Biasa Art, Bali
Fetish. The mere mention of Fetish usually conjures up a world of old traditions, of voodoo, dark mystique, of blood and mystical powers. To have it as a theme for artists to work on for an exhibition at Biasa Art – a gallery of sleek and simple but utterly contemporary allure – therefore provoked the expectations of many interested in the whimsical imaginations of artists.
But rather than obscene scenes the exhibition, in which 30 artists participated, showed creations that partly related to the classical Marxist theory of comodity fetishism, in which social relationships center around the values placed on commodities. The study of primitive religions reveals that fetishism was common, and Marx' application to his theory of fetishism and commodities suggests that just such primitive belief systems are at the heart of modern society and its idolatry of brands.
Fetishes prove to be an enduring phenomenon, changing forms to the fashion of the time, but true to a basic sense of insecurity or social alienation that haunts even modern life.
Astari Rasjid had earlier indicated the phenomenon with critical works showing how the traditional jimat, or charm, used to protect a person from evil, is transformed in modern society into the branded items that are favored today to foster a person's esteem. In this exhibition, Astari's bronze sculptures feature the branded bag and the long torso, both adorned with pistols and bullets. Such is also shown in the Mella Jaarsma's work featuring boxer shorts covered with brochures highlighting herbal potions for strength and manlines.
Sigmund Freud coined 'fetishism' as the door to someone's mental world, human experience and capable of opening the door into the innermost parts of a person's mind - the world of objects and parts of the body that show the hidden motives or desires that define a person's behavior.
While this is not at all clear in most of artists's works, the craze and excitement for certain objects or commodities is evident in various works. Yuli Prayitno for instance expresses his intimate relation with his bike, twisting 'my girl friend' for 'my bike friend' in the title and creating the bike's saddle in the form of a girl's hand. Agus Suwage, who understands the risks of smoking but is unable to leave the cigarette, combines his dependency on cigarettes with his fascination with music.
Some works are just critical observations of modern alienation amid overshelming media information, such as Angki Purbandono's Miss Universe, a light box showing the icon, or the Burberry textile covered weapon by Wiyoga Muhardanto.
But it takes Pintor Sirait to think of an international icon as a global fetish and see how it helps create other fetishes, such as the recreation of a hero culture, and the sexist events accompanying such events. Pintor weaves the issues further into the Formula 1 races, questioning how that contributes to global warming and noise pollution. "The reason I am appropriating an F1 car for my artwork is based on how F1 can be seen as a global fetish; it is celebrated worldwide, regardless of ethnicity, gender and age group. While the F1 sport pioneers the research of the automobile industry, "pushing the limits and our perseption of speed" , it has come to be associated with a wide variety of issues, including the obsessions of contemporary society. "It seems to be so appropriate for questioning the values of time".
Enin Supriyanto, the curator of the exhibition, confesses he had had the idea for a fetish exhibition for a long time, but did not find galleries interested, until he met Susanna Perrini, the spirited lady from Italy who had set up the Biasa art space for pure delight of the arts. Susanna says the exhibition of art objects, titled Fetish Project, Art Objects #1, is only the first phase of the Fetish. More will follow.