Katherine Lenee Bruhn

Southeast Asian StudiesUniversity of California / Berkeley

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2016 IDRF Program

Southeast Asian StudiesUniversity of California / Berkeley

From Sanggar to Ekonomi Kreatif: West Sumatran Artists in Indonesia’s Reinvented Art World

This study tracks the history of Indonesian modern art, examined through the lens of West Sumatran artists and their relationship to new policy discourse centered on the development of a creative economy (or ekonomi kreatif). Following the lead of various nations globally, in 2011, Indonesia established a Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy. This ministry promised job growth, increased GDP, and regional development - to be achieved through the activities and output of 15 creative sectors including fine art. This inclusion, while a seemingly obvious choice, is complicated when one considers what has been a fraught relationship of art to global discourse on creative economy. The diverse application of "creativity" to potential sectors of economic return as diverse as innovation and art raises questions regarding how creativity is defined and measured across sectors and cultural contexts. In order to investigate by what means and with what effects artists and fine art are being integrated into Indonesia's creative economy this study takes as its focus West Sumatran artists because of what appears to be their unique maintenance of a once prevalent form of collective production and support, epitomized by the sanggar tradition or artist workshop - a space that for decades served as a site for both artistic production and the promotion of a discursive community. I hypothesize that today the perceived importance of the sanggar has been replaced by the desire of many artists to promote themselves via individual creative production, a shift that warrants attention and is challenged by a community of West Sumatran artists living in Yogyakarta whose organization suggests a new mediation between individualism and collectivism. Through an examination of this community and its associated members as well as their counterparts back in West Sumatra this study will question what motivates collectivism despite the pressures of a neoliberal climate presumably more interested in economic gains than unique aesthetic expression.