THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOUND ART IN BANDUNG
by Bob Edrian(curator)*
"Sound art is not music, but it the ‘art’ of sound itself as a medium which on its turn puts sound as the main subject. The element of ‘sound’ in sound art could be obtained through spoken words as well as electronic devices or anything that would divert our auditory perception.." (Aminudin TH. Siregar, 2007)11
Aminudin TH Siregar’s statement above was quoted from a sound art exhibition introduction text he curated together with Koan Jeff Baysa (New York, USA) in 2007, titled 'Good Morning : City Noise!!! Sound Art Project'. This exhibition, which lasted around for a month (February 14 – March 9) was held in Soemardja Gallery ITB and involved 24 artists from various countries. Aminudin revealed that this exhibition was an attempt to steal a development of art that wasn’t popular even in developed countries during the time. 12
By naming a few activities such as the works of Heri Dono 13 titled Animal Journey in the Sounding Sphere event at Harima, Japan (1997), a showcase of Noise Community by Haryo ‘Yose’ Suyoto at Cemeti Art House, Yogyakarta (1999), as well as a sound installation by Manami Nishi at Kedai Kebun, Yogyakarta (2000), Hendro Wiyanto in his critical writing published in Kompas daily newspaper, questioned the effort of taking the development of sound art conducted by Aminudin through the 'Good Morning: City Noise!!! Sound Art Project exhibition'. To him, within the scope of Indonesian art, there aren’t enough 'peseni bunyi’(sound artists) that is deemed to be ‘sufficient’to understand the medium of sound art, as Hendro continued, “The sound art exhibition at Soemardja Gallery should be able to explain better the base of the interests of our sound artists who were invited to participate. The interest or the desire of the curator alone is certainly never enough to create a project that can create a “noise”."14
At the time Hendro Wiyanto’s criticism was entirely reasonable, given the absence of upcoming sound art exhibitions after Good Morning: City Noise!!! Sound Art Project exhibition. It wasn’t until in 2011, four years later, that an art exhibition focusing on sound art reappeared, this time only as a part of a new media art festival, Nu Substance, which was organised by Common Room Bandung. The Festival which lasted for five years (2007 – 2012) included the explorations within the area of electronic music and new media art. Pameran Seni Bebunyian:Derau (Sound Art Exhibition:Derau) (2011) held in Studio Rosid,
Bandung, became the next exhibition to explore sound art. Included as a part of the Nu Substance festival under the theme of Polarities, the Common Room describes this exhibition as one of their experimentation and exploration of sound that they have done from several years back, “Within the past years, Common Room activists who are members of several communities do a lot of experimentation and exploration of sound, consciously or not.”
True, “consciously or not”, because although Derau became Common Room’s first attempt to use the term seni bebunyian, the event related to the exploration of sound could actually be traced back since the Nu Substance festival in 2007, or event in the early years of Common Room’s establishment (in 2001, where Common Room was originally named as Bandung Center of New Media Arts initiated by Gustaff H Iskandar, RE Hartanto, and Reina Wulansari). Nu Substance festival in 2007 included 'Experimental Instrument Exhibition', 'Hardware/Instrumen/Gadget Experimental' exhibition and workshop held in the second Nu Substance (2008) under the theme of Creative Media, the Exhibition of Video and Interactive Installation in the third Nu Substance (2009) with the theme Resonance, and the fourth Nu Substance (2010) with the theme Floating Horizon which featured the Assembling 8-Step Sequencer Synthesizer Workshop by Evan (STORN), as well as The Loss of the Real exhibition.
Tracing the development of sound art is still challengin to do given the actors of sound experimentation, especially in the city of Bandung, may not be aware of the rising phenomenon of the medium in the sound’s exploration. The examples above are no other than general descriptions through platforms such as exhibitions or festivals that might have developed and resulted something called an awareness of sound.
In smaller regions, in terms of individual, the city of Bandung has spawned several artists who are often categorized as sound artists, such as Duta Hardono, Bagus Pandega, to younger generations such as Etza Meisyara and Haikal Azizi. In fact, these names are still under the sphere of visual arts. Given the vast spectrum of the study of sound art, several names under the realm of music such as Harry Roesli, Dodong Kodir, to Bottlesmoker needs to be investigated further.
In addition to the existing exhibitions, festivals, as well as individuals, infrastructures such as galleries or alternative spaces in Bandung holds a significant role in the development of the notion of sound art. Other than Soemardja Gallery ITB which facilitated the sound art exhibition in 2007, Gerilya Space facilitated the 5 Seniman, Suara, Ruang exhibition in 2013, Garasi 10 held the SADA : Soundscape presentation of 1950s Bandung (2010), Platform3 and Lawangwangi Creative Space accommodated the Salon Vol.1 (2015) and Vol. 2 (2016), to Selasar Sunaryo Art Space which organized the solo exhibition of Duto Hardono, Good Love Bad Joke (2010), where the exhibition one of his works called Loop Study No. 1:Uber Feedback, as well as currently planning to organize the sixth edition of Bandung New Emergence with sound art as its specific theme this year, in November 2016.
The explanation of the symptoms on the exploration of sound above would hopefully illustrate how far sound art as a medium has developed and flourished in the city of Bandung. With the increasing number of events highlighting the element of sound as its central aspect recently, it is possible that Bandung would be one of the cities in Indonesia with the most rapid development in sound art medium.
*Bob Edrian | An independent curator with a focus on the development of sound in the arts and media art, he was awarded the 2016 Curatorial Research Grant funded by Selasar Sunaryo Art Space and the Sidharta Aboejono Martoredjo (SAM) Fund for Arts and Ecology. Additionally, he was selected as a participant in the Para Site Workshops for Emerging Art Professionals 2018 in Hong Kong. His recent work has been featured in "The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sound Art" (2020), published by Bloomsbury Publishing, London. He has been acknowledged as one of the thinkers for Apollo Magazine's "40 Under 40 Asia Pacific" in 2022.
11. Siregar, Aminudin TH. 2007. “Seni (rupa) Bebunyian dalam Good Morning: City Noise!!!”, in exhibition catalogue Good Morning: City Noise!!! Sound Art Project. Bandung: Galeri Soemardja.
12. Wiyanto, Hendro. 2007, 4 Maret. Perkara Suara: Selamat Pagi, Seni Bunyi.... Kompas, page 29.
13. Heri Dono is the only contemporary Indonesian artist who has been invited to the Venice Biennial curated exhibition (2003). His awards include the Dutch Prince Claus Award for Culture and Development (1998), the UNESCO Prize (2000), and the Anugerah Adhikarya Rupa (Visual Arts Award) from the Indonesian government (2014). He has participated in more than 300 exhibitions and 35 international biennales include Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2018), Bangkok Art Biennale (2018), the 56th Venice Biennale: Voyage-Trokomod, (2015), the 50th Venice Biennale in the Arsenale’s Zone of Urgency (2003), Guangzhou Triennial (2011); Gwangju Biennale (2006 and 1995); Sharjah Biennial (2005); Taipei Biennial (2004); Venice Biennale (2003); Asia Pacific Triennial (2002 and 1993); Yokohama Triennial (2001); Havana Biennial (2000); Shanghai Biennale (2000); Sydney Biennale (1996); São Paolo Biennial (2004 and 1996).
15. Resmadi, Idhar. 2012. “Nu Substance 2011/Polarities”, in Nu Substance, page 147. Bandung: Common Room Networks Foundation.