The 13th edition of Biennale Jogja brings Nigeria and Indonesia together in an exhibition set to explore the possibilities of hacking conflict to create harmony.

The exhibition has an interesting line up of 23 Indonesian artists and 11 Nigerian artists. Some of the Nigerian artists exhibiting are Victor Ehikhamenor, Ndidi Dike, Kainebi Osahenye, Aderemi Adegbite, Emeka Ogboh, Uche Okpa Iroha and Temitayo Ogunbiyi.

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The exhibition is not only about the similarities between Indonesia and Nigeria but also about the contemporary discourses and issues in both countries. Four cities in Nigeria were visited by the biennale team to identify the varying discourses that connects the two countries and the different levels of our plurality. The cities visited were Abuja, Lagos, Abeokuta and Osogbo. The focus of the visit was to research the nature of art practice and artistic interventions in Nigeria, the dynamics of our art and culture and also the economic and socio-economic aspects of the country. The theme of the Equator collaboration was based on their experience and research.

During the visit, Lisistrata Lusandiana, researcher at Yogyakarta Biennale Foundation (organizers of Biennale Jogja) and the curator of Biennale Jogja, Wok The Rock engaged with the public a lot and mostly without assistance. In the process, they noted two words that were often used: ‘republic’ and ‘intervention’. The word ‘republic’ was used almost everywhere, for example, Kalakuta Republic, Cassava Republic, Cellular Republic and there was the fast-food restaurant – Chicken Republic. The word ‘intervention’ was mostly used by artists, cultural figures, writers and authors in their works. These findings formed the basis of the theme of the collaboration especially after connecting the past of the two countries. And why those words are popular in Nigeria.

Both Indonesia and Nigeria are post-colonial countries which have quite similar experiences related to authoritarianism. Both of them were also freed from authoritarian leaders in the 90’s. In the case of Indonesia, the authoritarian regime of New Order in Indonesia was put to an end by unending student demonstration and civil unrest in 1998. In Nigeria, the story was a little bit more ‘unique’. The regime-change / the overthrown of military regime – was initiated by the dominant military force itself. The highest military leader of Nigeria at that time in 1998 – General Sani Abacha suffered an unexpected cardiac arrest. After that, a military officer who was also the Minister of Defence, Major General Abdulsalami Abubakar took over. He then put an end to the military rule by initiating a general democratic election.

It was in this post-military era, that people and the state in both countries started to form and experiment their own ideal democratic systems that would serve them well. This created a disorderly social and cultural infrastructure. Things even got worse when the concept of the nation-state was not clear – a dangerous thing in a country of many traditions, tribes, languages and rich natural resources. Notably, all of these happened in the urge to catch up with other ‘first world’ countries and to become a democratic superpower nation.

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“In practice, the freedom of self-expression – in a country of rich cultures and languages – is a fertile ground for the birth of opposition. Freedom and unity in plurality has become like water and oil; two things that – if not managed well – can be deadly ingredients for harmony. In most cases, conflicts are positioned as something to be avoided and prevented. This approach can lead to a society that is moralist and anti-plurality – to be exact, a symmetrical society.”

The exhibition Hacking Conflict will be staged as a collective working platform with many diverse subjects in the form of activity space (material and immaterial). The space itself will be shaped by the exhibition space, workshop (activity) space, study class, performance stage and a simulative information center. Visitors at the biennale will be asked to join, play, study and collaborate in experimenting with the presented conflicts. The location of the exhibition in itself is an additional element to the chaos that will be staged, as the weather is usually uncertain at this time of the year.

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The BIENNALE JOGJA (BJ) is a festival that focuses on visual art, and has been held every two years since 1988. In 2011, the BJ started using a different strategy in its presentation, in line with a new vision and direction that has been managed by the Yogyakarta Biennale Foundation. The equator series is a strategy that utilizes the line the Equator draws around the globe as a concrete practice in exploring and re-reading the world. “Biennale Jogja XIII: Indonesia Meets Nigeria” is the third part of the BJ Equator series. BJXIII will look at the connection between Jogja (Indonesia) and Nigeria as partner nations who will interpret the same issues, as they share a history of colonization and recent release from military regime. As a biennial event, the BJ XIII will maximize efforts to make this an event in collaboration with the city’s residents. Thus, apart from using Taman Budaya Yogyakarta (Yogyakarta Cultural Park) as an exhibition space, the BJXIII will also use Yogyakarta’s city spaces and surrounds as a site or a creative arena for artists to intervene on local issues. To this end, the main events will include an Art Exhibition, Community Art Projects and the Equator Festival.

Biennale Jogja will run from 1st November to 10th December 2015. The collaboration is co-curated by art historian, artist and critic, Jude Anogwih.

Main Venue: Jogja National Museum, Indonesia.

Visit www.biennalejogja.org for more information.