How can disabled artists run a creative process both individually and collectively during this pandemic?
How can they maintain collaborations with non-disabled artists through creative endeavours?
In the “Netas / Incubate” project, Butong Idar and Nano Warsono from Jogja Disability Arts (ID) joined forces with Andrew Bolton and Lisa Tann from UK’s Disability Murals. This project involved mural artists from Indonesia and the UK to seek the answers posed by the above questions via mural projects in both countries.
Check out our conversation with Butong and Nano on the highs and lows they experienced over the course of this project and their key takeaways from the experience!
How was your project overall?
All in all, this project went according to the plans in our timeline. There were definitely some challenges, but we made do with them during the collaboration process. With the pandemic on top of it all, we simply had to roll with the punches.
How did the collaboration work?
We were very understanding of one another during this endeavour. It goes without saying that we as JDA and Disability Murals faced our respective issues during the process, in terms of building ideas together, establishing a sustainable partnership as well as empowering ourselves and other disabled artists to ensure development and create a wider network of disabled artists.
Is there any insights to share from the collaboration?
We learned many new things from working on this project. There were definitely some unpredictable moments during the creative process and feelings of uncertainty about the outcome of the work. So we constantly tried to bring different elements together and come up with a sense of harmony from our collective work that happened in different places. This means that our work was carried out both separately and collectively. As for Disability Murals, there was a lot of brainstorming of ideas and insights that were contextualized to our respective conditions in Indonesia and the UK.
What were the changes or roadblocks as you go along with your grant?
The planning stages of this project took place in January 2021. As this was earlier in the year and we didn’t receive new funds until March, this prompted us to come up with a timeline and be adjustable with the previously designed schedule.
Is there any new and innovative ways of working that you experienced for the first time?
A mural project was an exciting challenge for us, especially when done with other disabled artists. Technical issues were the first challenge. The second was describing and delegating tasks among us so as to make sure our pieces were worth displaying to the public. This became a learning curve for us to involve artists at different capacities in this project as well as not to force these artists past their limit but instead to maximize our individual capacities and come up with a genuinely collaborative work.
What are you looking forward to now?
Our biggest hope is for a continuity to this collaboration as well as to working with other UK artists, all in the name of boosting disabled arts.
Is there any new potential project/collaboration that you wanted to explore with the UK?
We hope for a sustainable collaboration beyond this project, meaning that we would like to carry out other projects that involve disabled artists or are related to the arts in general. If possible, by the end of this year, we will organize an art exhibition, which we hope will happen annually. We are also on the lookout for a biennale that could facilitate the works of disabled artists, both from Indonesia and outside of the country. We also hope to stay in touch with our UK friends and to have them send their works to us, which then will be displayed at the event.
How did you meet with your UK counterpart and where did you meet them for the first time?
At present, we are seeking UK artists from the database of Disability Arts Online. Some profiles have intrigued us, and we will make sure to select artists from this database and get in touch with them directly via e-mail.
How did you build a sense of trust between two collaborators (from Indonesia and the UK) while conducting the online project together?
To us, the most important thing is sharing the same vision. In this project, both of our organizations operate in the field of arts with a focus on disabled artists. Therefore, there’s a lot of concern about negotiating how these artists’ works could be showcased to a larger public. This is our main vision and mission, and the underlying spirit that brought us together in the first place.
The second most important thing is intensive communication. We attempt to have more of this, whether via e-mail or phone call, with our collaborators in hopes of bringing us closer and having a better understanding of the situations in the UK and Indonesia, since we realize that international collaborations are full of unpredictable happenstances. Another thing that played a major role in our collaboration is the more personal aspect of it, such as when a Disability Murals member experienced a loss within their family or a personal illness. This allowed us to foster more empathy and made us realize that our collaboration should not be confined to a rigid structure but instead carried out more humanely.
About the Collaborators
Sukri Budi Dharma (Butong Idar)
Butong Idar lives in the province of Yogyakarta. Butong is a disability art activist (daksha). Currently Butong is the chairman of Jogja Disability Arts. Active in several art activities together with disabilities and non-disabled people. In 2019 he was selected in the UK "Disability Arts learning Residencies" programme organised by the British Council Indonesia.
Nano Warsono M.A.
Lecturer at the fine arts study program at the Indonesian Art Institute, Yogyakarta. He is a mural artist, painter, sculptor, alternative comic. Currently he is the Head of Upt Galeri RJ. Katamsi Indonesian Art Institute Yogyakarta. Apart from being an observer, he is active in supporting activities and the development of disability arts in Yogyakarta.
Andrew is a mural painter who recently led the Disabiliyu Murals project in several cities around the UK.
Lisa specialises in working with young people with profound multiple impairments.