Art should flow out into the streets. Hong Kong's Micro Galleries launched a few years ago with a mission to make it just so: to push art into smaller, less accessible communities and neighborhoods around the world. Now, they're coming to a Jakarta kampung with nearly 30 artists, activations, interactive installations, tours, talks, workshops, parties and more. Micro Galleries "uses art as a vehicle for positive change, social enquiry and engaged disruption by temporarily inhabiting small pockets of public space and turning them into galleries."
The organization was born in Tai Hang, Hong Kong in 2013 before spreading to other cities: Nowra in Australia, Cape Town, and Bali. The group commissions local and international artists, getting them to take on “disused and forgotten spaces” in overlooked places. Making “lane ways, scraps of forgotten land, ignored walls and unexpected potholes” their canvases, the artists turn neighborhoods into tiny galleries and the residents into consumers of art.
Set to launch on October 6, Micro Galleries’ second event in the city is a follow-up to last June’s Reclaim: Jakarta, a response to the city's Kampung Melayu bus terminal bombings. The organization's Global Artistic Director Kat Roma Greer teamed up with Indonesian curators Aryo Bharata and Isrol Triono to select 29 local artists: they'll exhibit alongside international counterparts at the two-week long open-air arts festival. And they're working directly with #belajaran, a well-regarded community-based organization that has joined forces to help open “galleries” involving four kampungs in Jakarta: Kecil, Meruya, Bekasi, Baru.
We got in touch with the team at Micro Galleries to chat about their mission and the upcoming Jakarta event. Read on for all the good info, and check here for schedule and locations for the October 6-8 launch weekend.
Globetrotter Magazine: Hi, Kat. Can you tell us about Micro Galleries, and what you're up to in Jakarta?
Kat Roma Greer: Micro Galleries is a not-for-profit global arts initiative that reclaims disused and forgotten public spaces and reactivates them as open-air galleries that are free and accessible to the local community. This outdoor arena is reactivated with a form of “urban acupuncture” through free art, workshops and talks, think-tanks and art tours to explore global and local issues between the global and local community.
Over two weeks in October, Micro Galleries together with Belajaran will deliver:
- Open-air galleries with spray, mural, pasted-up and installed works in a designated open-air gallery space
- A Micro Galleries Live Weekend, from October 6 to 8. This live weekend is made up of an opening night celebration, collaborative art projects between Australian and Jakarta artists, live performances, digital and projection work, live music, artist and community talks, workshops series for Belajaran children, guided gallery tours of the works in English and Bahasa and a large-scale free community meal to say thank you.
Globetrotter Magazine: Isrol and Aryo, can you tell us about yourself and your involvement in Micro Galleries Jakarta?
Isrol Triono: I’m a visual artist/street artist from Yogyakarta. I’m the Creative Director of the upcoming Micro Galleries in Jakarta.
Aryo Bharata: I participated at Micro Galleries Bali last 2015, and the spirit of the movement was an exciting thing to see for me. This year, Kat asked me to help out with Micro Galleries Jakarta as Artistic Associate to help curate the submitted artworks and pick out their placements. I also help with setting up the workshop programs and events.
Globetrotter Magazine: What did you look for in your Micro Gallery artists?
Aryo Bharata: I looked for artists from varied backgrounds and mediums in line with the DIY spirit of Micro Galleries.
Isrol Triono: I prioritized the artists who are able to collaborate or start a dialogue with the residents, from wanting to create an interactive installation, collecting books to build a small library and applying a visual artwork on the walls following the workshop with the residents.
Globetrotter Magazine: How is this event related to Reclaim: Jakarta?
Kat Roma Greer: Though Reclaim: Jakarta is not directly related to our main program, and a new spontaneous initiative, the entire premise of Micro Galleries is using art as a vehicle for positive social change, reclamation of public space and curating a better reality. We have been witnessing the impact of how art and artists coming together with communities can make some real, profound and resonant impact and change in communities for nearly five years now. Though sometimes perceived as a small impact, it can ripple into a bigger one. Someone driving near the bombsite would instead associate the area with strength, hope and a positive feeling of their community instead of fear, hopelessness and despondency – and perhaps this would encourage them to act in a way that continued that ideal.
Also, when Micro Galleries selects a destination for their festival for that year, we don’t want to simply appear, put on something and then disappear. We like to get to know the community, create a strong dialogue with them and understanding of their needs and lived experience, and to leave a legacy that can be continued on by those community members. We develop some strong ties and networks wherever we go which is a hugely wonderful thing about being part of this project. Therefore, it’s been very important for us to be involved in Jakarta and the Indonesian community and their experiences, and this felt like such a horrifying, unjust moment for Jakartans that we had to show our support. I was personally present when the bomb [at Sarinah department store] went off on January 14, 2016 and distinctly recall speaking to a taxi driver who asked us if we were scared. When we asked if he was, he said yes, but that they would show resilience and not lose their city and country to fear. We all wanted to show the world that amazing resilience and hope that we have come to know.
Globetrotter Magazine: Are there any particular reasons why you choose Jakarta and not another city in Indonesia?
Kat Roma Greer: I have been visiting Jakarta over the past two years and really love the dynamic, raw energy of the place and the people. I have seen a lot of the spray, wheatpaste and mural street art that has been happening around the city, which is exciting and political and socially aware. Indonesian urban artists are edgy and informed. What was also really exciting for me was learning about the kampungs, their small community base within a thriving metropolis, and the difficult situation many of their community are in - juxtaposed with their hunger to improve things for the next generation and their amazing initiatives and community-based programs. I went and spoke to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta who have been very excited and supportive of the project. Between their support and that of the Australia Indonesia Institute, we felt really confident that a Micro Galleries event in Jakarta would have an amazing impact. We didn’t really select Jakarta over other towns or cities in Indonesia, but with recent social and political issues which are seeming to emanate from Jakarta, it feels timely to be there exploring these issues and placing them on the global playing field.
Globetrotter Magazine: What do you hope to accomplish from this event?
Aryo Bharata: I hope to see a positive change at the communities where the event take place. I hope the workshop will provide the residents with effective knowledge. I hope the atmosphere will be more interesting visually and the people in the communities can go through their days with a brighter mood and much excitement.
Isrol Triono: My hope is that artists’ involvement in the event will bring about communication among the youngsters and the locals through visual education, efficient workshop and experience-sharing between the artists and their surroundings.
Kat Roma Greer: We hope to show the local kampung communities that they can transform their amazing villages into wonderful, dynamic, creative spaces. We hope to expose people to a huge range of art – from urban and street art to contemporary, new media and digital arts. We are aiming to ensure all of these works educate, inform, enquire and provoke as well as providing wonderful pleasure for the community. Through our workshop programs we are intending to facilitate emerging creative leaders and to hand over the role of developing arts initiative for positive change to them. Finally, we hope to showcase local artists and community to the world!
Globetrotter Magazine: How do you see street art in Jakarta right now?
Aryo Bharata: For me, since early 2000s until now, there’s been a lot of growth and regeneration. Some awesome mural, graffiti, paste-up, sticker, etc., artists have been surfacing. I think the existence of annual events help them to develop organically.
Isrol Triono: Street art in Jakarta has developed into a study room at a more spacious “school.” Through street art, youths can express themselves at public spaces, build a creative economy through brand merchandise and even open a drawing supply store that reaches other towns and provinces.
Globetrotter Magazine: How do you see Jakarta’s art scene in the future?
Kat Roma Greer: I feel like Jakartans will not sit idly by and let their city be transformed into something negative. They are passionate and creatively feisty and not afraid to explore issues and express their discontent. The city needs this as many contingents are trying to reduce the tolerant, pluralistic society Jakarta is known for.
There is also a strong focus on empowering, educating and providing opportunities for the next generation. I feel like if Jakarta can harness this it will thrive – socially, politically and artistically!
Globetrotter Magazine: Are there any Indonesian street artists you would recommend?
Aryo Bharata: Well, there are a lot. Almost every time I open Instagram, I will find amazing local artists I never knew before. It’s true that Indonesia has really cool artists! It’s very difficult for me to recommend names. Why not check out the artists at Micro Galleries Jakarta? They’re all awesome!
Click here for schedule and locations for Micro Galleries' October 6-8 launch weekend in Jakarta.