giant eyesore. Being different just for the sake of it is a good advice… if you don’t care about contributing anything.
If Getah Getih was a stand-alone installation in an art exhibition or used as a decoration of an indoor place with ‘traditional’ or ‘natural’ aesthetics, it would be a lot more beautiful!
And surely, if you want to teach the historically-illiterate masses about history, shouldn’t you be careful when utilising abstract shapes and make sure they cannot be interpreted too loosely? Even after knowing what the title means, I still cannot unsee the deformed carrots. At least, make the shapes more clear-cut!
I know I sound like bashing the artist. But, I have seen photos of his other works and they actually look beautiful! Even without any thematic contexts being presented, their abstract bamboo aesthetics harmonise really well with their surroundings; I love The Continuous Stage way more! The problem seems to lie on the poorly-thought-out commission.
Oh, and about that pretentious snob (no, I am not talking about myself)…
He said his museum visits made him an art expert. When I said I also had visited museums, he chastised me for being conceited. So, you know, he was hypocrite…
… And too delighted of himself.
He patted himself on the back simply for calling an art work ‘beautiful’ and ‘meaningful’. While this sounds like an angry and far-fetched conjecture (which it is), I would not be surprised if he call a literal pile of shit ‘beautiful’ and ‘meaningful’ if it was presented as an art work that represents human shittiness. As much as I love the arts, I would never praise any art works willy-nilly, regardless of their styles and themes.
I also don’t know why he was so obsessed with bamboo; Indonesia is not the only place where it is a traditional material. But, even if it is exclusively ours, I don’t see how it makes an art work more profound. If there is a bamboo art work that glorifies our colonial past, I doubt that person would see anything profound about it (or maybe, he would).
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