The Rame Rame issue of Garland #8

The Indonesian nation was founded on the five principles of Pancasila: divinity, humanism, nationalism, democracy and social justice. In 1945, the Indonesian President Sukarno reduced these to the fundamental principle of gotong royong, or mutual cooperation. This is the official story of values Indonesia presents to the world.

This issue of Garland is a kind of “gotong royong”. We’ve been advised by a dedicated team of young Indonesians who are keen to see this value updated to the country of today, 72 years later. The textile designer, Frans Pandjaitan sees this concept as more relevant to agricultural communities, where members of the kampung (“village”) come together to sow seeds or harvest. For urban dwellers like himself, it is more limited to big social events like weddings or funerals. For product designer Nadia Pramudita, this spirit still pervades much social life, such as the ngariung shared meal that is part of Sundanese culture and is now a fashionable kind of gathering in Jakarta. As a more familiar version of the sentiment of cooperation, Nadia suggested the phrase rame rame, which is typically said to rouse a group of people to action.

Rame rame  is a contribution to the ongoing exploration of the value of creative practice in the broader Indo-Pacific. With the quarterly essay by Rob Finlayson about Rodney Glick, we visit Bali, where many Westerners have been travelling not only for holidays, but also to work with the many skilled artisans. In Ubud, Glick has established a unique practice that combines not only a series of Hindu-inspired sculptures, but also a chain of cafes, filled with his designs for furniture and eating. With a keen ear for the conversations around Glick, Finlayson conveys the easeful flow of sociability that grounds his work.

We’re lucky as well to have an explanation by Mas Ruscita of the very material form of spirituality that underpins this Balinese attitude to the world. The Balinese cooperative Ketemu extends this into the social realm with a Schizo-friends project, realised in a yoga park. To the north of the island, Gede Kresna’s Rumah Intaran revives Balinese crafts, trades and recipes for local inspiration. And Marty Hope’s Elephant Shark represents an attempt to restore an image of Bali in the “old days”, before it became so commodified.

Collaboration is a key theme. Annie Gobel’s Complete Me jewellery project takes rame rame to Melbourne. Nuraini Juliastuti offers an Indonesian take on Tom Nicholson’s collaboration with diorama artisans in Yogyakarta. The artist Rosslynd Piggott writes about the value of her partnership with Venetian glass makers. Lisa Waup and Sarah Weston present their collaboration of Indigenous design and fashion. And the next instalment in the Stringlines series on fibre art tells the remarkable story of mentorship between a Sumatran datu spirit man and a newly lauded Indigenous artist, Jenny Crompton. Indonesia seems to have embraced social media and it is worth learning how they have adapted it to their values. During the course of this issue, we will be exploring the potential of Instagram as a platform for working together.

There’s much to learn about Indonesia itself. William Ingram and Jean Howe articulate the philosophy of Threads of Life through a visit to a traditional weaving community in Flores. Fauzy Prasetya shares his thoughts on what it takes to set up a ceramics studio today. Two articles are about the Dayak culture of Kalimantan: Karen Macdonald takes us to a Dayak wedding ceremony and Stephanie Brookes looks at the fibre craft that holds a village together. Marian Reid and Emily Lush discuss the iconic craft of Timor-Leste, tais weaving.

As always, we discover strong cross-cultural dialogues. Carla van Lunn writes about a fashion exchange between Australia and Indonesia, while Elizabeth Shaw reflects on a parallel jewellery exchange. Alexandra Crosby introduces us to some current thinking around design from Surabaya.

As well, there’s a roundup of stories from across the region. We hear from Lisa Cahill on Charlotte Haywood, Mark Stiles on Helen Wyatt, Elliat Rich on her design interpretation of central Australian landscape, Renate Mellão on the Brazilian embroidered house, Madeleine Kelly on an exhibition by Mexican artist, Claudia Fernandez, and a series on Japanese ceramics artists by Shoko Ono, Yoshika Yajima, Naho Yamashita and Tomoko Kawakami.

One of the goals of each issue is to find ways of connecting people together. We’ve been very lucky to have excellent advice from Frans Pandjaitan, Nadia Pramudita, Annie Gobel, Grace Samboh and Anisa Fardan Nabila. We hope they will help us continue to provide an Indonesian voice as Garland travels to other parts of our world.

To see the complete list of contents, go here.

Love and Money – Garland goes to town

“There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money.” Robert Frost

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a lily.” Chinese proverb

Previously, we explored the village as a site of creativity. Now Garland moves to the town as a place where a culture of sharing can develop without the distractions of a larger city. The town is often the destination of downsizing—the “sea change” or “tree change”—which helps reduce the demands of money making and prioritise other things, such as art making and family.

Underlying this is a duality of love and money. It’s implied that money is a means to which love is the end. The reverse is usually perceived as problematic. Traditionally, “sacred economies” were able to counterbalance the marketplace, such as karma or soul. But there are fewer restraints to the power of money in late capitalism. In the growing service economy, platforms like AirBNB have commodified what were previously sacred values like hospitality. There is a sense in which money is becoming increasingly an end in itself. Under neoliberalism, many workers in large corporations fear that their efforts are more towards the bottom line, rather than the original mission. This is felt particularly by those engaged in creative practices, affected by reduced government arts funding and an emerging millennial generation that is less interested in accumulating things.

The surge against austerity in the recent British elections is aligned with a thinking that seeks to redress this imbalance of love and money. Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism argues that the economic growth which unpins capitalism will no longer be sustained, leading us more towards a collective economy, represented by platforms like Wikipedia. His argument focuses largely on information products. It poses alternative challenges for material practices like crafts, which seem more dependent on the conventional marketplace to survive.

In our part of the world, we often experience a duality of systems represented by the Western and indigenous cultures. Many of the articles in this issue involve collaborations with Yolŋu (spelling of “Yolngu” from Yolŋu Matha dictionary) artists, who divide the world according to a moiety, reflecting the division between love and money, sacred and profane. Some of these projects emerged from Castlemaine State Festival, which is the main source of our town-based material.

Our quarterly essay by Robyn McKenzie follows a quest to understand the meaning of string figures in Yolŋu culture. Ironically, she finds that this traditional cultural practice comes to light only when turned into a saleable commodity—the art print. Her article is complemented by a feature on Yolŋu printmaking Balnhdnhurr to support this. Michelle Montgomery details one of the collaborative projects in the Castlemaine State Festival that involved an urban furniture maker and traditional Yolŋu man. Emily McCulloch Childs returns with a sequel to her earlier Ernabella article that reports on the development of jewellery making with Yolŋu artists in Yirrkala.

Elsewhere in Castlemaine, we visit a conversation among residents about what they do for love and how they manage to afford it. We learn about some Castlemaine artistic practices in printmaking (Rhyll Plant and Ann Baxter), filmmaking (the Cantrills) and ceramics (Dean Smith). Patrick Jones offers a profound local cosmological framework for the sustainability ethic found in this Central Victorian region.

We learn from others about the balance of love and money. Michael Scott explains the nature of “hipster capitalism” as the re-purposing of old trades into creative practices. Tim Johnson describes a project for tradesmen and professionals that enables them to make creative play out of their day job. Penny Craswell gives us as the example of the Object Therapy project, which champions repair as a form of making. Lou Weis thoughtfully describes the creative role of capital in the high-end design. At the other end, we hear the story of Peter Seaton’s Brunswick murals that mediate between development and the street. Vicki Mason tells of a radical project for an alternative way of distributing jewellery. Inga Walton reviews an exhibition that reflects a particular marriage of love and money. And finally, Anna Battista tells us of a Ghanaian artist who is able to make art of money in the most direct fashion.

Elsewhere, we feature the first of a series on Japanese art about the bamboo artist Hafu Mastumoto. Carolina Triana offers a story of an Afghan weaving at the centre of a project to create a welcome couch in Western Sydney. Mandy Ridley and Fiona Wright write about Australia-India collaborations and Vishu Arora tells of the enduring production of fabled Ashavali brocades.

Garland itself is a platform that honours the contributions that we make without payment— sharing our work and advocating the work of others. Our journey involves learning from different creative contexts how making is appreciated, beyond its financial value. We’ve discovered the Korean joy of labour, the Punjabi arcadia, Girramay custodianship, the Persian drive to ornament, Indian love of story and Thai commitment to the village. We can now add the cooperative revival movement in our creative towns.

❤ to all those who made this issue possible, especially the good people of Castlemaine whose hospitality proved such fertile soil. Thanks particularly to Susie Elliot and Mark Richarson, whose Arena article set this in motion.

Further reading

Eisenstein, Charles. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition. North Atlantic Books, 2011.

Elliot, Susie and Richardson, Mark. The Maker Movement, Arena

Mason, Paul. PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. Allen Lane, 2015.

Murray, Kevin. “The Future of Craft: Is Technology the Only Path to Postcapitalism?” Medium, January 12, 2017.

Ocejo, Richard E. Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy. Princeton University Press, 2017.

Rundle, Guy. A Revolution in the Making. Simon and Schuster, 2014.

Srnicek, Nick, and Alex Williams. Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2015.

Where is your village?

Introduction to Garland #6

A young girl called Pikul was pure of heart and spoke with a golden tongue. Tormented by her jealous stepmother, the angels took pity on her and granted her a blessing: every time she spoke, golden pikul flowers world fall from her mouth. Pikul was forced to talk by her stepmother who gathered the golden flowers and sold them. Eventually, Pikul did not want to speak for fear of the flowers that fell from her mouth.

While this tale from a Thai village is presented as a moral lesson to be “master of your speech”, the imagery of words transformed into flowers is charming in itself. The village is the repository of many such cultural treasures, which this issue of Garland seeks to uncover.

In our journey around the Asia Pacific, we have been moving between different regions to discover the genius of various creative places—enjoyment of labour in South Korea, love of nature in Cairns, mystical beauty in Iran and storytelling in Western India. With this current move to Southeast Asia, we consider a category of place. While villages can take radically different form depending on their host country—from the Indonesian kampung set in a lush valley to a hamlet off the coast of New Zealand’s south island—they do share a common difference from the ubiquitous city. Most people who live in a village are likely to know each other’s name. Relations are not as dependent on financial transactions: there is often collective work towards a community space, such as a temple (in Britain, a place must have a church to be called a “village”). And often there is a set of traditions associated with that place, including myths, rituals and craft skills that make the most of materials at hand.

In Asia, the village has been seen as intrinsic to identity. Gandhi claimed that “The soul of India lives in its villages”. In Vietnam it is claimed that “Royal decrees yield to village customs.” And in Thailand, the word moobaan means “village is where the home is”, which is where 75 per cent of the population reside.

Of course, this fond picture of the village can seem nostalgic in the twenty-first century. Urbanisation seems inevitable and now more than half the world’s population lives in cities, probably including you. From a development perspective, villages can be seen as “backward”, involving superstition, prejudice and boredom. But can we imagine a world without a village?

According to the Italian poet, Cesare Pavese, “Your own village means that you’re not alone, that you know there’s something of you in the people and the plants and the soil, that even when you are not there, it waits to welcome you.” So where is your village? Is it a birthplace in another country, where a dear grandmother still lives, refusing to leave? Or is it a place discovered during travels, which touched the heart?

We have some striking examples of how Thai culture today still turns to the village. Rudee Tancharoen journeys to Ban Pa Ao to find a lost bronze casting technique. Pawinee Sukhaswasdi Santisiri discovers a way of using water hyacinth in Isan. Watanya Siriwan makes a sacrifice of her art work in a unique village ceremony of Kra-tin. Jakkai Siributr creates embroideries that tells the story of the loss of home village by Rohingyas. And Sali Sasaki joins others in Chiang Mai to look at the contemporary relevance of village crafts.

Elsewhere, Bangkok-based jeweller Cecê Nobre collaborates with a Chinese tribal silversmith to create work for the homeland of Kilombu. Tuk Sukumarl Leksawat writes warmly of her exchange with a village in Turkey. The Kurdish artist Rushdi Anwar reflects on his work with Lana paper makers in northern Thailand. Singgih Susilo Kartono takes us the Indonesian village of Kandangan, where he has located his design business. Emi Weir celebrates the cotton made by Taileu villagers. Harriet Watts relates how textiles for a village in Laos village end up as Australian craft products. Sahr Bashir writes how a village in the Punjab helps urban designers think of the bigger picture. Pauline Tran presents the collaboration between textile artist Sara Lindsay and refugee Karen weavers. And Kevin Murray takes us to Denmark, a village on the south west coast of Australia, where artist Cecile Williams has helped forge a unique community.

In other articles, Kanita Kaniyomwakin tells the history of her “craft classic”, the Khao Tom Mud. Paul Northam writes about the Philippines exchange with Castlemaine (the village of our next destination). And thinking of future possible exchanges with villages, Zina Burloiu and Terry Martin reveal the collaborative potential of WhatsApp in Australian-Romanian wood art. Pamela Irving tells us what she has been able to with Ming shards in China. Shannon Garson writes about another ceramic exchange, this time across the Pacific. In other corners of the Asia Pacific, Hyeyoung Cho reports on the Kogei Triennale in Kanazawa and Martina Dempf on a jewellery festival in Kazakhstan. And in Australia, we hear from Bethany Wheeler about the glass workshop 1000 Degrees, Sonja Anderson’s encounter with the Cairns jeweller Kate Hunter and Michelle Montgomery’s take on Utopia art returning to domestic craft.

But no doubt the well-polished gem of this issue is Alice Pung’s longform essay about Vipoo Srivilasa. Vipoo is a Thai-born ceramicist who has flourished on the other side of the Indian Ocean, where he has established not only a striking artistic practice, but also a base for a flotilla of projects that help foster exchange in our region. Alice is able to reflect on a characteristic of Vipoo’s art that is rarely acknowledged despite its obviousness—that cute elephant in the room. Drawn herself to this cuteness, Alice asks why we tend to be suspicious that this quality is not serious in art. Whatever the outcome of her inquiry, the means she takes to get there is testament of a serious regard for Vipoo’s work.

Many people have helped with this issue. First, Vipoo has provided not only inspiration through his work but also guided us to discover some of the most interesting Thai work around at the moment. Sincere thanks to Jongsuwat Angsuvarnsiri, Atty Tantivit, Dr SImon Wallace and Sara Lindsay. And we appreciate the partnership with SACICT’s International Innovative Craft Fair, which has provided the source of so many stories.

Smell the pikul flowers…