Plastic is a material that is harmful to both our body and the environment. They are made of crude oil, which causes it to be non-renewable thus making it a major problem to our environment due to the fact that we are so dependent on it. The scary thing about plastic is its inability to degrade, as they will turn into a form of ‘dust’, a very small particle of plastic that is often found in our environment, forest, lakes, rivers and oceans. (The Flaming Vegan 2012) These create a ‘plastic soup’ area in the Pacific Ocean twice the size of America.
Other than China, Indonesia is the next biggest contributor to plastic ocean waste (Lee 2015). Being one of the most populous countries in the world, they generated 3.22 million tons of plastic waste in 2010, about 10% of the world total (Lee 2015). Ade Palguna Ruteka, head of the environment ministry’s Bureau of Planning and International Cooperation says that more people are aware of the excess waste and Indonesia are unsettled by this revelation (Lee 2015)
This brings me to my main topic: what can we do to help countries like Indonesia and China. I chanced about a TED talk by Eben Bayer who is a founder of Ecovative Design. (TED n.d) He and his team created a new form of packaging made by none other than mushroom, which is an interesting and a lot more environmental friendly alternative to harmful material, like plastic and polystyrenes. This mushroom packaging uses mushroom fiber and agriculture waste (cotton seed, wood fiber and buckwheat hulls) that allows them to use 98 percent less energy than Styrofoam.
Ecovative’s mushroom packaging has already been used in big companies such as Steelcase (Fortune 500). They received fundings of $180,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and gain great supports from government agencies such as USDA Agricultural Research Service and New York State Energy Research. (Greenbiz 2010) This allows them to keep growing, from being a university project into having 60 workers in their company (Nearing 2012). The good news is there are strong demands from companies in Asia who wants to ship Mushroom packaging into Asia and I believe they will be the next generation of packaging that will curb all environmental challenges which will helps countries like Indonesia to greatly reduce their ocean waste (Ecovative 2015).
“Human beings have always had a propensity toward destruction. The more we made, the more we destroyed. In making our world within the world we failed to understand what of the former was being destroyed. Once we reached sufficient numbers and gained sufficient technological muscle, destruction became devastation- which we render in both horrific material and aestheticized forms. This situation may now be called structural unsustainability.” – Fry, 2011
Indonesia is the fourth largest country and the largest archipelago in the world. It is on the crossroad between the Pacific and Indian oceans, which allows them to be a bridge between Australia and Asia. (SAS n.d) With such geographical advantage, it gives Indonesia an influx of foreign influence that greatly impact and benefits the creative industry.
Throughout the years, foreign influences streaming into Indonesia consistently, for many various reasons such as trade and tourism. In the past, the active trade markets of goods such as ceramic and silk from China and India has resulted in the fusion between foreign art and culture with traditional Javanese arts. (SAS n.d) The Javanese art that we see today is a result of the cultural fusion, and these influences continue till today.
In 2013, Indonesia “signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to boost cooperation to promote creative industries” (Jeon 2013). This relationship between the two countries can help boost the industry through the “exchanges of information, more joint-training sessions and more educational, research and development projects” (Jeon, 2013). This can help create more jobs in the future as the market grows and help boost the economy. (Yulisman, 2014) In 2014, Indonesia went on to collaborate with the United States to further develop the Indonesian creative industry through the help of several American companies. (Antara News, 2014)
From the past till today, Indonesia has consistently, both passively (tourism and trade) and actively (collaborations with foreign countries) introduced foreign influence on their domestic art and creative industry. This will allow them to further improve on their ever-growing local art scenes as well as being able to need the needs and demands of the international markets.
I believe that the location and size of Indonesia is advantageous to the nation, particularly by embracing the demands of their domestic market and also welcoming foreign collaborations and investors. Mari Elka Pangestu of the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry said “The domestic market will be the main driver in consumption of this industry” and the creative industry makes up at least 17 percent of the domestic consumption. (Yulisman, 2014) This further illustrates that the locals embrace their local creative talents and thus allowing the sector of the country to blossom.
As a Singaporean and a South-East Asian, I find it appropriate to compare the design scene in Singapore and Indonesia. Despite the differences between Singapore as a developed country and Indonesia as a developing country, I can boldly say that the local art scenes between these two countries are very contrasting. Indonesia is way ahead of Singapore in terms of domestic consumption of art. In my opinion, this is due to the education systems in both countries; Singapore’s education system is too rigid and is focused on research and development. There is a lot of social pressure to keep up the fast-paced lifestyle, which creates an environment that discourages creativity (Institute of Policy Studies 2008). Singaporean parents do no consider arts education “practical” choice. However in Indonesia, one of the standard competencies for elementary school graduates is “use information of their environment logically, critically and creatively” as well as to “demonstrate the ability to think creatively and innovatively” for junior high school graduates (UNESCO 2011). Such standards encourage creativity in Indonesians since young and create an art-embracing environment for children to grow up in.
Throughout my research I came across an installation-based performance artwork called Chinese Whispers by Rani Pramesti. Similarly to other current contemporary Indonesian artists, the work confronts aspects of Indonesian history that deals with migration, discrimination and racially fuelled violence. The artwork investigates a part of Indonesian history by giving voice to Chinese-Indonesian women and investigating ethnolocality within Jakarta and surrounding cities. These stories are interconnected with the notion of spatial scales relating to the development and definition of ones identity. “Ethnolocality…a term I coin to name a spatial scale where ‘ethnicity’ and ‘locality’ presume each other to the extent that they are, in essence, a single concept.” (Boellstorff, 2015). This concept of ethnolocality is provoking when set alongside Chinese Whispers, as the artist states upon reflection of her experience of the May 1998 riots, “that was the first time when I realised for the first time in my life, that in the eyes of many, I was not Indonesian, but rather, Chinese” (Pramesti, 2014). The Chinese-Indonesian population according to the 2010 census accounts for 1.2% of the population of Indonesia, researchers say this number is potentially much higher as many Indonesians are reluctant to admit they are of Chinese decent as they fear discrimination, only in 2000 was a law revoked that forbade Chinese cultural performances and the use of Chinese names. Pramesti investigates how discrimination and fear can caused a confusion of identity.
The installation is based around moving through a maze in pairs wearing headphones that play interviews with Chinese-Indonesian women. The whispered interviews demonstrates the hushed fear of the Chinese-Indonesian women to speak and understand the May Riots, the installation attempting to open up conversations about race, identity and violence in Indonesia. The installation is also multi-layered as it is held in Melbourne, not only confronting the multi-dimensional identities of the women as Chinese and Indonesian, but also as migrants of Australia. Parallels can be drawn with the ethos and work of Ruangrupa, a group of artists in Jakarta whose main priority is to identify the “lack of space in Indonesia for artists who want to collaborate with the public, unmediated by the political parties or art dealers” (Crosby, 2008). Indonesia presents an interesting backdrop to artistic exploration of particular voices and stories as its past and present is infused with layers of political, social, economic and racial complications, disallowing for a particular voice or story to be heard or even developed over a corrupt government and the layers of cultural and social identities interfused within each other. This highlights the importance of an open and democratic art scene in Indonesia, “art has social and cultural functions whose ‘products’ are truth, reality, and ‘the making of our own history” (Crosby, 2008). Indonesia’s art community attempts to piece together a multitude of histories and realities, connecting with the varied and multifaceted history of Indonesia in an attempt to understand the past and where the country is headed in the future.
Youtube video, an account of the May 1998 riots, contextualising the chaos and confusion of the event in history.
The “documentary”, The Act of Killing, addresses the genocide of Communist Party members in Indonesia between 1965-1966, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. It documents the Indonesian death squads that carried out mass murders of alleged communists for the government. What creates this documentary to stand out from the others, is how Oppenheimer chronicles these killings. There was an inherent madness in his approach. He tracked down the men who actually committed the murders, to reenact these moments and participate in the film. As quoted by executive producer Werner Herzog, “they happily agreed to do so, with the emphasis on happily”. The killers re-enacted their crimes through juxtaposing the torturous cruelty with otherworldly antics, dancing and vivid colours. Unlike other documentary films, Oppenheimer blurs the line between a good and evil narrative, where the borderline between documentary and fiction is blurred. The amount of stylization and surrealism leaves the audience in a land between fantasy and reality. The audience is furthermore shown the killers everyday activities, allowing them to question and seek their own answers. In an interview on vice, Oppenheimer states that, “most movies try to kill thinking. They take thought and try to stick it in its back. This is a movie that encourages people to think”
Due to the actors re-enacting scenes that they inherently performed during the genocide, it makes you question whether the performance is real or not. Its ambiguity makes the film so powerful and unique. The documentary is trying to communicate something about the real world, through entering and exploring the idea of something other than a journalistic point of view.
The film was screen as a university in Yogyakarta, to a mixed group of students, teachers and friends of the university. The film resulted in a vast range of opinions on the subject matter. Although many questioned the film and the message it is portraying, the students, parents and teachers at the university had a universal acknowledgement that films central message is impossible to ignore and would be “ground-breaking in helping Indonesia break its silence about its history.”
Moira Horrocks lived in a suburban house in St Ives for almost 15 years before embarking on one of the most prolific experiences of her life. It wasn’t until she came across the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival online, that Moira finally took the leap and moved her life to Ubud for 2 years.
Two years ago, Moira was a freelance editor and proofreader who had always dreamt of writing her own novel or short stories. With her two children heading off to University, she decided this was perhaps her time to fulfil her lifelong passion of putting pen to paper. She had read about the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival and always felt that it was beyond her grasp however she was so inspired by the festival and their mission “to celebrate extraordinary stories and amplify brave voices”, that a few hours later had spontaneously booked herself a ticket to Indonesia.
The Ubud Readers and Writers Festival is an annual event that takes place in Bali’s creative and cultural heartland. It is now the largest and most renowned literary and cultural event of Southeast Asia, tackling global issues and encouraging imaginative ideas. Writers, artisans and performers from across Indonesia and all over the globe come together for five days to “celebrate knowledge and the arts, education, wisdom and science”. The festival cemented Moira’s lifelong dream to explore her creative passions.
After attending the festival, Moira extending her trip for another month, as she fell in love with the Indonesian culture and all that it had to offer. One month turned into two, and before she knew she had moved into a villa, just outside of Ubud, surrounded by lush tropical gardens where flowers and fruits grow freely.
Every morning, Moira walks through the rice paddies that surround her villa, and says she “often pinches [her]self with the beauty that Indonesia has to offer”. Her stories are constantly inspired by their culture and her creative design is intrinsically influenced by the unique design aesthetic of Indonesia.
The constant growing New Age community has settled down in Ubud, and there are several holistic healing centres, energy readings and tantric workshops just round the corner from where she lives. Since moving to Indonesia, Moira has enjoyed exploring her spirituality, and attends a Yoga class every morning just a few metres from her front door.
Humans have been responsible for changing conditions of the planet, in particular with waste disposal. Art and design discourses are increasingly exploring how interdisciplinary work can reinterpret how we can deal with the challenge of waste. The question is, which will surpass the other, innovation or global destruction.
In addition to waste disposal the world is facing serious natural resource and environmental challenges, consisting of fresh water depletion, deforestation and air and water pollution. Furthermore, the struggle to feed our continuously growing population exacerbates these challenges.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it is estimated that by 2050, the demand for fresh water will rise by 50%, the demand for food will rise by over 70% and the demand for energy will nearly double. All of these factors need to be taken into consideration whilst trying to tackle waste disposal. The ultimate solution is innovation. Designers have actively created inventions using science and technology in response to the constant challenge of waste disposal. Fundamentally, environmentalist, Ramez Naam believes it is a race between the depletion and pollution of natural resources on one side and the race of innovation on the other.
Here is where designers have coupled their design expertise with advanced 21st century technology to produce innovations in response to challenges that are threatening to permanently change our earth. Designer Dickson Despommier, acknowledged the fact that by 2050 there will be over 3 billion more people to feed, however over 80% of land that can be used for farming in the world, already has been used. His solution: create farms in skyscrapers in our cities, Vertical Farms. Grown all year-round, using solar-powered lighting and naturally recycled water and waste, different crops would be grown on each level in any geographical location.
Vertical Farm Systems states that the technology was developed to improve global food security, which is under threat from a decreasing availability of fertile land, water resources, skilled farm labour and unpredictable climatic conditions. After years of development and commercial testing Vertical Farm Systems are beginning to emerge throughout the world, the Plantgon: A farm with multi-level growing systems for the year-round commercial production of leafy green crops and herbs. Ultimately with minimal inputs of water, labour or land area.
Although designers like Despommier strive to decrease waste disposal, unless the pace of innovation is increased, the race between destruction and creation will be lost.