Kelompok Seni Gotong Royong Reassesses Balinese Art Collectives – Art & Culture

Richard Horstman (Jakarta Post)

Denpasar ●
Sun, September 18, 2022

Art & Culture

In a crisis, human ingenuity takes over. Kelompok Seni Gotong Royong, a new Balinese art collective embracing cultural philosophies, emerged in 2020 in response to the global economic downturn resulting from the pandemic. Its original purpose was to feed the families of the band members. This vision has evolved into community arts and cultural education and sharing with those in need.

“A few months into the pandemic, the local economy began to collapse with the shutdown of international tourism. As a result, there were real concerns among my artist friends,” said Kelompok Seni Gotong Royong (KSGR) co-founder Rio Saren. Jakarta Post. “These anxieties were the catalyst for the formation of KSGR.

“A radical shift in mindset was needed to combat an uncertain future and the challenges of generating a sustainable income. We had to carefully consider understanding our potential and how we might thrive in the future. »

“Balinese art once functioned solely to serve the community. However, the move away from the sacred with the development of the commercial art world over the past century has led to art becoming political and exclusive. As a result, many have been marginalized, and only a limited number of artists have succeeded,” said Saren, who graduated from the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Denpasar in 2008.

“We have reoriented our artistic practices by focusing on what has been lost from our culture due to modernity.”

Established in May 2020, KSGR’s goals are to realize new forms of value creation inspired by the wisdom of its heritage, with sustainability and cultural regeneration as key priorities. The collective name, Gotong Royong (mutual cooperation), is derived from the fundamental village of community sharing. The administrative system of the banjar (customary village council in Bali) is the defining model of the collective.

Sharing knowledge: Rio Saren, co-founder of Kelompok Seni Gotong Royong, shares his skills with some students from the Bali Hati school. (Courtesy of KSGR) (Courtesy of KSGR/Courtesy of KSGR)

KSGR’s Sunday gatherings at Pintu Saren Art Space, at the back of Saren’s family compound in Sibangkaja, Badung, are a conducive environment for members to discuss ideas related to the group and their studio practice. Moreover, the preparation and consumption of food is a celebration and a form of gratitude for their blessings. The Garam Dapur (Salt Kitchen) project is the result of these discussions.

“An open space for preparing food and sharing ideas, Garam Dapur emphasizes learning, experimentation and presenting exhibits,” explained Saren. “We then set out to develop another idea, to generate a sustainable income by reviving traditional terracotta practices and creating functional, one-of-a-kind handicrafts to sell. The abundant natural material is locally sourced at minimal cost, making it cost-effective. Cooking is done on-site in a Balinese oven.”

In 2021, KSGR began hosting mid-week workshops for school groups for a nominal fee. Participating schools include Bali Hati School, Seva Karuna, Sekolah TK Kumara Dharmayasa, Sekolah Desa Negeri (SDN) 3 Sibang Kaja and Green School Bali. The Green School group continued throughout 2022.

In February, thanks to donations, workshops for local adults and children began. Each with a different theme. Participants included expatriates and tourists. The afternoon ends with the sharing of traditional dishes. As a result, awareness of KSGR is spreading and people are traveling from Denpasar and Mengwi to enjoy the unique experience.

Bright smile: A happy participant manipulates clay during a terracotta workshop hosted by Kelompok Seni Gotong Royong.  (Courtesy of KSGR)Bright smile: A happy participant manipulates clay during a terracotta workshop hosted by Kelompok Seni Gotong Royong. (Courtesy of KSGR) (Courtesy of KSGR/Courtesy of KSGR)

“KSGR’s activities make a relevant cultural contribution. Especially when we see kids who want to play games on their cell phones, forget about their digital distractions and focus on learning and creativity,” said Saren’s wife, artist and mother, Sumie.

“Making traditional art using raw materials is relaxing and makes you feel down to earth again,” said Sue Xu Ding, a 27-year-old tourist from Australia. “The indirect donation system was a good surprise; I think it’s a good artistic method. This allows participants to rate their experience and respond by paying what they deem fair.

Saren is currently in discussion with SDN 3 Sibang Kaja Committee Chairman Komang Suryawan to develop a permanent sustainable curriculum for all schools, especially for the early childhood age group, in Sibangkaja.

“I want to capitalize on all the potential aspects and resources of my village to help develop a more prosperous community,” said Suryawan, who has a background in tourism and is the founder of Edan Community, a social and environmental initiative.

“Education doesn’t just happen in schools. Each environment is a learning space. KSGR introduces new opportunities that can work alongside the government program,” said Suryawan, who lives near Saren.

“It is essential to foster the creativity of the younger generation. I hope this program allows students to have the freedom to express their own ideas.

Artwork: “Topeng Pandemi” 2021-2022, an installation of terracotta masks made by Kelompok Seni Gotong Royong and schoolchildren, is on display at Pintu Saren Art Space.  (JP/Richard Horstman)Artwork: “Topeng Pandemi” 2021-2022, an installation of terracotta masks made by Kelompok Seni Gotong Royong and schoolchildren, is on display at Pintu Saren Art Space. (JP/Richard Horstman) (JP/Richard Horstman)

Collectives have guided the development of Balinese art. Classic Balinese religious paintings were created within unique communities called to sing. From the 1920s, new business opportunities led to the formation of the first modern collectives and to distinct “schools” or styles of village art developed to capture the burgeoning tourist market. Contemporary art collectives emerged in the 1970s and continue to do so today. Their goals, however, focus on discussing artistic ideas and how to capitalize on the market. Proceeds from art sales accrue solely to the artist.

Social media has effectively enhanced the profiles of KSGR and the artist, especially on Facebook, with artists enjoying increased sales through exposure. Both models of KSGR workshops have proven popular and members of the collective receive a monthly stipend to pay for all their art materials in their personal practice. Sales of art by Pintu Saren Art Space KSGR members generate income for the collective. Transparency is paramount. Therefore, KSGR submits its monthly financial report for public scrutiny. The function of KSGR has recently expanded, giving money to a resident of Sibangkaja in urgent need of medical care.

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