There are many ways to regain public awareness about the history of their city. One of them is through creating art events. This is what Roemah Seni Sarasvati aims to do, by organizing a photography exhibition titled Art Deco Kiwari.
The exhibition, which was organized in conjunction with the inauguration of Roemah Seni Sarasvati, was curated by Eddy Soetriyono and held in collaboration with Air Foto Network and Bandung Heritage Society.
Sixteen works are exhibited in a show that runs from 22 February to 22 March, which were selected out of the 55 works that were sent by various photography communities in Bandung. The 16 photographs take Art Deco buildings as their subject matter, and were created by 9 artists: Adithya Zen, Andriana Tjahya, Krisna Trisila Satmoko, Lauw Nam Ie, Samuel Rama Surya, Sandi Jaya Saputra, Sandy Wijaya, Utami Dewi Godjali, and Willi.
Despite having the theme of Art Deco architecture in Bandung, the 16 works on display are not architectural or journalistic photography, but are photography-based artworks that pose unique challenges to the artists in creating photographs that retain the traces of the Art Deco buildings, while enveloping it with other artistic elements.
Aside from the exhibition, there is also a discussion on the topic “The Value of Art and Investing on Photographic Works” with Oscar Motuloh and Eddy Soetriyono as speakers on last 23 February, and a discussion on the “Disappearance of Bandung’s Historical Buildings” with Tisna Sanjaya and Ridwan Kamil as speakers, which will be held on the coming 18th March.
In the discussion on “The Value of Art and Investing on Photographic Works”, Oscar stated that the role of a curator in evaluating photography may influence the price of the work. Unfortunately, from a market perspective, the position of photography remains below paintings if the two art forms are compared. “This is also due to a lack of attention for photography from enthusiasts as well as curators,” mentions Oscar, who currently heads the Photograph New Room Antara, as well as Antara’s Photo-Journalism Museum and Gallery.
Eddy Soetriyono also explains that the price value of an artwork, whether painting, sculpture, as well as photography, is defined by the cultural value that it possesses.
Among the 16 works by the 9 artists, the exhibition also shows photographs of historical buildings in Bandung, drawn from Sarasvati and KITLV’s collection. Therefore, visitors are able to see how the buildings have changed throughout history, as well as their current condition.
The theme of ”Art Deco” was chosen by Sarasvati based on our aspiration to invite the public to pay closer attention to the history of Bandung. This is supported by the history of the Roemah Seni Sarasvati’s building, which used to be the residence of Lin Che Wei’s grandparents, as owner.
The house still retain architectural details rooted in colonial history: as seen on the stairway, windows, as well as the writing in Dutch – Het Ledikanten Huis which means Bed Shop and WESTON – that remains on the wall of the main gallery building. After almost 5 years of standing empty, the restoration for this unique building began in 2012, with a sympathetic approach towards the building’s history.
Bandung is a modern city where during the Dutch colonial period, many Art Deco architecture was built. The existence of hotels, restaurants, office and cultural spaces prove that modernisation took place in Bandung at the time.
Choosing photography for this exhibition is suitable, as the medium is able to provide actual historical recordings. The artists in this exhibition employ various methods in working, from cameras using analog films, to digital as well as mobile phone cameras.
All the photographs exhibited here include images of historical buildings in Bandung. But these images are reworked according to the point of view of the artist, so that they depict particular issues that the artist deems to be important, thereby creating works that go beyond documentary purposes.
The history of Art Deco is part of Bandung’s identity, and failure to preserve them will lead to their disappearance from the minds of the city’s inhabitants. In a way, this exhibition marks Sarasvati’s efforts in preventing further historical amnesia. We must remember that buildings in a city bear witness to its history, and by abandoning them then we are erasing its history from our memory.
The 9 artists involved in the exhibition show various aspects of Art Deco. In a work titled Stairway, Sandy Wijaya represents the interior spaces of Gedung Pos, where lines that form the stairway strongly depict the Art Deco style. Willi, in his work Menunggu Waktu, conveys the existence of historical buildings in Bandung among rampant urban development. The works exhibited here are widely varied, and display the many faces of Art Deco that remain in Bandung today.
A number of the artists also employ digital manipulation in creating new images that are beyond mere representation. This makes the exhibition more than a nostalgic event. It is hoped that the exhibition may revive the history of Bandung as a modern city, and show how this history correlates with the identity of Bandung as a city that is undergoing continuous development.