ROH is pleased to share its participation at S.E.A. Focus 2023: a world, anew, exhibiting a solo presentation of Yogyakarta-based artist, Agung Kurniawan, The God of Small Things.
Agung Kurniawan (b. 1968, Jember, Indonesia) is a multidisciplinary artist working with drawings, installations, performances, theater, and happening arts. He looks at the socio-political as well as historical aspects of trauma and tragedy situated in a place or a nation by unraveling the stories from first-hand sources and recounting them with his own imaginative narration. Kurniawan has been developing a new series of striking works on paper that interweave complex layers of history and narrative with fiction based off of his ongoing interest in the Indonesian reformation period of 1965.
The God of Small Things is built out of thirteen almost identical-sized small oil paintings. Lines, composition and details become the anchor that maneuvers his narrative in each piece. Sensitivity allows him to be humbled towards these paintings. Through this series of small paintings, Kurniawan has found poetry, or a prayer or spell. There exists a whole other universe that needs to be considered and honored. The narratives deftly interwoven through his compositions act as sacred praise to the almighty nobody, whispered carefully – sincerely and in faithful order – just as a prayer or spell is cast for the big gods.
In relation to Kurniawan’s prolific performance work, we are also delighted to invite you to take part in his participatory performance, Sri: A Short Biography of a Genocide Survivor. This performance was intended to bring up the Indonesian mass killings of 1965 – 66 into the larger public collective memory. All this time, stories about the genocide are silenced. But we need to remember the tragedy, how the gruesome cruelty has changed Southeast Asia’s geopolitical map and commemorate humanity’s dark history. Hundreds of thousands of victims must be recognized as victims, not as criminals. Through involving the audience, the performance will commemorate this dark history of humanity in a manner that is contemplative and personal.
In addition to our gallery presentation and public program, we are excited to return to OFF Focus: Fringe Film Programme to screen Mella Jaarsma’s performance documentation of DogWalk (2015/16).
B. 1968, Jember, Indonesia
Lives and works in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Agung Kurniawan is a multidisciplinary artist working with drawings, installations, and in more recent years, performances, theater, and happening arts. He looks at the socio-political as well as historical aspects of trauma and tragedy situated in a place or a nation by unraveling the stories from first-hand sources and recounting them with his own imaginative narration. Kurniawan has been developing a new series of striking works on paper that interweave complex layers of history and narrative with fiction based off of his ongoing interest in the Indonesian reformation period of 1965.
Kurniawan studied Archeology at the University of Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 1987 and later in the Fine Art Department with a concentration in printmaking at the Indonesian Art Institute, Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 1991. Kurniawan’s artistic practice spans more than twenty years with numerous solo exhibitions held in Indonesia and abroad. His recent solo presentation was The God of Small Things at S.E.A. Focus with ROH, Singapore (2023); solo exhibitions include Milik Nggendong Lali, Richard Koh Fine Art, Singapore (2013); Actus Contritionis, Umahseni, Jakarta, Indonesia (2012); and The Lines that Remind Me of You, Kendra Gallery, Bali, Indonesia (2011). Group exhibitions include Art Basel Hong Kong with ROH, Hong Kong (2023); Art Jakarta with ROH, Jakarta, Indonesia (2022); ArtJOG MMXXII: Expanding Awareness at Jogja National Museum, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2022); ERRATA: Collecting Entanglements and Embodied History at MAIIAM Contemporary art Museum, Chiang Mai, Thailand (2021); Europalia Indonesia: Power and Other Things, BOZAR, Brussels, Belgium (2017); First Sight: August at Museum MACAN, Jakarta, Indonesia (2017); Jakarta Biennale 2015: Neither Back nor Forward: Acting in the Present at Gudang Sarinah Ekosistem, Jakarta, Indonesia (2015); Biennale Jogja XII: Equator #2 at Sarang Art Space, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2013); Sip! Indonesian Art Today at ARNDT Berlin, Berlin, Germany and at ARNDT Singapore, Singapore (2013); 9th Gwangju Biennale: Roundtable, Gwangju, South Korea (2012); and Be(com)ing Dutch at Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (2008).
Kurniawan’s interwoven creative activism flourished into several collaborations with writers, poets, theater houses, musicians and more prominently the survivor groups of 1965. He has written and staged numerous plays, among them are Gejolak Makam Keramat performed at Koesnadi Hardjosoemantri Cultural Center, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2017) and Hanya Kematian yang Setia Menunggu performed at Institut Français Indonesia, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2015). His works are part of the public collection of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands; MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, Thailand; National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum, Singapore; and Queensland Art Gallery (QAGOMA), Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Copyright belongs to The Artist
Photography courtesy of The Artist and ROH