It's April 2016. I am currently in Glasgow, Scotland. I live in Leeds, England which is a four hour drive south.
I am with Richard Clifford who I met whilst in Indonesia last month and we are talking to Irma Chantilly. She works British Council Indonesia and is based in Jakarta but is in Scotland for the weekend. It always feels strange - yet also strangely normal - when you meet up with people you know from a very different context back home. Or when the last time you saw them was in hot and humid warehouse in Bandung.
We are talking about working together. In what way specifically is not that important. What matters is that the conversation is taking place, and it would never have done so without the time spent in Indonesia.
The journey was completely unexpected, happened very fast and was relatively context-less for me as I knew shamefully little about the country. In the end, I flew drove and travelled by train across the island of Java from Jakarta to Yogakarta to Bandung and back. My team at Invisible Flock has been fortunate enough to work abroad a lot over the past couple of years and with distance always comes perspective.
Funding, politics and freedom
Being in Indonesia was inspiring and beautiful in a lot of ways. I am always fascinated to meet artists who work and exist in a stateless manner, who function outside of funded systems and yet continue to create work despite none of the support structures that we rely on so heavily as artists in the UK.
We spent a lot of time talking about funding, much like we do in the UK, and treading the line of where funding, politics and freedom meet. Some of it is still slowly trickling down to work out what I do with it.
In some ways the contexts are so radically different that it feels hard to know what to take from the journey in an applicable way. But despite the differences of techniques and contexts there is a shared end goal of making work that is transformative and affects the people who see or participate in it.
We talked a lot about participatory practice. Here in the UK the word is becoming muddy, overused, expected. In Indonesia it has potency. It still sits on the edge of the art world, audiences not expecting or knowing anything about it, un-jaded.
We visited a video mapping company and they show us their showreel. Big buildings with digital flames lapping at their base. I thought it was just your usual ‘building-falling-down-video-mapping-trick’ but they told us the buildings here did burn down and these are new ones built on top. Art and politics and society suddenly slot together as they show us a packed square full of people watching rapt.
The food was unlike any other and the weather warm, so warehouses could become work spaces without having to worry about the harsh English winters. The streets are crowded, there are mopeds everywhere, and the country’s biggest artists have just built a garden you have to pay to enter to look down onto the rest of the city.
Some things feel like home and some feel very different. We are coming back, at the end of the year, this time with work to show and I am excited as to how it will go.