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Through art, they began building an understanding amongst the people to fight against injustice, helping to forge a community aware of environmental, social, political, and cultural issues, inviting the community to be active and courageous in voicing their real life experiences and their opinions on the performance of government. (Sinaga)

The year 1998 is a period of Indonesian history marked by political unrest, ethnic conflict, and general disorder following the end of Suharto’s New Order regime. It is also, however, a period marked by student activism and the fight of the Indonesian people to rise above such chaos. It was in this context that the group Taring Padi (translated as “the fang of the rice plant”) emerged in the city of Yogyakarta, a city that is known for its vibrant and long tradition of both arts and activism.

Taring Padi, commonly referred to as TP, was first formed by students from Yogyakarta’s institute of art known as ISI (Institut Kesenian Yogyakarta). Influenced by an ideology of budaya kerakyatan or people oriented culture, these individuals had a desire to pick up where student activists had left off following the beginning of the reformation period in early 1998. As Toni Volunteero, one of Taring Padi’s initial founders states, there were still many social, political, and economic concerns faced by the Indonesian populace at this time. With a desire to represent those whose voices were rarely heard, Taring Padi set forth with a goal to create art that would both help to educate and give a voice to marginalized communities.

While Taring Padi was initially formed by art students from ISI, it did not take long for individuals with no background in the arts to join in the collective action of this group. An important characteristic of Taring Padi is the democratic collectivism that underlies all artistic production and activity. While in the last decade Taring Padi has been recognized as a part of Yogyakarta and Indonesia’s art history, at its core, Taring Padi is first and foremost a collective of social activists.

Nearly fifteen years after its inception, Taring Padi’s message has not only reached various communities in Indonesia but has also travelled abroad creating a network that is truly global. Taring Padi has participated in workshops in countries including Australia, East-Timor, and Thailand. The relaxed nature of this group and the desire of the second generation of Taring Padi members, who are now carrying on the activities of their predecessors, reinforce the significance that continues to be placed on the necessity of drawing attention to issues faced by marginalized populations in Indonesia as well as abroad.

Since the inception of Taring Padi in December 1998, the work of this group has focused on themes related to the social and political concerns of the Indonesian people. Resembling the style of propaganda posters, the imposing realism of Taring Padi’s work leaves a strong impression on the viewer. While themes present in Taring Padi’s work such as anti-violence, humans rights, and equality are universal, a particular emphasis is placed on the struggles of laborers and farmers. In order to examine in more depth the ideology of Taring Padi expressed through their art and activism, this exhibition divides the twenty prints on display into four categories including: anti-violence, anti-corruption, empowerment and activism, and politics. Working through these larger themes, the context in which each print was created and the message it portrays demonstrates the universality and density of meaning present in each print. As one views these images it cannot be ignored how the concerns of artists and activists in Indonesia reflect the issues faced by marginalized populations throughout the world.

Sinaga, D. (2011). “Taring Padi: Not for the sake of a fine arts discourse.” Taring Padi: Seni membongkar tirani. Yogyakarta, Indonesia: Lumbung Press.

EXHIBITION DATES: February 22 – March 16, 2013
Space 2435, North Quad (located on the corner of S. State & E.
Washington St. in the North Quad building)

EXHIBITION EVENTS:

  • Friday, February 22, 1-6pm:
    Opening Event: T-shirt printing workshop with visiting Taring Padi member Sudandyo Aprilianto. Space limited- RSVP at northquadhd@umich.edu. Refreshments will be served.
  • Monday, February 25, 7-9pm:
    Screening: In the Eye of the Day by Leonard Retel Helmrich (Trilogy #1)
  • Thursday, February 28, 7-9pm:
    Screening: Shape of the Moon by Leonard Retel Helmrich (Trilogy #2)
  • Friday, March 1, 3:30-5pm:
    Gamelan music demonstration by Anon Suneka.
  • Saturday, March 16, 2-6pm:
    Closing Event: Indonesian Dance Workshop & Performance with Sanggar Bhineka Tunggal Ika. Refreshments will be served.

    For more information about Taring Padi, visit: http://taringpadi.com/
    For more information about the exhibition and events, Contact North Quad Programming