In 1999, Santi Ariestyowanti and Dyatmiko Bawono were a young couple, freshly graduated from the design department of Indonesian Arts Institute in Yogyakarta. At the time, the most common path followed by Yogya design graduates was to move to Jakarta and find work in renowned graphics houses or advertising agencies. But Ariestyowanti and Bawono, who would later marry, insisted on staying in Yogyakarta, where they started their own independent design firm. It was a tough choice that often made them feel like they were undertaking guerilla fighting in the harsh competition within the design scene, and thus chose the name Indieguerillas – a portmanteau formed from the words independent, Indonesia, and guerillas.
Their distinctive design style gained popular appeal when they produced an album cover for local band Sheila on 7, who became a chart-topper, and when they handled the layout of indie magazine OUTMAGZ. These projects led them being invited by Cemeti Art House to participate in their collective exhibitions in 2002. From then on, they began to consciously explorethe art scene more deeply, without leaving their commercial design works behind.
Indieguerillas stands out among others for their consistent style of blending disciplines, often making crossovers between graphic design, media arts, painting and graphic arts. Even though they regularly use digital technologies in their works, they also maintain a special affection for exploring manual techniques with a strong consciousness.“In our works, there are times when we really want to have it done thoroughly manual or handmade, releasing ourselves from the undo-copypaste-delete habits, the instant mentality,”Ariestyowantiexplains. “It can be a liberating process to do things that way, being in touch directly with the object and materials. Photoshop helps us to do a lot of things, but we try to balance it by detaching ourselves from the computers many times.”
The great use of design elements in their handmade works is also part of their awareness of not being specifically trained in fine art disciplines, so they try to integrate and apply their graphic design approach into paintings and other works – also with touches of comics and cartoons.These experiments with disciplines and materials then also led their works to evolve conceptually, by offering plays of iconographies relating to the issues of cultural identity, roots and the globalised generation in Indonesia. This peakedwith the series Fools’lore: Folklore Reload (2008), their solo exhibition at Biasa Art Space, Bali. Here, icons of Javanese arts like wayang puppets blend with bikinis, Pop Art, Japanese Ukiyo-e, marionettes, European comics and many more – all presented in a cheerful yet ironic, adventurous yet contemplative spirit.
Ariestyowanti explains: “There is a strong urge in us to explore our roots, to return or revisit. Everyone here now has become more similar to others, no distinctive character. The same lifestyle, the same products, the same global brands. Who will care about our cultural roots if not ourselves? So we try to make fusions between our globalised self and where we come from. It is like making gateways, hybrid visuals that offer familiar elements on both sides.”
Fools’lore: Folklore Reload cemented Indieguerillas on the map as one of the most prominent emerging contemporary Indonesian art collectives. Following this success, they launched Happy Victim, a series of products, including garments and everyday items, based on similar concepts – the fusion between local and global. The product launch was accompanied by another solo show at Valentine Willie Fine Arts, Singapore, entitled Happy Victims. The phrase stands for their ironic notion of the new generation that often findsitself falling easily into the hands of the new commercial, global commodities. They know they are trapped, but they are happy. For Ariestyowantiand Bawono, it is also a way that they – happy victims themselves – can turn the joke into a reflection.
More recently, they have been traveling extensively. One of their most memorable international experiences was when they were invited by curator Victoria Lu to join the ANIMAMIX Biennial at MOCA Taipei (2009), which also showcased works of artists like Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara. Recently, they returned from a three-month residency at HEDEN, The Hague, with a project that explores relations between cultural history and culinary – entitled: Gastronaut: Eatventure LOOKING FOOD!, which hasn’t been exhibited in Indonesia yet. Now Ariestyowantiand Bawono say they are excited by their upcoming residencies and projects, and are looking forward to new experimentations of blending technologies and ‘old-school’ media. As the ‘happy victims’ of their works, we share their excitement. indieguerillas.com
words by Farah Wardani
source : SURFACE