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it's a project that we've been working on...questioning the relation between the people in the city with the vehicle, not only the main function as a transportation but other than that, will be more focus around desire, identity, status, tradition, body, travel, dream, home, space, city, even religion... This art project will question the social and cultural aspect of motor vehicle in the society, and furthermore identify the problems and its relation with the identity of Indonesian contemporary society. In Jakarta there are 5,8 million unit vehicles, with additional 1.127 new vehicles A Day: 236 cars and 891 motorbike. 98,5 % private cars, 86.435 unit or 1,5 % are public transport. With only 0,01% street growth, in 2013 the total space that provided by the roads will be the same with the total space of the whole vehicles needed, or it means a total jam. Motor vehicles have invaded most of Indonesian cities since circa late fifties along with the early development Indonesia’s cities. Vehicle is not merely functional as transportation but also have a strong influence in social and cultural aspect. This fact has impacts on how our society sees and interprets the presence of vehicles and how we create conceptions for vehicles. Having a motor vehicle becomes a certain pride, which eventually determined social status. Having a vehicle is one of the sign of a success for the Javanese patriarchal society besides power, woman, possession, and pet. The image of motor vehicles in the society can be seen from mass culture—TV, advertisement, cinemas—as a representation of modernity and wealthy dream. We can see the presence of vehicles from the dream of ideal family to the big prizes in TV quiz. Motor vehicle is another form of economy, social, and cultural expression. The city infrastructure have given more emphasis on the private vehicle as important property, which eventually cause inadequate public transportations and facilities for pedestrians. Cities in are built for cars not for people.


gridlock on the road to utopia

Traffic jams have always fascinated me as symbolic configurations. In part because they remind me of the artworld. There is something exhilarating about spending hours just sitting there, pointlessly, polluting, idling. Traffic jams are like highly contemporary, ephemeral and inadvertent public artworks. From what you say, it sounds like Jakarta is only five years away from traffic-jam utopia: eternal gridlock.

I'd be interested to know how you intend to deal with the phenomenon of traffic jams, which as an art critic, I see as more aesthetically satisfying than almost anything one could say willfully "question" about them. They are somehow so mind-boggling as to defy "questioning."

You may be interested in the following comments by British writer Will Self, published in the excellent online journal, The Idler. Britain too has its traffic issues:

"Britain is too small; if you have a high powered car to drive around in it’s like a roundabout. So it’s very idle and boring. I used to have a very bad driving habit indeed. I was completely on the wagon for about four years, didn’t do any drugs or drink. And topped 47,000 miles, a lot of which was purposeless. I still do it sometimes - I did 400 miles last Saturday. It’s ecstatically boring, motorway driving. I loved it, I just loved it. I don’t think people should say sheer weight of traffic, you should say mere weight of traffic. This is because when you get into a fucking three - lane jam at 12 at night, when you’re banked up for miles and miles, gradually it starts to free itself. You’re expecting some kind of Goddard-style smash with heads bleeding and tears and body parts lying everywhere, and when you eventually get there, it’s nothing, nothing, the traffic starts to move again. What happens is that a sine wave is generated down the stream of traffic. So someone’s peeing on the hard shoulder, so one person brakes, next person brakes, so the amplitude of the sine wave increases till Muggins at the back is in a jam. So that’s mere weight of traffic, which is a phenomenon I adore and court assiduously. When I got onto the A303 and mere weight of traffic had banked up all the way from Stonehenge back to these roundabouts, I was loving it. I love the frustration on the faces of people, I get transfixed by it, because as an idler I just couldn’t give a fuck. It’s just pleasure."

The whole interview is worth reading:



on machines

I do not think Ade Darmawan - Ruangrupa is interested in the romantization or metaphorization on the aftermath of the increase of vehicles in his public sphere, but rather on its social and cultural connotations. The ownership of machinery and technology is highly symbolic to power and domination. As he remarks, a patriarchal society will embrace a machine as an object of desire, as an object to be controlled let it be a car, a piece of land or a woman. Desire towards the machine may recall subtexts found in avant-guard cinema like Ballet Mecanique 1924 by Fernand Léger and Dudley Murphy, where a clear erotization or rather "feminization" of the machine, define its montage.


And clearly, the futurists were known for their exhilarating fascination with the velocity of the machine; "We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath ... a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace." states Marinnetti's 1909 Manifesto.

However nowadays in post-fordism (a term literally connected to Ade's project), the automobile is highly socialized but nonetheless hierarchized; buying a car of a certain company and model suggest in any cultural context the belonging to a specific social class and taste. The avant-guard's astonishment with the presence of the machine in life has changed to perhaps a fascination with its technological sophistication.

I would like to hear more about Ade's project as for me it isn't very clear where is it going? and by what mechanisms does it intend to "identify the problems and its relation with the identity of Indonesian contemporary society"?

Inti Guerrero


on project

thanks for the comments!

inti is right about that we are more interested in cultural and social context of the vehicle. but i'm not sure we can see it as the desire to a machine and the futurist. we're not in that history line/pace of modernity. may be in some element we can see it better with the post-fordism, in 70's, the motor vehicle industry that moves to south east asia, and the oil booming in in the era and the emergence of new social and economy class in soeharto regime (1966-1998) .
in this context i think we're just consumers, devoted and passionate one. it can be a revenge to the poverty, it's an illusion of being rich or at least being able to buy, and a dream of modernity. most population of jakarta (at least 11,5 millions) is coming from other city and town all over indonesia. millions of people from jakarta will travel back to their own hometown when idul fitri (moslem big holiday) is coming, it's really a massive trip, bring our own vehicle is important as a successful story and struggle in the city. having a vehicle also mean to own another space other than a house, which is a mobile space, the extension of the (private) space is precious in a dense city. with all the distance between places and the traffic in the city, and the fact that indonesia is a big archipelago, mobility is a problematic privilege.

few other things that makes the numbers of motor vehicle increase very fast are; in the last few years there is a credit system with low advance payment and you can pay monthly for three years, low motor vehicle taxes, subsidized gasoline, big market of second hand cars and of course you can always pay the police to get the driving license.

in the project we trying to closely see what kind of happy struggled consumers we are. how the cultural value, desire, memory towards vehicle and mobility have been collectively constructed. that's how we gonna see as an indonesian contemporary identity.

several artists and writers are involved in this project individually and collaboratively. few things in progress ; replacing female model typical car/motor ad-phototography with male model. distributing flyers with 'al qur-an' quotes juxtaposing the moslem value about mobility and desire with the contemporary facts. a collection book of photos, ads, articles from the quiz, competition, that give car as a main prize. interviewing people about their relation/desire/memory towards vehicle.
and more later