positive 2020 developments on the Bali art & cultural landscape

Exciting additions to the Bali art and cultural infrastructure in Mas, Ubud: Bersama Alternative Space, Njana Tilem Museum, Black Hand Gang & Titik Dua.

The unravelling of global socio-political and economic events defines 2020 as the most extraordinary in modern history. Meanwhile, Bali’s tourism sector is in crisis due to the closing of international borders and travel restrictions implemented by world governments due to the Covid19 pandemic.

The decimation of tourism impacts significantly upon the island’s population, and upon Bali’s art economy. Over 70% of the island’s residents are dependent on the tourism economy. There is, however, good news! Recent advances in the Bali art, cultural and creative infrastructure, especially in Ubud, point towards a positive future. In the Mas district, to the south-east of Ubud, exciting developments have introduced new world-class venues into the region which complement the other art and cultural features of the area. These unique venues offer enormous potential to the Bali and Indonesian creative communities, and beyond to the domestic and international visitors who will return to the island post-pandemic. Meanwhile, these development generate much-needed employment opportunities for the residents of Bali.

Mas has its own unique history. The culturally significant tradition of wood carving for religious purposes dates back to the 16th-century. The legendary East Javanese Hindu priest Dang Hyang Nirartha came to Bali from the royal courts of Blambangan in 1537 becoming the chief counsellor to the Gelgel king Dalem Baturenggong. Nirartha was the founder of the Ciwa Buda priesthood in Bali.

Upon the main thoroughfare between Sukawati to Ubud, Jalan Raya Mas has undergone a rapid transformation during the past five years. Once overshadowed by the distinctions of Ubud, Mas now has an array of stunning cultural and creative venues that consolidate its presence upon the landscape—at the same time, reinforcing the Gianyar regency as the art and cultural epicentre of Bali.

Njana Tilem Museum

During the 1930s Mas gained the reputation as Bali’s creative hub for traditional woodcarving. The most famous woodcarvers from the village being Ida Bagus Njana (1912-1985) and his son Ida Bagus Tilem (1936-1993). Njana was a highly innovative, multi-talented artist, and became internationally renowned for his wood cravings. Tilem followed in his father’s footsteps, yet forged his individual path of innovation. The Njana Tilem Gallery opened in 1960, Tilem’s dream, however, was to create a museum for woodcarving.

The Njana Tilem Museum opened in January 2018, two kilometres north of the Njana Tilem Gallery in Mas. Tilem’s son, Ida Bagus Alit Suryadi oversaw the museum construction, taking fifteen years to complete. Set across a beautiful 15,000 square meter site, the museum features two large buildings. There is an exhibition/events pavilion with a downstairs café and restaurant and the main museum pavilion displaying the collection and including the reception and administration facility.

“The museum is systematically arranged to achieve the most educational and enjoyable visitor experience,” said Alit Suryadi. “The visitors enter thematic display areas that circumnavigate the building, creating a fascinating aesthetic and narrative experience.” The museum highlights the outstanding collections of both Njana and Tilem, including some of their most iconic and beautiful carvings and distinct innovations. The presentation is complimented by some of their design being interpreted by other woodcarvers of the region.

“The art and cultural activities we will present when tourism is again open will focus upon human development and well-being,” said Alit Suryadi. “The elements behind this program to achieve well-being is through four distinct supporting pillars of food, mindset, habit and recreation, which all need to be balanced within an individual. When in balance the opportunities for positive lifestyles and creative potential can be maximised.” The array of future events will include art exhibitions for children and adults, workshops and regular cultural activities that draw from the depth of the Balinese Buddhist-Hindu culture and its philosophical wisdom.

Njana Tilem Museum Jl. Raya Mas No.162, Mas, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali Phone: +62 (0361) 980707 Open: Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 AM – 05.00 PM Instagram @njanatilem Facebook: njanatilemmuseum http://www.njanatilemmuseum.com

Black Hand Gang

Black Hand Gang Studio & artworks by Kuncir, Kemalezedine, Eddie Hara & Arahmaiani

“Indonesian contemporary art is rich, with enormous potential – now feels like a breakthrough time for the art scene.  We know the printmaking landscape well, yet feel it is underrepresented in the Indonesian art infrastructure,” said Lina Nata, Managing Director of Black Hand Gang, an exciting new print making studio that opened in June 2020.

Situated opposite Rumah Sakit Ari Canti (Ari Canti Hospital) on Jalan Raya Mas, Black Hand Gang (B.H.G.) introduces a unique and significant new dimension to the Bali art infrastructure. The world class facility enables artists to learn new skills to enhance and develop their creativity, to reinterpret and express their ideas afresh, while offering hand-made, art pieces for sale via the B.H.G e-commerce platform.

“Our vision is to be at the forefront of a new wave of affordable original print art from Indonesia to the world.  Our goal is to create the dream team. This is a combination of the facility, our studio crew, the artists, eco-friendly printing, high quality work, opportunities for international travel and collaboration, a platform for sharing along with successful commerce,” stated Lina.  “Bali is full of creative Indonesians, and internationals, and we want to initiate a project to disrupt the mass-tourism that is gentrifying so many areas. Ubud is well known as the historical center of the arts, yet we feel that’s often a ‘nostalgic’ perception.  We want to change this perception and be a part of re-establishing Ubud + (contemporary) art.” 

The B.H.G venue combines a Javanese teak wood joglo building, that functions as a second level co-working space and upcycled shipping containers that house the printing studio below. At the front of the venue is Re-Edit Space, a community gathering area, café and bar which hosts regular film screenings, exhibitions and live music and DJ performances.

“We are environmentally conscious towards our printing processes and waste management. We avoid hazardous materials utilised in conventional printmaking using low odour solvents and water based inks.” Lina adds. 

Studio director and print master Devy Ferdianto coordinates all B.H.G creative activities. A graduate from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in West Java, Devy also studied in art institutions in Germany and Canada. The studio collaborates with the artists to produce signed, limited edition prints, complete with a certificate of authenticity. B.H.G invites established and emerging Indonesian contemporary artists, along with guest Internationals, to collaborate. Renowned Indonesian artists who have worked with B.H.G are Eddie Hara and Arahmaiani, while the list of exciting emerging Balinese artists include Kuncir and Degeha.

To expand the knowledge and growth of the printmaking phenomenon in Indonesia B.H.G’s regular programme of workshops and courses open to the public and artists will ensure the growing popularity and appreciation of the medium.

Black Hand Gang Jl. Raya Mas, MAS, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali Open: Monday – Saturday 10:00 AM – 18:00 PM Phone: (+62) 085823129945 http://www.blackhandgang.id Instagram @blackhandgang.id

Bersama Alternative Space

The Tony Raka Art Gallery over the past two decades has been one of the most prominent contemporary art galleries on Bali. Formerly known as the Raka Gallery, Tony’s father initially opened it in 1968. 2020 begins a new chapter in the gallery’s evolution with Bersama Alternative Space. Set over 5000 square meters at the rear of Tony’s gallery, Bersama is the culmination of years of planning. It introduces the vision and energy of the third generation of the family.

Highlighted by two physical structures – traditional Javanese teak wood buildings – Bersama Alternative Space includes pockets of tropical and vegetable gardens, sprawling grass areas, and beautiful views to the southwest across rice fields.

“Bersama Alternative Space will utilize art and creativity to encourage a culture of collaboration across disciplines.  It aims to trigger a deeper inquiry into the world we live in,” said Uma Pudakwangi, Tonyraka’s daughter and Project Development Manager of Bersama. “Our mission is to provide a space for inspired interaction and exchange between individuals and local communities, and to facilitate events and regenerative programs that bridge cultures, generations, and people.”     

“The nature of the projects we will create will come from our current process of listening to and learning from the needs of individuals and communities within and outside Bali’s art and creative environment. The knowledge we are gaining from this will help us to develop ideas on how to help different communities collaborate in creative ways. These will come in the form of Bersama Projects that approach complex problems with creative solutions made together.”

“The essence of our work involves a process that recognizes and re-interprets traditional knowledge in a modern context that would be of tangible value to these communities,” Uma explains.  “Our long-term goal is to create a flexible model and framework that will allow for the fundamentals of this process to be openly applied and re-interpreted all around Indonesia.”

Calling upon her vast experience as an international artist and activist, renowned Indonesian female contemporary artist Arahmaiani has for the past year been working with the Bersama team. She has been helping fine-tune their vision and build networks.  Recognized for her powerful and provocative social, political, and cultural commentaries, and a pioneering Southeast Asian performance artist, Arahmaiani has contributed to art and environmental projects around the world. She has over the past decade been collaborating with Buddhist monks and villagers on the Tibetan plateau region to foster greater ecological consciousness through an array of ongoing community projects.

‘Pasar Bersama’ 3 October 2020, was the premiere event at Bersama Alternative Space. It featured a community market supporting Bali based businesses, artists and creative workshop facilitators. The family-friendly afternoon/evening included live music by Jeko Fauzy Trio and Moonglade, an art exhibition, a selection of food, and market stalls. The distinct atmosphere of the venue enhanced the relaxing experience; people lazed about upon large traditional grass mats while enjoying the ambience. Post-Covid lockdown on Bali, the community enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to socialize while harmonizing with nature.

Bersama Alternative Space Jl. Raya Mas No.86, MAS, Ubud, Open: 11AM Phone0812-3812-1360 Instagram: @bersmaspace http://www.bersamatonyraka.com

Titik Dua

Situated one kilometre south of the Teges intersection of Jalan Raya Mas, Titik Dua, is a stunning architecturally designed hotel and events facility! A new landmark in Ubud for the design-conscious, it is a must-see and experience. “We were inspired to open Titik Dua in Ubud as it is the most suitable area to blend art, design, and hospitality”, said Titik Dua General Manager Saraswati Hamid. “Our vision is of a hospitality platform that supports, connects, and enables creative leaders to manifest their visions to impact upon the Indonesian community.”

“Architect Andra Matin combines contemporary design with tradition to reflect Bali as an urban destination. Red bricks, iconic to Balinese temples and official buildings create a distinct sense of place. The black surfaces and iron infrastructure introduce the industrial aesthetic creating a powerful contrast,” Sarawati states. Fusing with large pools of water and evergreen garden spaces Titik Dua appears to be bursting up from the ground, yet balanced within nature. Eye-catching, with striking design aspects through the four-storey structure wandering through the building, is a sensory delight.

“As a blank canvas for all local talents, where they can explore their full potential, Titik Dua wishes to become an intercultural bridge between the leaders and talents. A vehicle to bring Brand Indonesia to the world,” Saraswati said.

Titik Dua’s inaugural happening 16 October 2020, ‘Curated the Sun’ by P.E.S.O.N.A was attended by Bali’s creative community from as far as Tabanan and Canggu. A photography exhibition by Nadia Razak, Putu Sayoga, Muhammad Fadli, Ruben Pangabean, Pierre Zylstra and Nikolas Astra, the diversity of works include cultural and landscape imagery. The Denpasar creative collective P.E.S.O.N.A curates an array of events the continue until 9 November. They have composer Dewa Alit and Gamelan Salukat, the Garatuba Short Residential experimental sound lab with Rolfast, an after-party by the Titik Dua pool Senja by Paddygrooves, an audiovisual showcase ‘Psikomotorik’ presented by Artivak & Fraktal. The final evening is Ngarumrum Tembang Bali Sareng presented by the renowned Balinese dancer, artist and academic, Professor I Made Bandem.

“As a hospitality compound, we aim to be the leading creative boutique hotel with an all-in-one open and inspiring space for creative interactions,” adds Saraswati. “We wish to provide opportunities for individuals and collectives so they may rise and go international, presenting Indonesia’s ingenuity to the global sphere.”

Titik Dua Jalan Cok Rai Pudak No.48, Peliatan, Ubud. Phone: (0361) 975139 http://www.titikdua.id Instagram: titikduaubud

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: Nyana Tilem Museum, Black Hand Gang, Bersama Alternative Space, Titik Dua & Richard Horstman

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