Friday, February 13, 2009

Interview: Tromarama

Tromarama is a collective including Febie Babyrose (1985 Jakarta, Indonesia,) Herbert Hans Maruli (1984 Jakarta, Indonesia) and Ruddy Alexander Hatumena (1984, Bahrain). Formed in 2004 and based in Bandung and Jakarta, Tromarama has been interested in contemporary urban culture, inserting itself beyond the art scene into the larger cultural fabric of Bandung. I saw their work Serigala Militia (actually a music video for the thrash metal band Seringai) at the 2008 Singapore Biennial. I was captivated by the rawness of the image, a stop-motion animation where the actual process of the carving of the wooden boards is taken as a theme in itself, along with the inking of the boards, exposing the process of woodcut in all of its directness and materiality. Tromarama has since produced other videos in the same technique but not print-related, as well as several editioned multiples.

The following interview was done via email.

J. Roca.

Jose Roca: Why did you choose woodcut as the medium for the video Serigala Militia?

Tromarama: We felt that the woodcut medium suited best to represent the character and attitude of the band, and also the roughness of the music.

Had you worked before with other printing techniques?

T: Nope, this is our first time combining printmaking technique with stop-motion animation.

JR: But you have done multiples and other editioned work, right? Why?

T: We hadn’t done any multiples and other editioned work before the Serigala Militia Video. Serigala Militia was our first video, and it was not a difficult choice for us to use a printmaking technique in it. We did the video while we are studying at Bandung Institute of Technology, Faculty of Visual Art and Design. Studying different majors, Febie was in the printmaking studio. Herbert studied visual communication design, focusing in advertising. Ruddy studied visual communication design, focusing in graphic design. Many printmaking techniques were a part of our daily life at campus. Even though we come from different majors, you just can’t separate graphic design and printmaking. Some people have said that graphic design is applied printmaking. You can’t separate graphic design history from Gutenberg, the father of mass-production printmaking. Printmaking had a big influence in our works not only visually but also in the number of editions for our videos, which are produced in a specific numbered edition -a common thing in printmaking.

JR: How would you describe the current local scene you work in?

T: We studied, live and work in Bandung, a small city full of Do-It-Yourself spirit. This ethos was triggered by the big economic crisis back in 1998. When everything got very expensive, people tried to produce things by themselves. There are many local bands trying to make their own CDs, and many independent record labels supporting the local music industry. Economic crisis drives creativity in this town. We can see the emergence of many local clothing companies, as a result of the crisis. When people can’t afford imported clothes and apparel, they try to produce their own. Bandung is a city well known by the creativity of its people. People here appreciate differences and are very open to all kind of new things happening. Maybe the existence of three art schools in Bandung helps people to be more welcoming with new, creativity-driven events. Video is already quite common in Indonesia as a new media in contemporary art. People can see video art in galleries and also at screenings initiated by art communities, whose intention is to introduce the video art itself to a larger public. Furthermore, this is a way for local artists can develop their art so that it can be enjoyed by many without decreasing the meaning of the work itself.

JR: You were recently invited to the Singapore Biennial. Where you able to establish ties with other artists of the region and beyond?

T: After the Biennale, we did not establish ties with artists from other countries, but some curators contacted us, asking about our work, and possibilities to show our work at their gallery (one of them is you). We are thankful to Pat Binder and Gerhard Haupt from universes-in-universe, for spreading our existence to the world.

JR: What are you planning to do for Philagrafika?

T: We plan to do a stop-motion animation with the etching technique, as well as showing our woodcut video and the whole installation. As with Serigala Militia, the video will also be displayed with all of the etching plates as an installation.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

One Year Off!

Dear friends:
Many have debated on the etymology of the word "curating", with Harald Szeemann providing a long list of tasks for the exhibition organizer: administrator, emphatic lover, writer of forewords, librarian, representative, bookkeeper, entertainer, financial advisor and diplomat—but it ultimately boils down to "selecting". That is, deciding what practices are more precisely addressing the topics one wants to discuss, among many other works and artists that might be equally interesting. Curating is exclusive as much as it is inclusive, because as you select you exclude by necessity many other possibilities that might be equally strong and interesting. That is the difficult task, and in order to be fair you have to try and be as comprehensive in the research process as rigorous when the time comes to make the selection.

After a three-year long process of traveling to more than thirty countries in five continents, and much heated discussion, the curatorial team of Philagrafika selected the artists that will make part of the core show of Philagrafika 2010, titled The Graphic Unconscious. Many more will be participating in parallel shows that are currently being organized by more than 30 partnering institutions. In January 2010 the city of Philadelphia will be the world hub for all things print, with The Graphic Unconscious providing a forum for the discussion on how concepts and processes associated with printmaking—accessibility, democratization, dissemination, multiplicity, repetition—are informing practices as diverse as video, painting, sculpture and performance-based work, all while expanding the realm of printmaking itself.

A year from now, Philagrafika 2010 will be already open to the public. Behind us lies the arduous process of deciding the conceptual framework, identifying themes and trends, traveling to exhibitions and biennials, and making innumerable studio visits. We also consulted the many curators and critics in Philadelphia, colleagues who selflessly shared their contacts with us and gave us thoughtful insights on the project. Ahead of us lies an equally daunting task—especially in the current financial climate: making this exhibition happen. But creativity need not be limited to the curating process, especially in difficult times (remember Szeemann): We are attempting to find alternative ways of financing such a complex show, relying on passionate individuals who are volunteering their time, contacts, efforts, and personal resources that go anywhere from donating airline miles to hosting an artist in their homes—in order to make this happen, something that would be difficult to achieve in a city that does not take brotherly and sisterly solidarity so seriously as our beloved Philadelphia. Many international funding agencies are actively supporting Philagrafika by funding partially or totally an artist's participation, and the artists themselves have been extremely generous with their own time and resources in order for Philagrafika to be successful.

We will be posting interviews with the artists as the process of developing new works for Philagrafika progresses, in order to provide insights on how they view their own practice in reference to print. Keep coming back!

Jose Roca.