Arts and Culture
The presentation will discuss the works of Hilda Soemantri (1945-2003), artist and academic from Indonesia, specifically works in her solo exhibition in 1978 at the Taman Ismail Marzuki gallery, Jakarta. The exhibition and the artworks were notable for several reasons: Soemantri was among the first few women artists to have a solo exhibition in the 1970s, and the artworks were highly unconventional. From archival sources we can see that despite using clay as the primary medium, it was no longer as mere vessels or containers; the artist utilised the space around her objects whereby we could identify a manifestation of early installation art in Indonesia.
Soemantri's achievements appeared to be overshadowed by a group of young artists whose art works would later be synonymous with ‘avant-gardism’ in Indonesian art, namely the Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru Indonesia (GSRBI) group (1975-1987). The group's use of found objects and anti-establishment attitude presented a new way of thinking and looking at art during the 1970s in Indonesia. However, discussions on experimental art scene rarely touched on other experimentation outside the mostly male and Bandung-Jakarta centric group.
The presentation shall discuss Soemantri’s relationship to the experimental art scene as well as her position as a newly arrived Indonesian academic from the US, in doing so it shall address several issues: what role does gender play in the reception of experimental art in Indonesia? In what ways did the experimental engage with the medium? And finally, what was the relationship between the experimental scene and academia?