In election year, Indonesian artists turn to satire

Wed Feb 11, 2009 4:26am EST
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By Jennifer Henderson

JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - Indonesia holds general elections this year and according to some artists disillusioned by their country's decade-old democracy, the candidates are little better than monkeys, clowns and drunks.

An exhibition entitled "Vox Populi" or "Voice of the People," on display in Jakarta this week, explores how many Indonesians regard their politicians ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections in April and July.

"We are trying to live in a democracy, to live a better way, but there are so many things that need to be corrected. The artists are thinking about the many types of democracy that exist these days," said curator Tubagus P. Svarajati.

Ivan Haryanto, an artist based in the Javanese cultural city of Yogyakarta, depicts the streets of Jakarta, emblazoned with advertisements and political posters, as seen from inside a bajaj, the noisy open-sided three-wheelers that provide cheap public transport for many poorer Indonesians.

One of his oil paintings shows a political poster of a grinning monkey, ears plugged, with the slogan "Vote Me."

The monkey represents cunning candidates, who act sweet while they are out campaigning but who quickly forget their promises to the voters once they are elected, Haryanto said.

Ads also feature in the poster-like paintings by AS Kurnia, an artist and art teacher from Semarang, in Java.

In one of his works, a yellow banana floats in space above the slogan Partai Cuci Mulut, or Party Wash Your Mouth Out -- a wry comment on the verbal slip-ups and abuse hurled by candidates during campaigning, Kurnia said.   Continued...