|Micronation/Macronation 2012 The Project|
During the end of March 2012, Indonesians from various backgrounds were voicing outrage against the Indonesian Government's plan to cut subsidies on the type of fuel used by most of the population, which would directly result in fuel price hike. Hundreds of demonstrations and rallies took place in many Indonesian major cities.
Days before 1 April 2012, the date when the Government's decision is due, the demonstrations escalated in intensity, which culminated in clashes between police and protesters. The situation grew alarming nationwide as conflicts between people and the Government were in the rise. Finally, after an intense plenary session, the House rejected the fuel price hike proposal. Shortly afterwards, the issue of fuel subsididies removal gradually went out of public attention. The general public were pleased and soothed.
Nevertheless, isn't it the truth that our dependence—and the rest of the world's dependence—on unrenewable fossil fuel has grown to such a large extent? Isn't it the truth that fuel prices will continually increase as supply grows scarce? Also, how long can the Government keep subsidizing fuel with its ever-increasing price? At the moment, with fuel subsidies in place, the important, urgent matters of fuel availability and fuel dependence are gone from public discussions; not deserving of public attention, let alone thoughts.
Amidst such circumstances, the House of Natural Fiber (HONF, Yogyakarta, Indonesia) have been cooking up ideas and experiments to discover alternative ways of obtaining alternative energy sources, which comprise the substance and the socio-economic-political context of the MICRONATION/MACRO-NATION project development.
HONF's presentation at Langgeng Art Foundation (LAF) is their starting point to introduce these ideas as well as the technical-practical implementation possibilities. The presentation—as a sustainable design prototype—consists of 3 core components: a) Installation of a fermentation/distillation machine to process hay (raw material) into ethanol (alternative energy to substitute fossil fuel); b) Satellite data grabber: to obtain data related to agricultural production (weather, climate, seasons); c) Super-Computer: to process data (weather, seasons as well as ethanol production capacity), which is also capable of predicting when Indonesia can reach energy and food independence if this MICRONATION/MACRONATION sustainable project design were to be implemented as a public strategy and policy to achieve the condition of energy and food independence in Indonesia.
This presentation is a good opportunity for us to reassess basic performative premises of various practices combining science, technology and arts. HONF's project—as with their previous projects—actually blurs the boundaries that have thus far been setting apart science, technology and arts. They combine all three, which to us brings home the question: where is the boundary between aesthetic experience and function? What possibilities could the relationship among science, technology and arts bring when confronted to actual problems in today's communities?
Compared to various other fine arts practices involving elements of social activism which have hitherto been tested and conducted by a number of artists in Indonesia, HONF’s current project actually proposes something new and different. They no longer practice the “taking to the streets” or “teaching/utilizing arts to raise mass awareness” kinds of activism, nor do they practice arts that involve local environmental/community issues. Instead they view social-political issues by assessing various strategic areas, which are not solely based on the “people versus corporate” or “people versus the State” axes.
By widening our acceptance of various dimensions of relationship which exist between the artists and the public today, we can see that HONF still employ ‘aesthetics’ in their work, although their chosen strategy of visualization naturally no longer focuses on the ‘fine arts’ conventions. For instance, data processing and presentation in their work—be it related to nature, environment or various calculations—will be shown in various forms of visualization. But this time we need to take it as visualization that may not necessarily always serve as representation (art).
Faced with ecological issues, HONF choose to activate their creativity to render such ecological issues more open and accessible by the public (creative ecology). Data which are unfamiliar—or perhaps even concealed and made secret from the general public’s knowledge—are presented in an easy-to-undertand visualization. In other words, data pertaining to public interests and public life are returned to the public (hacktivism, open-source, democratization of information dan knowledge).
Furthermore, the use of science, technology and arts in HONF’s projects should no longer be viewed through a conventional formalistic aesthetic perspective. If we can accept that this project is a design which involves a number of systems (physics, biology, mechanics, digital data-processing, and so on), what HONF have been doing is equal to the system aesthetics once proposed by Haans Haacke, a German-born artist who used to focus on issues of environmental system and social system in his works.
That way, MICRONATION/MACRONATION is a practice which may possibly bring various new elements into the practices of fine arts that have been taking place in Indonesia. Through HONF’s works so far, we are in fact presented with the opportunity to re-formulate basic relationships which can exist between the art(ists) and the public. Is this not a truly relevant issue, considering how the faster, more complex public (social, economic, politic, cultural and global) reality keeps on changing? — HONF | Enin Supriyanto | April 2012.
At the same time, the prototype of this design is being tested through the MICRONATION/MACRONATION project simulation land in several agricultural fields and villages around Cangkringan, Merapi, Yogyakarta, in cooperation with local residents.
Compare with the environment-related fine art activities and activism in Indonesia in the past.
From HONF to INDONESIA
an extra note on aesthetics
Father Gregorius Budi Subanar, SJ
1) HONF (indeed) seems to be a distinct phenomenon of their own with their uniqueness. Their choice of the name HONF signifies their readiness and their intention to enter the global sphere. Furthermore, they work in the field of information and communication technology with all the modifications. House of Natural Fiber (HONF), a name which sounds so serious, can be imagined as a house, a place for people whose interests lie in tweaking optical fibers for digital technology modification. However, now the "natural fiber" also returns to its literal meaning as the fibers from the field of agriculture, hay and suchlike.
2) This was made possible by concerns of their members, who are indeed strongly based on and rooted in the local experience. From the wealth of the agricultural realm, which has been threatened by industries with their innovations, expansions and pollution, emerge researches such as electromagnetic waves, fermentation of hay, polluted water purification, satellite data hacking, Open Design, Generic Infrastructures, EFP platform, as well as other forms of basic laboratory researches. HONF’s researches on fermentation and destillation must have been based on strategic choices in response to existing environmental issues. When such a research is conducted by experts in scientific institutions, it (should) be done for the advancement of science, which will then in turn be dedicated to the people. Or, when it is conducted by industries, it will be projected towards sales to the customers. In HONF, the research is conducted by scientists but coordinated by an artist, to be exhibited as a work of art.
3) The usual route of a research would be: Lab, papers, to end up in a seminar room; or: Lab, prototype, to be manufactured in a factory as products for sale. In HONF, the route of their research is: Lab, audio-visual execution, galleries, free workshops or trainings, and explorations of alternative spaces to widen their scope and develop their research further. It is remarkable how this process is in fact a voice of criticism, resistance, as well as as a jest and mockery, “We are used to playing around, but we are also serious, mind.” Geguyon pari keno, the kind of humour characteristic of Yogyakarta. Delivering subtle yet sharp criticism. HONF’s installations drive people to unleash their imagination, to enter the realm of mystery; that which is usually concealed by the intellectuals or the merchants, is instead distributed for free by HONF. “Who wants to be smarter, come.”
4) ABC – Army, Bueraucracy, Company – are the main actors of the technology development, who are sought after by highly-paid intellectuals from universities. In HONF, the experts all sit together and conduct their researches “just for fun”. Fund vs Fun, Control vs Distribution, Consumption vs Imaginary... All for the people.
5) Amongst the numerous annual festivals in Yogyakarta and in Indonesia, many of which are organized extravagantly and resplendently, HONF has been organizing CELLSBUTTON, the Yogyakarta International Media Art Festival for the past six years. They integrate themselves among the others, achieving the "possible world in (im)possible space". They dream but not just dreaming, imagine but not just playing around, because INDONESIA does need a helping hand.