In the Indonesian language, the word shadow speaks about a certain ambiguity of form. The word is related to something that is drawn, that originates from a source of light, but it is also related to the imagination, to daydreaming, to the illusory: imagerial while also apparition-like. It is something in between the tangibly discernible yet abstract, amidst layers of darkness that are unknowable, images of the other, that is seamlessly embodied into pre-existing habits. “Shadows” are the focal point to Mella Jaarsma’s presentation with ROH for South South. She brings her unique vantage point as an observer who has been assimilated into local pockets of culture, and who has embraced as well as become a pivotal figure in its further expansion.
This presentation showcases 7 works by Mella Jaarsma that have departed from different moments in time. In 1993, she developed a crematorium for the traditional ngaben ceremony in the village of Munduk, Bali in the work Pralina—A Fire Altar, Square Body— Kanda Empat presents the traditional Balinese held belief regarding the four “brothers” who play a role in shaping and guiding our lives from conception to death. Image of No Dream was created in collaboration with Yudi Ahmad Tajudin alongside clients in a psychiatric ward in Altrecht, The Netherlands. Communicating with The Forces, on the other hand was created and recorded within a domestic environment with family members as performers. Each work presents ideas and discourse in relation to materiality and immateriality, informing each other into refractory reference points, in turn reflecting a certain form of the soul and reality of man in relation to the constellation of life itself.
The cracks present in culture, as well as the interactions therein—whether in tension as well as unanimity with human language— has become one of the areas of focus for Mella and her works. By incorporating dimensions of certain rituals and habitual patterns uniquely cultivated to Indonesian society, she raises actual issues that sublimated between body, artefact, perspective, as well as procedural behaviors. These compositions are then incarnated into visual forms that resemble clothing, a return into seeking and formulating meaning the notion of repurposing as well as values in relation to the flow of life.
She speaks through those things that relate to the everyday, traversed back and forth in the quotidian. How they then interact with the body, skin, face, footsteps, movement, as well as its furthermost extensions. Activity and performance in the work of Mella Jaarsma becomes corporeal, defining a certain sense of “soul” determined by behavior as well as attitude.
Mella’s messages are presented through arrangements of material and form which then form surfaces for interaction and embodiment, also as projections and imagination. There is a certain flow, rite, artefact, as well as performance that develops a certain storytelling analogous towards human nature and conduct within the context of everyday existence. On one end, that which is to be absorbed in relation to the work of Mella Jaarsma becomes a sort of expression regarding the general experience of man in relation to chambers of the soul, the extension of its mind, as well as its embedded power relations. A certain entanglement forms in her work, simulating habits and identities of interactions and contradictions into poetry. These are abstracted and presented to a public environment to be seen and experienced through a plethora of perception and background.
Born 1960, Emmeloord, The Netherlands
Lives and works in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Mella Jaarsma is an artist who has become known for her complex custom installations and her focus on forms of cultural and racial diversity embedded within clothing, the body, and food. She studied visual art at Minerva Academy in Groningen (1978-1984), after which she left the Netherlands to study at the Art Institute of Jakarta (1984) and at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Yogyakarta (1985-1986). She has lived and worked in Indonesia ever since. In 1988, she co-founded Cemeti Art House, now called Cemeti Institute for Art & Society together with Nindityo Adipurnomo, which to this day remains an important platform for young artists and art workers in the country and region.
Mella Jaarsma’s works have been presented widely in exhibitions and art events in Indonesia and around the globe. Selected solo exhibitions include Performing Artifacts: Objects in Question at ROH, Jakarta, Indonesia (2022); The Size of Rice at A+ Works of Art, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2021); Bolak Balik at Jendela Art Space, Esplanade, Singapore (2017); Potong Waktu at Nadi Gallery, Jakarta, Indonesia (2014); Truth, Lies and Senses at Lawangwangi Creative Space, Bandung, Indonesia (2012); The Fitting Room at National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia and Selasar Sunaryo Art Space, Bandung, Indonesia (2009). Selected group exhibitions include Visaraloka, part of the Indonesia Bertutur Festival at Museum H. Widayat, Magelang, Indonesia (2022); Indonesian Women Artists #3: Infusions into Contemporary Art (2022), National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia; Bayang at South South Veza with ROH (2021); Setouchi Triennale at Ibuki Island, Japan (2019); The Coming World: Ecology as the New Politics 2030-2100 at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia (2019); Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia at National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia (2019); Sunshower: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia 1980s to Now at Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Kaohsiung, Taiwan (2019) and National Art Center Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan (2017); 20th Biennale of Sydney: The future is already here - it’s not just evenly distributed at Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia (2016); The Roving Eye at Arter, Istanbul, Turkey (2014); Jakarta Biennale: Siasat at Museum of Ceramics and Fine Arts, Jakarta, Indonesia (2013); Sip! Indonesian Art Today at ARNDT Berlin, Berlin, Germany and ARNDT Singapore, Singapore (2013); Suspended Histories at Museum Van Loon, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2013); Singapore Biennale at Singapore Art Museum, Singapore (2011); Aware: Art Fashion Identity at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (2010); RE-Addressing Identities at Katonah Museum, New York, USA (2009); Fashion Accidentally at Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan (2007); Yokohama Triennial, Japan (2005); and many others. Her work is part of the permanent collection of the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia.View Artist
Copyright belongs to The Artist
Photography courtesy of The Artist and ROH