I believe that art must be poetic. Something poetic will touch people’s heart. That is what I really want to achieve in my creative process. — Ari
With this series, I wish to hear the voice of artists amidst the Covid storm. I’m curious about how the situation is affecting their practice and also them as people. It’s also a great excuse to see some art!
I’ve asked visual artist Ari Bayuaji to share his thoughts about his work and life since the outbreak.
Where on Earth?
Where were you when this all started?
— In September of last year, I flew to Bali from Montreal to take part of ART BALI. I was invited to show some of my big drawings and a sculptural installation. The exhibition was opened from November 2019 to January 2020. I had such a great experience sharing with artists and curators from Indonesia, USA, Taiwan, Germany and New Zealand.
During that time, I met Ms. Urmila Mohan, anthropologist and curator of material culture and religion with a focus on textiles and Hinduism in India and Indonesia. After meeting with her in the city of Jogjakarta (Central Java) during the Jogja Biennale, she became my mentor for the plastic rope project I am doing now.
After a long process of preparing materials, the weaving finally started in January. My plan was to do as much as possible until the end of March, before leaving Bali.
A week before flying back to Montreal, I got an email from Air Canada: my flight had been cancelled for an indefinite period of time. I went crazy searching for other flights, but it was impossible! It was bad news actually.
On the other hand, I am happy to continue my plastic weaving project. I feel lucky to be stuck in Paradise; I could have been forced to stay somewhere during my transit, on my way to Montreal.
How has this challenging time affected your daily life?
- Change of habits
- Connectivity and relationships
- Freedom and mobility
— I wake up much earlier than usual these days. Watching the sunrise has become the most exciting thing to look forward to everyday. I didn’t even bother about it before. I don’t plan my day anymore, so I’m doing what I think necessary to do. It also helps me learn how to trust my intuition more and more.
During the pandemic, I don’t see many of my friends and family at all. Fortunately, I have two very good friends who are stuck in Bali as myself. They are the only friends I meet almost everyday. They welcome me to use the library or other facilities of their villa anytime I like to. I think our friendship is becoming more important as we trust each other — now on a “life and death” level. We have to be very responsible not to get the virus from outside and share it with one another. The trust is enormous.
Like I said, I have been lucky to be stuck in Bali and staying not far from the beach. I spend more than half of my day walking along the beach. I don’t have to travel far to get what I need in daily life. This challenging time has helped me shift my priorities actually. I only buy things I really need day by day. Life is kind of easier.
Hopes & Fears
- Tell us about the bright side, what are your silver linings?
- What about the more painful side?
— The bright side of this situation is the healing of nature. I am witnessing the transformation of nature around me. The sea water is much cleaner and the air is fresher than ever. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to experience this healthy environment, that I thought would never happen in my lifetime.
I have been lucky to be isolated with good friends in a very good place. But the most painful thing is to witness many people lose their jobs or their small businesses. Bali is an island, with tourism industry as the main income source. When the pandemic became a global problem, the disaster hit the whole island badly. Many people keep trying to sell simple snacks or drinks to support their life. But who would buy it, when nobody’s around and nobody trusts how hygienic the food and drink might be?
I actually shared these stories with family and friends in Canada. I was very surprised that some of them wired me money, to be distributed to people in need in the area where I’m staying. Until today, I am still distributing some cash to people who I think really need it. It may not be much, but it will help them survive. The most important thing is to give them a bit of hope.
What are the impacts on your creative practice since the outbreak?
- Inspiration (lack or boost)
- Process & Materials
— I’m always inspired by the contemporary challenges we are having in our time. Well, I don’t jump to create things related to the current situation.
We are living in the confinement at the moment. I can’t meet as many people as I usually did. It gives me much more time to get closer to nature. The quietness allows me to think and focus on what I have been doing with my art practice. I don’t feel guilty doing nothing actually.
Fortunately, I can still get access to the mangrove area, where I harvest plastic ropes tangled in the roots of the mangrove trees for my current project. With my assistants, I am working on an art project using plastic threads that were intertwined, to construct plastic ropes as weaving materials. The project is progressing in a very good development now. Not only producing a good body of art, this project is financially helping some women, who are involved in the project, in this difficult time.
I see your beautiful pictures on Instagram, they are so luscious and dreamy! Do you draw the line between art, beauty, aesthetics, all that jazz?
— Taking pictures of things in my daily life is more like a journal to me. Capturing the beauty around me is necessary. Everything could be art, because art can be created by wind, wave or the sun.
I believe that art must be poetic. Something poetic will touch people’s heart. That is what I really want to achieve in my creative process.
The confinement time makes me do what I liked to do when I was a little boy. I used to be a loner when I was very young. It made me realize that my artistic talent has always been inside me. Nature is the best teacher.
What do you wish to say or do with your art? Is your art practice weaved with some philosophy, message or meaning? (And do you think artists must do that?)
— Very often, I address and question the contemporary challenges in my surroundings. Of course, it’s not easy to deliver those “messages” in a very subtle way. To be able to do that I always try to avoid the obvious.
I also believe that it is very important to talk about my art projects and exhibitions, and to have them published in magazines and newspapers, not just in art magazines. I would love to have as many people as possible reading about what inspires me and bring awareness as to why artists’ works matter in society. I can’t be happier if my art can have an impact in society.
Any last words?
— In this very challenging time, there are two most important things to hold on, nature and humanity.
Ari Bayuaji was born in Indonesia in 1975. Moving permanently to Canada in 2005, he studied Fine art at Concordia University of Montreal (2005-2010). Dividing his time between Montreal and Bali, the artist is known mainly for his art installations, which incorporate the use of his painting and photography works, found and ready-made objects from different parts of the world, thereby exposing himself also to the different mechanisms of politics’ cultures.
His work has been collected by the Montreal Museum of Fine Art and Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. His projects were also exhibited in major international solo exhibitions including Montreal Museum of Fine Art (2019), The Esplanade Theatre on The Bay Singapore (2014 and 2019), Parkhaus im Malkastenpark Düsseldorf, Germany, Nunu Fine Art Taipei, Taiwan (2018), a collaboration with Agnes B. Fondation Paris at Ste-Alvere, France (2017), Redbase Foundation Jogjakarta in Indonesia (2016), and Kunsthal Rotterdam in The Netherlands (2017).
As so many people, I’ve had more time on my hands lately. At some point, I heard a calling, something like a need to be of service. A simple yet powerful question arose from my guts, like a prayer to the cosmos: How can I help?
The answer arrived a couple of days later: Write and Share — OK.
But what about? What inspires me and perhaps could inspire others?
Out of the blue (unknowing that I was pondering these questions), a friend living across the globe suggested that I write about artists, that I offer them a voice during this crisis.
And it made so much sense: I know I want to keep seeing art in the world — my soul demands it. Art nourishes and inspires me, it pushes me into action, into making things (however big or small) happen.
I think of artists as having this crazy freedom to actively become themselves, push forward “within” and continually bloom. That inner-life quality usually radiates from them. For me, artists are radioactive.
I sure hope this is feeding your soul as much as mine!