ǝlɐuuǝᴉq sɐ ǝɯɐs ǝɥʇ ǝq ʇouuɐɔ lɐuᴉq: Might the Exhibition Be a Festival?


BINAL did indeed differentiate itself from the “institutionalising aesthetics” of the official biennale, playing up its “wildness”—where the word binal is translatable as “wild”, “rebellious”, “naughty”.[8] The proposal document for BINAL notes how the biennale’s “institutionalising” was enforced through its selection process and its limitations on age and media, and its tendency to distinguish “formal art” from “non-formal art”’ and the differentiation between “art from the top” (fine art) and “from the bottom”’ (applied arts/craft), underlining the prevalence of such tendencies across Indonesia in galleries, art centres, writing and educational institutions. “This atmosphere can easily slide into the normative, thus blocking some processes or blunting the creativity and critical power of art workers.”[9] But the tone of the event is far from oppositional, and overall the BINAL-biennale binary is not that sharp: although BINAL considered itself a “counter-exhibition”, it also hit more cooperative notes in trying to “help enliven” the official event.[10] This corresponds with a general move away from self-consciously oppositional stances in art during the previous decades of the Suharto regime, seen for instance in Seni Rupa Baru, and the move by the younger generation to instead initiate “alternative”, as they were described, structures and practices.


The destabilisation of the main event was more than just linguistic, since BINAL ultimately eclipsed the 1992 biennale—the small amount of press the biennale received was largely to compare it to the BINAL. After 1992, the Biennale Seni Lukis Yogyakarta was no more, and it changed its name along with its committees, formats and criteria. As part of this process, it adopted many of the elements the BINAL proposed, reflecting the connection between the initiatives. It might even be said that BINAL fulfilled the biennale’s mission more successfully than the biennale itself and therefore perhaps had a reformist rather than rebellious influence.

As mentioned earlier, Suyoto’s Binaural did not set itself up as a “protest” and, in contrast to Supangkat’s rebellious Seni Rupa Baru generation, it reflects a different mode of practice and a different generation of artists—although Suyoto is of a similar age as Supangkat. Its title, playing on the sounds of both binal and biennial, opens up to the question posed at the beginning of this section—what kind of exhibition does this work sound like? Binaural is the organisation of an environment to produce a particular collective experience, a translation of the sonic character of the annual festivity on which it is based. It is open-ended, spatially dispersed, chaotic and amusing and, within its set of formal parameters, uncontrolled; it sets up a framework for a whirling polyphony of sound and movement that draws in all individuals and sounds in its vicinity. The composition’s structured anarchism resonates with the binal sense of wildness, but its approach is different in not being self-consciously oppositional, invoking a different concept of gathering and aesthetics in the experience and dynamics of the Sekaten.

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Morris, David & Samboh, Grace. “ǝlɐuuǝᴉq sɐ ǝɯɐs ǝɥʇ ǝq ʇouuɐɔ lɐuᴉq: Might the Exhibition Be a Festival?” Journal Parse Issue 13.3 — Autumn 2021 — On the Question of the Exhibition Part 3.

About Grace Samboh

Believes in unicorn, conviviality and the struggle towards collective subjectivities—even temporarily.
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