Arts & Culture

Gudskul: Building a Collaborative Learning Culture

The arts requires more talent than hard work. Discuss.

Words by
Joice Tentry

“Malu menyapa, sulit berkarya.”

You will find these words on a banner on the door of Gudside, a studio complex located in the Jagakarsa area of Jakarta. It means, “(If you’re too) ashamed to greet, (it will be) difficult to create” and it reflects the philosophy that the art space holds. Gudside is a place where artists, architects, designers, students — anyone really — can do their creative projects.

It is also the home of Gudskul, an educational platform that aims to maximise learning opportunities about the arts through collaboration and sharing.

Built by three art collectives, namely ruangrupa, Serrum and Grafis Huru Hara, Gudskul was launched in February. It came into existence because the collectives are strong believers in collaboration when it comes to arts-based learning. Supported by each collective’s experience and expertise, Gudskul is a shared art space and contemporary arts ecosystem that organises art-related classes, events and exhibitions.

What inspired the initiative of this establishment? What do you seek to achieve with Gudskul?

Gudskul: Studies on Contemporary Art Collective and Ecosystem is an educational platform formed by three Jakarta-based collectives: ruangrupa, Serrum and Grafis Huru Hara. Since the early 2000s, these collectives have been separately practising collectivity in the contemporary art realm. In 2015, they joined forces to form a common ecosystem, Gudang Sarinah Ekosistem. Learning from this experience, Gudskul outlines a knowledge-sharing platform for anyone interested in the practice of similar approaches.

Gudskul is formulated to simulate collective practice with a focus on dialogue, criticality, experimentation and empirical understanding. In Gudskul, participants will be directly involved in the mechanism of our ecosystem practice, while also expanding our valuable networks and resources.

We sincerely believe that sharing and working together are two very vital elements in the development of Indonesian contemporary art and culture. Gudskul intends to disseminate the initiative spirit in artistic and cultural endeavours in a society committed to collectivism. We also aspire to promote initiators who put local needs as their highest consideration, while contributing and holding crucial roles internationally. We invite anyone who is interested in co-learning, developing collective-based artistic practice and art-making with a focus on collaboration.

Gudskul is a public art learning space. Why do you think such a space is necessary in Jakarta?

In the context of arts development in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta, the emergence of artist collectives or alternative art spaces are always hand-in-hand with knowledge distribution programmes. This is our response to the lack of access to contemporary art education, especially with regard to the practice of collaboration, collective and open art ecosystem development. In addition, taking on a dual role as a space for sharing and learning always appears in the collective character of artists, in general. This is because we want a broader dialogue with the public and become more open to the things around us.

How does Gudskul differ from other art schools or spaces?

Gudskul cannot provide a bachelor’s degree or a special degree of expertise. Right from the beginning, we did not try to “distinguish” ourselves from art schools. Moreover, the specificity of the subject of study we offer (collectivism and ecosystems art) has its own clear definition with other tertiary institutions. If other art schools offer degrees, Gudskul offers a network of friends and also access to jointly use the resources that we have as a larger collective.

Some believe that the arts require more talent than hard work. Do you agree with this sentiment?

No, we do not agree. Among us, it seems that no one has artistic talent! Ha ha. Moreover, addressing the development of the arts today, the problem of talent seems to be the priority of the umpteenth need.

First, in our opinion, is the ability to be relevant to your surroundings. Learning to be humble and be friends with many people. Develop a desire to share and be in groups.

But if most of us like to karaoke, it can be counted as talent, huh?

To pursue a successful career in the arts in South East Asia, what qualities do you think an artist should possess?

To be successful? This question is difficult to answer because the indicator of success is immense. If you intend to be successful in the art market, of course, we do not know the answer. But yes, like the previous answer, try to be relevant in all the thought and artistic practices that we do. Moreover, we live in one of the hottest regions on the face of the earth. It seems that if it can be used as a measure of the quality of artists, success will follow (get a smile from your neighbours, for example).

What are some hopes you have for the art scene in Jakarta, and how do you hope to contribute to this narrative with Gudskul?

Since the beginning of our three collectives, our hopes are still the same: that the Jakarta art scene can be a laboratory that supports young artists-curators to express themselves, develop methods of working together, and grow as a resilient art ecosystem.

That’s what we imagined when we built Gudskul.

Photography credits: Panji “Jin” Purnama Putra

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