TROMARAMA
When Playing Is Not Only a Game*

Not many people paid serious attention to concepts about playing. Playing is always considered to be related to hobby and have no significant value for life practices, only that it gives pleasure. Thus, playing is always related to pastimes, or leisure culture. Recent development had showed the shifting of role of playing as significant element in the creative industry, since this particular field always demands the new-ness, something fresh yet interesting. Younger generation of people has develop their passion on playing and hobby then encourage themselves to use the idea of playing as their main resource or artistic foundation.

Plays: Globality and Locality

Observing the artworks of the artists group Tromarama, I am inevitably impressed by how they play. There’s a new proposal on the concept and definition of the game itself. With fresh, humorous approaches that still challenges the imagination at the same time, I see Tromarama is representing a new and more personal approach to art, closer to the subject’s daily character.

The playful artworks of Tromarama enables for an intensive interaction with the audience. Working with three persons behind the screen, they are exploring on things close to their daily lives, with an imaginative approach and demonstrating high skills on technique and media all at once. Several artworks display a deep observation on daily objects with examples shown in Zsa Zsa Zsu that explored on buttons, or Ting* that explored on ceramic cups. A nearly balanced combination between manual hand-works in creating and playing with objects also the skill of processing the images with moving images, making Tromarama video works far from boring or exaggerating.

The ability of Tromarama to choose their approaches, including their seriousness in playing, seemed to be rarely found in other young artists of the same generation. A few times I observed, the artworks of many young artists, especially those who worked after mid-year 2000, what is called as non-political valued produced more arbitrary and incomprehensible artworks. Compared to the previous generation of artists who seriously processed social-political issues and making it a part of alignment and involvement attitude, younger contemporary artists tend to explore personal themes, related to their personal life experiences or reflecting what they see in their surroundings. Some of them successfully display their interpretation of the slogan “The personal is political”. While in term of the forms, they tend to adopt various visual tendencies that easily be found in other parts of the world. Because of the vastness of possibilities being “same and similar”, issues of “multiplied identity” becomes something that accompanies the exploration of the young contemporary artists today.

Now, in my point of view, Tromarama’s artworks seem to summarize the all-complicated demands into one proper and adequate form. Even though most of their works are not talking “the big narrations”, we could see that their works based on concept that is clearly articulated in their artistic practices. What is also important to be noted, working with a medium where globalism and internationalism is something nearly certain, with specific manner Tromarama managed to create an identity with their own way. If most artists are referring to identity as something local, where something local occasionally or simply refers to traditionalism, Tromarama is infact spared from this type of stigma. What so called ‘locality’ thus being reflected from the ideas, background or the narrations they built, not merely in the forms and aesthetic choices. On the choice of medium and narration, we could see in Tromarama’s works, we do not feel a sense of uniformity tendency that recently easily found in the works of young generation of artists. Their visual sensibilities clearly reflect their total involvement in the global youth movement, marked with the do-it-yourself spirit or the fantastic cross between the rebellious and the mainstream, the high art and popular forms.

*****
Tromarama’s quick rise in the Indonesian contemporary visual art does feel like giving a new energy for artists of the current generation, especially after they succeeded participating in many exhibitions of the international biennales, submitting their artworks in exhibitions in prominent contemporary art museums in several countries. Recently, they were the first Indonesians exhibiting in the Mori Art Museum Tokyo, Japan. I think their energy and creativity had given a quite important contribution in our contemporary art for the last decade, especially when we’re talking about new media art.

In the development of the market dominated Indonesian art, the absence of an authoritative institution related to the variety of medium and discourses, new media art tends to be seen as a marginal since its beginning until today. Although new media art had proven itself as a footpath to a global art, yet in reality public rarely seen a media art exhibition being organized with adequate quality, and presenting the important position of these medium is related to discourses and the aesthetics.

Their solo exhibition, KIDULT, presented in Tembi Contemporary this time is their first solo exhibition in Indonesia, which I think will be refreshing experience for Yogyakarta audiens because their display models are always interesting, creative and imaginative. In the midst of the bustles of preparing for insistent exhibition invitations, they return with a characteristic humorous irony: since the beginning, we can find from the title they chose. Kidult is a mix of two words; kid and adult, two categories that had always been seen as a binary opposition, standing apart from each other. Yet, in this exhibition Tromarama showed how both are complementary and intersecting categories.

They are recollecting the visual creation techniques learned as kids, as part of school lessons, which was more like a game. After an After, for instance, are created from a series of images worked on with a simple stencil technique, like the one taught at elementary school. Although this artwork speaks about something ‘spiritual’, an image of life after death, yet it was done in a light imagery with many spaces for interpretation. To create this artwork they dig for references from narrations developed in religions, or the scientific approach in science. With a minimalistic inclined visual model, this video shows the skilful handworks of the makers. Life after death is depicted more as imagined fragments, shreds of an event the audience must put together.

The same technique and approach are found in the work Borderless, made with embroidery technique turned into an animation. In this work we are taken in an adventure into the world of imagination that breaks our common order of logics. The concept of time and space is manipulated and played at, so we’re free in deciding how we’re moving and manifest ourselves in a space.

Another video, Wattt?!, utilizes a model of photograph moved using a stop motion animation technique. This video makes use of the daily items in their rented house, by taking the desk lamp as the main character. The nearly six minutes video is exploring elements of lights in our daily live, underlining the contradiction between dark and light, between the game and function.

The adult and the kid, these are juxtaposed not in theme alone, also in approaches. Like they had stated: It turned out from the discussion and experiments, we have deep interests in things that are childish or coming from the world of children. All the childhood memories are coming back in our age which had gone over half a decade.

We miss things that are pure, honest, the feeling of not scared being wrong. Choosing to see something and then mix it with imagination instead of considering and matching it with the already formalized knowledge in mind like adults do.

(e-mail conversation with TROMARAMA)

This exhibition underlines the exploration of Tromarama in new media arts, especially related to various visual techniques and possibilities. When most video artists are concentrating on using the camera to record the reality, their effort to keep working with hands is a form of dialectic with technology. Technology is not accepted as something given, but reinterpreted, redisplayed with a new approach. I am thinking, in the midst of the simple narration they develop, I feel this might be a space of rebellion they’re offering. Is technology had created a distance between us and the memory of the past?

Alia Swastika

*This writing was published in “KIDULT” catalogue as a part of Tromarama Solo Exhibition. Date of Publication: 2011