On Tromarama*

To the artist collective Tromarama, art is a playing ground, a place where they can freely imagine whatever is in their minds. They have chosen stop motion animation as their principal medium of expression, as it allows them to imagine how daily objects move as if they were alive. In their films they want to give a second chance to the material world to become something other than what is normal. For them, even the smallest, easily ignored part of this world can have its own story.

Tromarama was formed in 2004, its members being Febie Babyrose, Herbert Hans and Ruddy Hatumena. They met at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) where Babyrose was studying printmaking, and Hans and Hatumena Visual Communication Design. All three shared an interest in video, especially manual, analogue, or perhaps considered ‘old-fashioned’.To them, an artwork is not supposed to lose the touch of the hand, since it creates a sense of closeness between the artwork and the viewer. Along with elements from traditional Indonesian culture, Tromarama embrace aspects of American or Japanese pop culture, rearranging these in their own unique way.

It was their video clip for the metal band Serigala Militia (Serigala Militia, 2006), which first caught the art public’s eye when it was presented in a group exhibition Bandung New Emergence #1 in 2006 (Selasar Sunaryo Art Space, Bandung). Further music video works followed, such as Zsa Zsa Zsu (2007) and Balonku (My Balloon) (2007). All three music videos were created using unusual materials. Serigala Militia was made of a series of hundreds of woodcut panels; Zsa Zsa Zsu arranged thousands of types of buttons with a myriad of colours; and Balonku was a series of collage images using colourful bits of paper. While these three music videos were still the group’s visual interpretations of existing songs, it was only in their work Ting* (2008) that they started to think of the visualization of a narrative and the audio/music aspects as a whole.

Ting* (2008), also made using stop-motion technique, is a cheerful film that depicts a range of white chinaware taking a walk in the city, before eventually returning to their ‘dormitory’, the kitchen cupboard. Ting* was screened in an installation made of a kitchen cabinet with all the white chinawares used in the video stacked inside and scattered around it.

As cheerful and playful as Tromarama’s works seem—an impression we can easily gain due to the fact, that stop-motion technique is often used for animation for children — they often have a critical undertone. An example of this is Wattt?! (2010) – a work inspired by a high electricity bill, in which electrical appliances are organizing parties at night. Wattt!? portrays various types of lights having party all night long in a house while the owner is asleep can be seen as a commentary about the excessive and high cost of urban living in the way we use electrical energy.

From 2010 on the group embarked upon developing more philosophical and sophisticated concepts in their collaborative works, dealing with current affairs, such as financial scandals in Happy Hour (2010). This video is a stop-motion animation using real Indonesian’s Rupiah bills that show the portraits of national heroes and leaders. The heroes and leaders in the video are made to appears singing cheerfully a song about happy life with loads of money.

Tromarama is equally uninhibited and flexible, while the members retain a respect for and love of the traditions of handwork, they do not overly focus on artifice, nor is there any fear of adopting unconventional interpretation or techniques. The West’s struggle between high and low art and constructions of elaborate concepts are absent from Tromarama’s art. Tromarama simply uses art as an uninhibited avenue for experimentation.

Farah Wardhani

*This monograph was published in the book ‘Sip: Indonesian Contemporary Art Today’, Matthias Arndt Gallery, Distanz, Berlin, 2013