Reza Afisina responds to written questions from the Guggenheim about his practice, motivation, and creative life.
What are your artistic methodologies, and how are they influenced by your surroundings?
I always try to take a simple approach to process in my work. I love to see and feel diversity directly in the places in which I live and work, in Jakarta as well as in Depok (in West Java); this experience fuels my interest in gesture and performativity. The city or place I live in is a complex mixture of everyday situations to which I add my own experience, accompanied by narration that originates from my personal point of view of my surroundings.
As a vast archipelago nation, how do you think Indonesia’s various ethnic groups, regional interests, and multiple religions and languages challenge or contribute to its identity?
I feel that seeing Indonesia as a whole gives me motivation to keep learning about my own background and history. Being a person from a big nation gives me important knowledge about how to collaborate and how to establish mutual understanding within our diversity. This entire situation encourages me to find broader meaning in my national identity.
Tell us a little about your work with ruangrupa [a Jakarta-based, artist-run initiative where Afisina directs the Art Lab, which supports collaborative research on urban and media issues], and the OK. Video Festival.
As always, ruangrupa, in its programs, including the OK. Video Festival and artistic achievements, has given a really important and challenging aspect to my artistic practice. My work at ruangrupa is also a two-way process—contributions go both ways, and we exchange ideas and thoughts. ruangrupa could be considered my family in that it has supported and appreciated what I do both personally and professionally.
How would you define yourself as an artist, and how would you characterize your current practice?
To be an artist is also to be a person: ordinary. I will always be dealing with the duties, rights, obligations, and responsibilities that go along with my position and identity as an artist. I think these points are the most important ones to affect my current practice as well to give knowledge upon artistic perspective.
What is your next project?
Pursuing research into the meaning of transactions that reveals not only the economic connections in our lives, but social and personal ones as well, and applying these relations to contemporary situations.