Report: Arte-Polis 4 Bandung

July 12th, 2012  |  Published in Articles  |  1 Comment

Day 1: Thursday, July 5, 2012

Andriew and I arrived by Mutiara Selatan train at 5.30 AM, and took an angkot down to Mas Waluyohadi’s boarding house near Dago, then off to Arte-Polis at ITB. For those of you who don’t know what arte-polis is, it’s a biennale event that aims to brings together to Bandung (specifically ITB),

creative champions from different places around the world, to share and learn from their creative experiences on place-making. Participants come from a diverse range of disciplines, including architecture, landscape architecture and planning, business and management, cultural and development studies, design and visual arts, digital-media and information-communication technology, economics and geography, as well as the arts and humanities.

You can find more info here:

I submitted my abstract back in February 2012, and the full paper in March.  Upon notification of acceptance in April, I had to pay Rp. 250.000 early bird registration fee (yes, presenters still have to pay).

The event was held in the architecture complex, with the keynote speeches in the Great East Hall, and the parallel sessions in the classrooms. There were more than 100 papers submitted, from over 15 countries, presented as about 30 parallel sessions, held over 2 days. There were 6 rooms for the parallel sessions, 2 located on the ground floor, 4 on the 4th floor.

Opening Keynote Speeches

After re-registering ourselves (Andriew managed to get in since he’d be replacing Mas Yok the next day), we caught the last few minutes of Ulrich Weinberg’s presentation on Design Thinking (which he said is supposedly mushrooming all over the world, and they’re definitely keen to kickstart one in Indonesia, particularly in ITB). The basic idea is developing on co-production, collaboration, Wikipedia as the sample, the usual. (How come nobody is asking that the current rate of article addition in Wikipedia is rather stagnant at the moment?) See:

Next keynote speaker was Anies Baswedan, the founder of Indonesia Mengajar. Basically, he elaborated that by changing the approach in inviting people to teach children in remote areas, by asserting this seemingly-unattractive job as a year of life-changing experience, instead of a long-time commitment or a temporary just-another-boring-job to fill up your portfolio, he believed—and proved—that today’s graduates are not the apathetic, pragmatic, consumptive youths they are often accused—and portrayed—to be. If indeed teaching is not a particularly attractive job for today’s graduates, the fault then partly lies in our approach. I later heard from Andriew that another initiative of his, Indonesia Menulis, was presented on a parallel session—too bad I missed it. See:

Next, Parallel Sessions, where 6 sessions were held simultaneously in 6 different rooms. I’ll only write about those I attended.

Session 1
Room 4 : Digital Media and Information Technology: harnessing Creative Connectivity
Connectivity by Digital and Online Strategies
10.30 – 12.15

The first presentation talked about the role of, a portal created by the government meant as a hub to accommodate the creative industry. Despite its thousands of followers on FB, twitter, etc., a simple quantitative research done by the researchers questioned the popularity of this portal.  Next, a conceptual framework for a networked society in online communities, but frankly did not seem to offer anything  different from Manuel Castells’ networked society. And lastly, the potential of online gaming apps, bringing the case of Ionopolis by Pocari Sweat. It supposedly tripled their profit?

Lunch break
12.15 – 13.00

Lukman, an old friend of ours currently working in Bandung, came to visit and slinked inside the conference. He introduced us to Ami, who’s currently completing her PhD in Leuven, Belgium. Apparently she used to be Marco’s personal assistant—“coffee-maker,” she joked.

Session 2
Room 6: Policy Making and Planning for Creative Connectivity
13.00 – 14.30

Louis Albrechts presented about Enhancing the Creative Potential of Planning by Using a Coproduction Perspective. Wiwik D. Pratiwi presented about applying connectivity in rebuilding natural disaster area.

Session 3
Room 5: Education Concepts and Community Learning
14.30 – 16.00

A presentation about an interesting architecture journal,, founded by Yandi Andri Yatmo and Paramita Atmodiwirjo, his wife, from Universitas Indonesia. The journal applies some experimental and creative approaches in their articles. I haven’t read the articles inside, but from his presentation, they seemed very promising. Next is a presentation by Mitha Budyarto from Universitas Pembangunan Jaya, questioning the ethical assumptions about the ‘naturalness’ of Nature.

Then my turn, presentation on Design It Yourself. Basically I argued that the common perception of the creative city is veering off its initial idea which is essentially—or supposedly?— about “unleashing, harnessing, empowering potential from whatever source.” What tends to happen, however, is this chimeric label “creative” tends to reduce the concept as something for which only a few cities—lucky enough to be endowed with the supporting ecology, the economic, cultural, social and symbolic capitals, or else the “creative class”—are entitled to.

If the concept is truly about empowering, unleashing potential, turning problems into potentials, shouldn’t the challenge then lie in the so-called “problem areas”, in researching various creative potentials from other places? I’m not saying that we should apply “affirmative action” to creative city policies, but factors such as structures and infrastructures like education institutions, public (or “alternative”) space, market orientation, need to be taken into account. Information transparency and facilitating a more participative knowledge production should play more crucial roles.

The response was pretty encouraging. Many expressed their enthusiasm, saying that this session was perhaps the best and the most interesting in critical insight they’d attended thus far. (I do however need to shorten my presentation.)

Day 1 post-event fun!

Once we’d concluded the day, Ami invited us to join her for the launch of Martin Suryajaya’s new book, Materialisme Dialektis: Kajian tentang Marxisme dan Filsafat Kontemporer (read the review here), held in Gedung Indonesia Menggugat at Jalan Perintis Kemerdekaan 5.

The event was titled “Kegalauan Posmodernisme: Materialisme Dialektis sebagai Solusi?”, organized by AKATIGA dan IM Books, and the panellists were Martin Suryajaya, Yasraf Amir Piliang, and Tamrin Tomagola, moderated by Dede Mulyanto.

The discussion, I think, reflected the general sentiments and frustration with the politics and the domination of postmodern discourse in the current production of knowledge in Indonesia, particularly among those proclaiming themselves to be left-leaning. Amongst the sea of age-old, ongoing unresolved debates about relativity, difference, our inability to know, that reality is constructed, the tired syllabi and indifferent academia promoting postmodernism, deconstruction and French feminism in every campus across the archipelago just because the national syllabus says so, it’s too easy to feel incapacitated. Martin did a laudable job elucidating new forms of contemporary philosophy by Zizek, Badiou, etc., but what I think is severely lacking, is not exactly (abstract) theoretical discourses or intellectual exercises—we had torrents of them in varying qualities—but the empirical data itself, about our own condition, our materiality, what’s supposed to be the very foundation we should start from in building our knowledge production.

I splurged on a couple of books: Toer’s Kronologi Revolusi Indonesia, and the translation of Challenging Authoritarianism in Indonesia, edited by Ariel Heryanto and Sumit K. Mandal. These are the kinds of books I believe we should read more about: theoretically informed, rich with empirical data and nuanced analysis. Ariel’s article on the public intellectuals and the “middle classes”, will also challenge you on the myth of saintly intellectuals, writers and journalists, and the standard category of the middle class as an entity. Particularly interesting, he used the case of the Christian University of Satya Wacana as a micro-lens to see the larger dynamics at work, and analysed the larger structures behind the so-called intellectuals, academics and students behind the 1998 Reformasi. Highly recommended. The English version, in e-book format, can easily be found online.

As a sidenote, it’s funny how I was meeting people whom a few weeks ago I’d only heard in passing—the team from Semarang excitedly talked about Martin and his works during the usual long nights of coffee and cigarettes. And of course, Ami and Cak Cak. Like connecting the dots, or does that mean my social circles are converging into some particular patterns?

Day 2: Friday, July 6, 2012

Day 2 passed slightly in a blur of events—we were panicking a bit since we couldn’t get a ticket home. (All seats were fully booked until Wednesday.)  We missed the sessions before lunch break, so again, I will only talk about two session I attended.

Session 1
Green Creativity and Connectivity
13.00 – 14.30

Gunawan Tanuwidjaja, aka Gunte, and Agus Sudarman, presented about their 5-month project in Cirendeu that involves professional consultants, active participation of the stakeholders and local communities, and thus far has proved sustainable. We also have another presenter from Surabaya: Aulia Mauludi, the founder of Cosmic Surabaya, brought up the case of community development as a branding to increase sales, and its sustainability.

Session 2

I split my time between two sessions. For the first three presentations, I stayed in the same room, since I wanted to see the collaborative research by Gunte, Goya and Iwan on Jalan Panggung. I missed Andriew’s presentation (on optimizing mosque space by comparing sitting space dimension during the Friday prayer). The next and last presentation by Alvanov Zpanlazani, offered interesting study on the “unique” visual style of manga-influenced girls’ comics—with its ubiquitous visual effects, very fluid framing—in Indonesia. I first knew Alvanov through his book, Martabak Komikita, which is perhaps one of the more “levelheaded”, McCloud-like analysis of Indonesian comics in early 2000’s, relatively—and thankfully!—less imbued with the standard nationalistic character rhetoric. And considering his fluid presentation and moderation skills, I’d say that he easily was the best moderator of all the sessions I’d attended.

So that was the last session. We then had a closing ceremony in the Great East Hall. People had coffee while a small orchestra band played traditional Indonesian songs. The obligatory speech, the photo sessions. Fin. (Oh, there was another workshop on Smarth Growth, where workshop participants could meet people from Intiland. Interesting, but I didn’t register since it was over 1 million rupiahs.)

Anyway. My overall impressions?

  • The quality of presentations could be very uneven. Out of the 14 presentations I attended, only 3 were notable.
  • Many presented in the average style of copying and pasting the texts on their presentation directly from their paper.
  • While understandable considering their international orientation (and from which academic credentials in Indonesia is judged), the compulsory submission and presentation in English language can be very debilitating. I do believe that English language is necessary to bring these issues internationally, but many concepts, ideas, cannot be sufficiently communicated in English. Even those coming from ITB and UI, were visibly struggling over the language limit in their presentations
  • Not that an English native-speaker would guarantee a more insightful presentation.
  • Perhaps Arte-Polis can provide a translation service by employing their students. I’m sure 1 article per student would be more than enough. (Presentation-wise, though, we’d need more than 15 minutes allocated.
  • Five papers were from Surabaya or about Surabaya: (1) Surabaya Branding by Vinda Hadikurnia aka Vinzhe, apparently her final assignment, presented in collaboration with her supervisor, but unfortunately none turned up (2) Cosmic Fashion Store Surabaya and its CSR marketing utilising communities by Aulia, the founder, (3) Visual research on Jalan Panggung by Gunawan Tanuwidjaja aka Gunte, Goya, and Hermawan Dasmanto, (4) a comparative study of Ciputra World and Tunjungan Plaza by Astrid Kusumawidagdo et al.
  • Two out of these five papers, came from the University of Ciputra. I think we can expect further collaboration between ITB and the University of Ciputra—a number of their faculty members are taking their postgrads in ITB.

All these impressions aside, I think the real values of this international conference, lie not in its real, current conditions. Yes, the papers and presentations could be interesting—where else can we get more than 100 easily-accessible data about place-making in Indonesia?—but the real values do not lie in the quantity or the quality of the papers/presentations (like I said, the quality can be very uneven, and some presenters didn’t turn up either). Yet, however uneven, this conference forged meetings of various actors, practitioners, academics, community leaders, government officials, policy-makers, stakeholders, and thus created further connections and intersections, where future possibilities—and also past histories—can be imagined. An employment opportunity, a name card, data for your theses, a collaborative research, what you can write down on your CV—the possibilities can be endless. And people from all over Indonesia (admittedly dominated by those from Bandung and Jakarta), even the world, were willing to pay for these imagined possibilities.

The meanings then are displaced, it represent bridges to meanings that cannot be attained easily in the here and now. The values lie in its symbolic ones, and the possibilities that can be—sometimes always will be—imagined to happen in the future. It works by ensuring that fulfilment is endlessly delayed or deferred in a continuous process, and that the wishing will always be there.

Program and abstracts handbook, along with the CD containing the complete conference proceedings in PDF files, are available for loan from C2O Library & Collabtive :).

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  1. Agus says:

    nice comment I think, anyway thanks for your coming and sorry for uncomfortable.
    please convey my greeting to Mr. Gunte and mba Ajeng

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