Artist Exercises: Connecting Artist-Educators Across Geographies brings together artists and artist-educators from Asia and the Asian diaspora, and is premised on the creative manner in which artists mediate our experiences. The cohort for this series, formed through an Open Call, has made connections between AAA’s digital archival collections and their own situated contexts and educational environments. The connections range from speculative and personal to directly using archival materials as part of their workshop or programme. While these exercises were attempted with the artist-educator’s longstanding groups of learners in their own contexts, they can be applied in wider contexts and locations.
Located in Bandung, Indonesia, Omnispace is a contemporary art collective focusing on education, knowledge sharing, alternative distribution, and exchange. Their goal is to provide an inclusive space for actors in creative fields and the general public, as well as to create an environment conducive to collaboration while considering the economic value needed to sustain the collective.
Omnispace is a collective located in Bandung, Indonesia. By establishing personal connections with varied groups in the neighbourhoods inhabited by its members, the collective invests in the potential of art to enrich everyday life. This artist exercise engages homemakers through a series of workshops, exploring how art and archiving can be connected to their daily care work, as well as help them find meaning. “Sumur, Dapur, Kasur” is an Indonesian proverb that refers to women who stay home to take care of the family. Sumur (well) is related to hygiene, the self, and the household; dapur (kitchen) is related to cooking and food necessities for the family; and kasur (bed) is related to procreation.
This project is based on Omnispace’s ongoing concern for locating histories of domestic spaces and draws inspiration from the archive of artist Nilima Sheikh. In Sheikh’s paintings and archival materials, emphasis is given to her children through her depiction of domestic scenes. While Sheikh works actively as an artist in the public sphere, she does not shy away from the presence of care work and family in her practice. Rather, she centres it as one of the predominant themes in her paintings. Some artist-members of Omnispace have also recently become mothers, and Sheikh in particular is an inspiration for them to continue their own visual art practice. In a monograph of her practice, Trace Retrace, Sheikh states,
A senior artist friend once said to me, “You paint well, but why do you always put your children in your paintings?” I said to myself, “Why should I not paint domestic scenes and put my children into my paintings? Why should I not make my painting relevant to my life?”
In addition to paintings, Sheikh’s archive also contains notebooks and sketchbooks, and it is evident that note-taking for referencing and documentation is a part of her process. In her notebooks, we see that her pigments are made from materials commonly found in domestic spaces, such as eggshells. In the same notebook, there are recipes for egg tempera and instructions on feeding babies boiled eggs. This presence of both domestic and artistic in her practice inspired the following exercise for homemakers. Homemakers are familiar with a wide range of archival methods in their capacity as household managers. Their archives can range from family history documentation, the demonstrated growth of a child, recipes, financial records, school report cards, and even collections of shopping receipts.
The archive has become an important resource and reflection for those interested in engaging with art, especially for the methodologies of art-making and their connection with historical context. Many artistic endeavours imbue mundane activities with new significance. The tedious, everyday responsibilities of the homemaker can be transformed through creative approaches, and allow homemakers to enjoy moments of homemaking in renewed ways. Material of the archives have the potential to become invaluable knowledge for future generations and can also enhance one’s personal life.
This workshop is applicable to a wide range of audiences. The goal of this workshop is to enhance daily activities through visual documentation and archiving. Omnispace has invited homemakers to participate in this pilot project.
Homemaker: A person, especially a housewife, who manages a home. Even though they stay at home, the homemaker is essential to the stability of the family. The homemaker engages in domestic work each day to take care of the family. Homemakers deserve to be appreciated and hold equal status with other family members who work outside the home. As both household partners work, only differing by location, a homemaker does not necessarily have to be a woman if they stay at home, clean the house, and take care of the children, while their partner works outside the home. However, for this project, we are working with female homemakers, who are more common in Indonesia.
In this exercise, homemakers are encouraged to capture their everyday lives and share their stories using readily available mediums, such as photography. The participants in this project will be able to express their stories and share the things they value by creating visual journals. The goal of the visual journal is to provide inspiration and reveal a multitude of viewpoints regarding issues pertinent to the homemaker’s everyday life. It allows participants to draw inspiration from Nilima Sheikh's archives and creative processes to re-imagine their daily lives through the prism of visual imagery. Through these exercises participants will better understand how artists approach the archive, how resources are collected, and how to explore creative components.
Homemaker, art in daily life, photography, documentary, visual journals
Four meetings over a duration of four weeks
Suggested duration: Sixty minutes for each meeting
Suggested format: Group exercises
Suggested number of participants: Four-to-five people in each group
First Meeting: Experiencing Everyday Life
This first meeting serves as an introduction between participants and mentors. In this session, participants will be asked to introduce themselves, their daily lives, and how they plan to turn these experiences into an idea.
Exercises for participants:
- Think through and explore daily routines that you find interesting to later capture with photography.
- Write down one or two daily activities that you find interesting. Also, explain the reason why you enjoy this activity to your group members.
Notes for the teacher or facilitator:
- Explain the programme structure.
- Introduce yourself and give examples on using visual journals and photography as a journal, based on selections from Nilima Sheikh’s journal. Using the selected examples, the teacher or facilitator can elaborate on the significance of using image-based journaling rather than traditional text.
- Learn about the participants’ activities.
- Explore potential ideas derived from the participants’ activities.
Examples of visual journals:
Second Meeting: Collecting Photo Stories and Journals
Exercises for the participants:
- Participants are encouraged to document their daily activities by taking photographs from various angles.
- Participants regularly take between five and ten photographs per day on their smartphones.
- The documentation can be in the form of taking photographs or taking screenshots.
- In addition to taking photographs, participants also make a small note about the photographs taken.
- Each participant presents fifteen-to-twenty photos of activities selected from the previous meeting. The images can be shown using a laptop projected on a screen.
Notes for the teacher or facilitator:
- Incorporate the participants’ ideas and issues related to homemaking into photographs and a journal.
- Collect working materials (photographs and journals).
- Process ideas (photographs and journals).
Examples of work:
1. One participant in the programme is interested in collecting shots of her baby napping in various locations.
2. One participant took pictures of her daughter’s first trip to her hometown.
3. Another participant took screenshots of her conversations with her husband while working away from home.
Third Meeting: Creating Photo-works and Journals
In this session, the teacher or facilitator will provide one-to-one assistance to the participants, either in-person or online. This is the final stage of the participant's photo project. One-on-one assistance enables participants to express their ideas visually. The teacher or facilitator will assist in selecting the photos that will be processed as a final presentation at the end of the project. There are no specific standards for artistic choices; instead, they arise out of the processes of repeated discussion conducted during the exercise.
Exercise for participants:
- Print out the selected pictures in postcard size (14 x 9cm) and arrange it into a story.
- Each picture should be accompanied by a short note.
Fourth Meeting: Final Presentation
This is the participants’ final session. Participants are asked to present their work and decide on a final presentation during this session.
- Each participant presents a visual journal consisting of ten-to-fifteen photos printed the size of a postcard. The printed photo size can be customised, but we recommend printing it postcard size, as it is ideal for editing purposes.
- The images can be processed and pasted into a book accompanied by text.
- Participants will share their experience of the process with others.
Exercise for participants:
Participants can choose how to put the photos they have chosen into a journal.
Questions for discussion
- How did you experience the process of archiving of daily activities?
- How have daily documentation archives impacted your family?
- Is it important or just a waste of time? Please explain the reason.
The workshop we have created engages with ideas central to Omnispace’s mission: giving value to the ordinary and everyday things in life. In this case, the focus is on the specific lives of homemakers. One of the members of Omni has recently become a mother, making this a very relevant topic for us. Many adjustments have been made to her daily life, especially regarding how she works with Omni.
We consider it essential that we talk about this and figure this out together, as the issues concerning homemakers are extremely pertinent to our lives. We are trying to make a workshop that can support our members and other homemakers. In addition to training homemakers to experience a wider range of activities and interpret their daily lives through archival activities, we hope that the workshop can become a safe space for homemakers to share stories about the activities and problems they may face.
The workshop is also designed to function as a space for mentoring and discussion. Omni will act as a facilitator, listener, and story harvester. This workshop is carried out in accordance with the guidelines provided; however, the development of works will be flexible depending on the theme and process throughout the workshop.
About the Artist
Established in 2015, Omnispace is an organisation and collective that embraces art and alternative activities to support the young culture scene in Bandung. The name Omnispace is derived from the Latin prefix meaning “all” or “every.” In 2021, Omnispace expanded its movement through Omnikolektif, diversifying its engagement to include collective practice. Located in Bandung, Indonesia,
Omnikolektif is a contemporary art collective focusing on education, knowledge sharing, alternative distribution, and exchange. Their goal is to provide an inclusive space for actors in creative fields and the general public, as well as to create an environment conducive to collaboration while considering the economic value needed to sustain the collective.
Publishing date: 23 December 2022
The AAA Learning and Participation Programme is supported by the S. H. Ho Foundation Limited.