Arts & Culture

12 Years of ARTJOG: Humble Beginnings to Brighter Futures

All about arts, culture, education and economy

Words by
b-side staff

B-Side attended the opening weekend of ARTJOG MMXIX. This week, we are dropping a special three-part series looking back at 12 years of ARTJOG, featuring some of the works at this year’s edition.

From its humble beginnings as a tiny art fair to a must-see on the regional and international art-making calendar, ARTJOG has built a huge reputation for itself — and a cult-like following of enthusiasts who travel to Jogja year after year. Known for attracting the region’s most exciting creatives and generating equally passionate discourse, the festival has also served as a springboard for emerging creatives looking to make their mark.

B-Side chats with longtime festival director Heri Pemad about origin stories, the festival’s exponential growth and staying true to course amid the fanfare.


Let’s talk about the beginnings of ARTJOG. How and why did it start?

Initially as an artist, I observed the imbalance between the number of artists with supporting infrastructure (for example, physical facilities and activity programmes) and those without, in Jogja. I felt unoccupied because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do as an artist.

With a group of friends, I started this as an initiator for the art movement. We faced challenges in developing infrastructure and also hiring. It was then that I realised that we did not have enough people who held art-related jobs, studied art management or went to schools where they taught students how to manage the arts.

In 2006, the art community acknowledged my hard work in connecting artists to spaces, curators, auction houses and institutions who require artists’ works.

The very first people who joined were the people who always attended my events, supported me and respected the work that I put out. They also gave me advice on how to take the next leap forward. The first person who respected me, and is still working with me, is Bambang ‘Toko’ Witjaksono. Other friends helped us too because this job takes a lot of time and energy.

What was the first edition of ARTJOG like?

The first edition of ARTJOG was called Jogja Art Fair. The preparation and work took a year. The first time felt easier because we did not implement programmes that consumed a lot of time and money. We also did not limit the number of artists who could join.

There were 500 artists who participated in the Jogja Art Fair. The complementary publicity from partners and visitors helped us a lot. The Jogja Art Fair was made by and for artists. But other galleries saw us as competition when I didn’t mean to be one. Our focus, vision and mission was to give space to artists who really wanted to make work.


What keeps you and team going?

We hire broadly. We want people who have the motivation and are curious to learn more about the arts and how to run an arts event. Most importantly, they need to enjoy the work that they are doing. All this relates back to our mission on the importance of an education movement, developed into and through an exhibition.

My team shared with me that they are really happy and have gained a lot of experience, such as in better understanding the works of the artists. They’ve met a lot of people, and through their research on what the arts entail, they’ve found that art in itself is a huge topic. They’ve learnt that art is not solely about entertainment but rather a space of reflection into their own lives.

What inspires me, as an artist, is that I believe my spirit and motivation can take me everywhere and anywhere. If we continue to get good responses from the public, government and tourism board, ARTJOG can bring economic benefits to our region and nation. And through this, we can make a positive impact on improving people’s lives.

Naturally, there have been some challenges to the process. What were they?

The more interesting thing is how I deal with the wider public when they respond well to this kind of movement.

We know the new challenges ahead after this event has been favourably received. It is very important for the country that the big impact can support many things to sustain the region and economy. So that becomes a challenge I really want to convey, and that everyone should know of, especially our stakeholders and also the policies that will be adopted by the country.

How has ARTJOG changed over the years?

We have more experience in improving exhibitions with ever-changing content. But every ARTJOG is always new and changing. The visitors’ experience will always change, and artists who are unlike each other will have works that contradict. Through different programmes and activities, ARTJOG will provide a new discourse.

What are you grateful for throughout this entire process?

Whatever I go through, I’m grateful. The most important thing is that I am still in the same spirit today, and I always receive new challenges with new problems. That’s what makes me live to this day, still consistently implementing ARTJOG. I need it.

Every ARTJOG is held with artists who are so different, coming in with different experiences, and I’m motivated by all the friends who want to participate. So as to make a new tantangan (challenge).

ARTJOG can be considered an icon rather than a contemporary art event in Jogja, Indonesia. And it has become a mainstay on the international calendar.

Hopefully, we can live more seriously and not be complacent.

After 12 editions of ARTJOG, what do you wish people would know about it?

ARTJOG is three movements for three things, namely the arts and culture movement, the educational movement, and lastly, the economic movement.

Looking at the educational movement, I feel happy for people who have learnt a lot about the content because there is so much thought that an artist can convey through his work. For example, motivating the public to accept differences and practice tolerance.

It’s also a cultural movement for everyone who has attended. It influences and becomes a place for personal reflection.

The economic impact of this event is not small either. We encourage showrooms to be self-created and for open events, whether they are in the form of an exhibition or a programme. People are not just experiencing ARTJOG, but they are also experiencing the what’s beyond and around it. Performance, music, fashion, craft and other new forms of arts. And these people arriving in Jogja is also a form of economic impact.


Over the next three years, ARTJOG will run along the theme of Arts in Common. What is the intention behind this?

We are working with a curator on this, and if the curator has a clear vision, he must have a mission for ARTJOG. This theme can be long-lived, not just for the next three years. Not just three words. It can also be developed into “common taste” or “common time” etc. It’s not a heavy theme so it can be easily digested by artists and visitors.

What does ARTJOG symbolise?

Co-operation with artists. The main strength and mission of ARTJOG from the start was to provide a forum for young artists with thoughts that were more interesting and challenging for us to present to the public where they were very concerned about the development of art.

ARTJOG is not just about presenting the development of art from established artists, but also, encouraging more about future thoughts.

What are your hopes, visions and dreams for ARTJOG in three years’ time and in 10 years’ time?

We have to do more, more for the people. Not only having the aesthetics but having a vision, mission and implementation. We don’t want to be in the same place. It can be held in various places, like the suburbs, far from the city so it doesn’t always have the same problem every year.

To project 10 years ahead is too much. I cannot predict the development of art and Jogja in general. It depends on what happens to the world itself. And in terms of implementation, it will continue to be the question we face.

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