Indonesian Visual Art Archive
Other independent libraries in Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta, or Jogja, as it is called by locals, is branded as a city of art and culture in Indonesia. It hosts the largest art institute in the country and numerous active alternative art spaces; it agglomerates most of the artists in Indonesia, both established and young aspiring ones, living there and working on their creations. More than this, Jogja is a base for the Indonesia Visual Art Archive (IVAA), which is playing an important role to documenting Indonesian contemporary art...

I was in Jogja from 21 to 25 July to visit this unique organization. Formerly called Cemeti Art Foundation (CAF), IVAA is a registered non-profit organization set up as a documentation centre to collect, preserve, and make information of contemporary art (particularly Indonesian art) publicly accessible through its library. It is one of the very few organizations with whom AAA shares a similar nature and interest. The purpose of my trip was to understand their management and operation, and to get an update on their activities, since the last visit by AAA was in 2004. Besides IVAA, I also visited three counterparts of IVAA; members of ‘BIBLIO’, a network of independent, non-profit libraries in Jogja that consists of 40 members holding collections with specialized themes.

Indonesian Visual Art Archive

IVAA was founded under the name Cemeti Art Foundation in 1995, and was a development of Cemeti Art House, by then Cemeti Art Gallery. The idea to establish this non-profit organization came from the owners, the artist couple Nindityo Adipurnomo and Mella Jaarsma. At the time, the gallery had expanded its activities, and the couple saw a need for another institution independent from the gallery to manage them. The Cemeti Art Foundation was therefore established with objectives to develop contemporary art and other related genres in Indonesia, to hold exchange programs for Indonesian artists, to facilitate the role of artists with the public, to provide information services, and to document the Indonesian art scene [1]. Even though the two organizations were structurally independent, the two similar names containing ‘Cemeti’ confused the public. To stop the persistent misunderstandings, a new name was adopted.  

On my arrival at IVAA, I met with Farah Wardani, Executive Director of IVAA, also a curator and critic, and then with Tovic Dwi Raharjo, IVAA Librarian, who introduced me to the library collection. The collection is made up of 8000 items in various formats, ranging from textbooks to clippings and catalogues. There is a collection of artist folders, which is one of the early collections of the library, documenting the creative processes of selected artists. Each folder includes information such as CVs, work concept, visions, press releases, etc. Right now, there are 163 profiles of artists that are constantly and actively updated by the archive. Like AAA, IVAA is also engaged with producing audio visual documentation of events in Indonesia. I also spoke to Pitra Ayu, Research and Documentation Program Developer, the planner behind IVAA’s documentation role. She shared with me their 2-year plan for their online archiving project. One of the main tasks under the project is to develop an Online Public Access Cataloguing (OPAC) system which makes cataloguing records of library collection searchable and some digital materials online deliverable. The whole plan involves building up keywords, digitizing materials, and a lot of indexing and cataloguing. I will be looking forward to updates on this project, which definitely moves IVAA a big step forward.

While collection keeps growing, a question immediately follows: how to make the best use of the collection? The IVAA research team definitely knows how. A program C-Cinema was launched last year to review the existing audio visual collection and categorize them into several themes. The project aims to produce a documentary film with the collection. To promote the collection to the public, programs such as book discussions, writing workshop and screenings are organized.

When talking about users with Farah Wardani, she told me an interesting phenomenon at IVAA. Students with backgrounds in communication, cultural studies or sociology consult the library collections more often than art students. It points to a common saying about artists — they prefer expressing to reading. The question then is how to encourage our artist friends to use the collection? Farah hopes that by developing IVAA as a hub for artists, the collection will get wider exposure. IVAA have organized some workshops and courses conducted by artists that allow them to be more involved with IVAA’s environment. Also, there is a mini gallery beside the library where exhibitions can be presented. During my stay in Jogja, it happened that a solo exhibition was being set up at the gallery and I was even able to attend the opening on my last night in Jogja. The solo exhibition featured a Bali-based artist, I Made Aswino Aji. The opening attracted artists, curators and staff working at different art spaces in Jogja. It was an enjoyable night with artworks, live music, and screenprinting of the artist’s work on T-shirts!

Other independent libraries in Yogyakarta

Not only does IVAA affiliate with art groups, but it also networks with other independent non-profit libraries in Jogja through the network “BIBLIO”, which is comprised by 40 members. Most of the member libraries are specialized in a particular theme and subordinated to a community group. They play a role to support the programs and research of their group, and they also open their collection for the public to use. Besides regular meetings, the network organized an exhibition in March 2007 in which members presented their collections about women.

I was quite amazed by the number of independent special libraries in Jogja. I visited 3 library members from the network, Kunci Cultural Studies Archive, Teater Garasi (for theatre and performing arts), and Rumah Sinema (for cinema). And all mentioned to me that information from their particular interests was not easily found. Ferdy Thajib, the committee member from Kunci, told me there are only 2 public libraries in Jogja but their collections are too general and not updated enough. I was told that information updates are not satisfactory even at the university library. Because the government doesn’t offer much support to art and culture, these small independent groups have established their own libraries and share the contents with others with the same interests. A name very often mentioned to me while visiting these libraries was HIVOS, which is a non-governmental foundation based in Holland with a mission to offer financial support to other NGOs in developing countries. HIVOS supports the three libraries mentioned here, and also IVAA in various ways; some are yearly grants, and some are project based [2]. 

Despite limitations on resources, these three organizations are active and passionate and in no doubt enrich the cultural infrastructure of Jogja. I would like to briefly introduce them in this column as well:

Kunci Cultural Studies Archive is right next to Rumang Mes 56, an alternative art space in Jogja focusing on photography. The collection of 1496 items in Kunci is concerned with socio-cultural studies. Books available there include subjects of philosophy, gender, anthropology, sociology, mass media and communication, literature, and cultural studies. Kunci was founded in 1999. The idea of founding a library came from four founding committee members who thought of sharing their personal collections with others of the same interest. Besides being a library, Kunci is also active in making publications and organizing a regular book discussion program. Last year, a project of community history was organized. Participants in the project reviewed their family history through various activities organized by Kunci.

Teater Garasi was founded in 1993 as a theatre group in a campus. It later became an independent non-profit group in 1999. With seven full-time staff, Teater Garasi primarily works on performance, education programs, training workshops and research. The library of Teater Garasi started in 2002 and was opened to the public in 2005. The library primarily aims to provide information to support their activities and share their specialized collection with other practitioners. The collection keeps developing on the basis of their research projects.

Rumah Sinema has its special interest in cinema, particularly for films made in Jogja. More than keeping printed documentations, the film group houses a collection of around 100 films in DVD format made by other film communities in Jogja and films set in Jogja. The printed documentation in the collection are primarily books and news clippings to support their programs, which include education workshops for teachers, a media literacy program for teenagers, and a filmmaking workshop based on studies of visual anthropology for university students.

During this visit, I was impressed by the initiative of these alternative libraries. Yogyakarta has more than artists and art spaces. It’s also a city for alternative libraries and archives like IVAA that can preserve documentation, and make information available for sharing. They definitely solidify the city’s reputation in terms of art and culture.

1. From the prologue written by Nuraini Juliastuti in Folders: 10 Years of Documentation Work by Cemeti Art Foundation, 2007, IVAA, Yogyakarta.

2. The organization has received a grant from HIVOS since 1996. 2009 is the last year of the grant, so IVAA began their annual fundraising plan, Bookaid, in 2007.



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