Performing Artifacts: Objects in QuestionROH, Jakarta, Indonesia19 October - 20 November 2022
ROH Performing Artifacts: Objects in Question

Mella Jaarsma’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, Performing Artifacts: Objects in Question, looks into her creative processes and practice between 2010-2022, combining a new body of work with iconic costume installations that have never been exhibited in Indonesia before. Discussing a wide array of subjects pertaining to history, anthropology, colonialism, fashion, as well as the post-Anthropocene, the exhibition seeks to question the rigid ways in which we classify the things around us through the lens of modernity. 

Mella Jaarsma is an artist born in The Netherlands who has lived in Indonesia now since beginning her studies at the Art Institute of Jakarta in 1984 and thereafter the Institute of the Arts in Yogyakarta (1985-1986). Jaarsma also co-founded in 1988, with Nindityo Adipurnomo, Cemeti Art House, the first contemporary art space in Indonesia that remains until today a crucial platform for young artists, curators, and writers for Indonesia as well as the region — many of the most important artists in Indonesia have had their first exhibitions in Cemeti and have gone on to flourish thereafter. Both her own practice as an artist as well as her contributions in initiating and developing Cemeti Art House have played a tremendous influence upon a whole generation of practitioners in art. ROH is in many ways shaped and influenced by the legacy of her and Nindityo’s work in shaping the discourse around Indonesian contemporary art and its development until the present day. 

Her multidisciplinary practice centers around her consistent exploration into the utilization of costumes as a symbol that pertains to many layers of the human condition: culture, race, the corporeal body, the things we consume, and the way we relate between ourselves and the world, among others. Jaarsma’s works navigate intersections between sculpture, fashion, and performance in a diverse array of permutations, imbued with a critical outlook upon her own Dutch diasporic identity. Throughout her time in Indonesia, she has very sensitively approached, and built deep conversations with, communities from throughout the expansive archipelago and has developed thereafter a body of work that contains critical aspects of these interactions. 

The exhibition Perfoming Artifacts: Objects in Question showcases works that Jaarsma has made between 2010-2022, and many of them have not been shown in Indonesia before. Many of the costume installations will be activated by performers in a scale and magnitude that has not been conducted prior. These installations will be shown with new paintings and works on paper that present some of her more current interests pertaining to her recent projects with communities in Papua, as well as her project that looks at the largetooth sawfish. The intention of the exhibition is to present to the audience a more comprehensive understanding pertaining to the structure and methodology behind how Mella Jaarsma works as an artist, building ways in which to see her work through many different points of view. 

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 National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia; National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum, Singapore among others.

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Copyright belongs to The Artist

Videography by Adythia Utama Budiman

Curated by Alia Swastika

Photography by Maruto Ardi and ROH

Courtesy of The Artist and ROH