ST PAUL St Gallery Research Fellowship: Irwan Ahmett and Tita Salina: The Flame of the Pacific
22 April 2016 - 27 May 2016
Tita Salina, Longevity, 2015. Photo Rangga Aditiawan.
Irwan Ahmett and Tita Salina are an artist duo from Jakarta. Their tactical, interventionist approach is developed in response to living in a megacity of 15 million people, and amid large-scale contemporary political power struggles. They frequently deal with social issues in public space, translating them into spontaneously unfolding events. The lack of institutional support in Indonesia has encouraged a self-organised and collective spirit, which in Ahmett and Salina’s practices manifests as interventions termed Urban Play. Local civic problems are strategically responded to within a universal currency of ‘playfulness’, which is understood as having imaginative capacity to generate critical alternatives to these complicated issues.
Their current research relates to geopolitical readings of the Pacific Rim of Fire, which links Aotearoa New Zealand and Indonesia. They have previously made work in response to the radioactive leak in Fukushima, Japan; the oppressive agendas of colonialism in Java, Indonesia; the clash of ideologies in the Cold War period that took millions of lives in Indonesia; and human trafficking in Taiwan. Ahmett and Salina see the intense and unstable territory that is the Pacific Rim as a long-term focus, working as they do within a region which is volatile both inside and above the earth’s surface – site of historical events such as the Pacific War (the Asia-Pacific theatre ofWWII), frequent volcanic explosions and earthquakes, and present-day development which increasingly marginalises indigenous populations through corporate control initiatives such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.
During their research residency in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Ahmett and Salina are working on a series of imaginative responses towards aspects of the local context in connection with the geopolitics of the Pacific Rim. Their points of focus are the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) in relation to ongoing issues of land ownership and sovereignty; the Polynesian Panthers and other social movements in Auckland in the 1970s — addressed as an inspirational peaceful form in relation to the Free West Papua movement; and homelessness.
ST PAUL St Gallery’s biannual Research Fellowship is a three-month residency. The fellowship is intended for the development of a project which expands the regular exhibition program into wider social and political situations both locally and internationally within the Asia-Pacific region. The publication for the previous fellowship with Sakiko Sugawa, Co-RevolutionaryPraxis: accompaniment as a strategy for working together (2015), is available here.