YOS16 – Understanding the Past through the Present


As a platform for dialogue and collaboration, Yogyakarta Open Studio (YOS) supports the development of new knowledge and documentation on contemporary studio practice. From October 19 to 23 the doors of artist studios in Yogyakarta will be open again for the fourth edition of YOS. Yogyakarta Open Studio 2016, presented in conjunction with 17 studios, looks at the way studios function in the Indonesian art scene: as place to work, but also as sites of cultural negotiation, as international meeting points for friends and colleagues to organize art activities, and as administrative centers for complex, demanding careers.

This year Yogyakarta Open Studio focuses on artist’s engagement with art history. We ask art historians about the training, methodologies and practices required to write a substantial and informed history of Indonesian art; we foster interaction between art historians and artists in our community through interviews; and we encourage artists to use their studios as laboratories where the present and the past collide, creating alternative, hybrid forms of understanding. Our focus on art history highlights a discipline that encourages knowledge of individuals and societies through visual expression, providing an understanding of the past, and through it, of the present.

The YOS team chose art history as the 2016 theme because of the pivotal but perhaps neglected position it has in Indonesian art discourse. We are interested in jump-starting the conversation about qualification and looking at how aspiring art historians in Indonesian go about gaining the education they need in a country that still doesn’t offer a degree in art history. We are also interested how art historians from abroad (who dedicate years to honing their expertise on Asian history, language, politics and culture) fit into an art community that increasingly emphasizes and values local knowledge sources. We are curious how artists and art historians feel about active efforts currently underway to form canons in Indonesian art, a development that critics call partisan and hierarchical. Finally, with all the competing voices in the art world clamoring for artists’ attention, we want to know how much time and consideration Yogyakarta-based artists give to art history and art historians. Are market forces drawing artists away from an active engagement with the evolving story of art or are artists demanding equal footing within a discipline dedicated to “critical distance”?

Contemporary artists – their artwork, ideas, claims, personal histories and influence(s) – are arguably at the center of the most pioneering research taking place in the field of art history today. At conferences, panel discussions and at informal gatherings of art historians, the rigor of the discipline is evident. What is most striking though is the sense that art history is endlessly in flux. New ideas challenge old assumptions; fresh details restructure established narratives. Art history is constantly being re-written. Yogyakarta Open Studio invites the public to join the discussion about Indonesian art history by visiting YOS studios around the city and the YOS Information Center on the ISI campus and by attending a FOCUS TOUR on October 22 (Saturday) and 23 (Sunday) 2016.



Yogyakarta Open Studio is proud to be working with a group of art historians from Indonesia and abroad whose work engages with Indonesian contemporary art. To support this year’s theme, they developed questions for a series of interviews with participating studios exploring artists’ engagement with the production, function and impact of the discipline on their practice. The interview format is an opportunity to hear both the voice of the art historian and the artist; to learn about the point of views and position of each side in this dialogue.  These conversations will be published in a post-event newsletter and at  YOS is excited to welcome the contribution of these influential thinkers:

Agus Burhan (Yogyakarta, ID); Amanda Katherine Rath (Frankfurt, DE); Astrid Honold (Berlin,DE/Yogyakarta, ID); Leonor Veiga (Lisbon, PT); Mary-Louise Totton (Kalamazoo, USA); Suwarno Wisetrotomo (Yogyakarta, ID); and Wulan Dirgantoro (Berlin, DE).