Screenshot 2017-12-31 04.15.10Indonesia is a country with a long history and a rich and vibrant culture. In more recent times, it has seen the country gaining independence from a colonial past. This has seen a new cultural identity emerging, negotiating between a traditional old heritage and a developing global country.

However, this rapidly changing country is not without its battles, facing challenges such has corruption, poverty and natural disasters.

In 2010, Taring Padi, a political art collective from Yogyakarta, Central Java joined the people of Sidoarjo fora four-day collaborative project. Known as “Reflection in the Mud,” this project focused on reviving the collective memory of the Sidoarjo community. In 2006, a large-scale mudflow eruption was caused by a technical error during an oil exploration in the Sidoarjo District of the East Java province of Indonesia. The mudflow spread widely, encompassing 12 villages and forcing around 40,000 people to relocate. The mudflow is still spreading, and will continue to do so for the next 30 years.

sidoarjo-mud-flow-6[2](Taring Padi Collective, 2011)

figure 1 taring padi lapindo

(Taring Padi Collective, 2010)

Angry at the displacement and destruction of their homes and lives, the inherent corruption and  lack of government support, Taring Padi invited participants to communicate their feelings about the loss and sorrow caused by the Lapindo disaster while encouraging individuals not to dwell on their pain but rather to continue the fight for their rights. With the growth of a collective memory, Taring Padi hoped that cultural ties would be reinforced, breaking down tension that had grown amongst victims. The development of a collective memory was intended to not only reinforce solidarity between victims but also to serve as a statement to the public that similar incidents cannot happen again.

Carrying the puppets, banners, and masks over the mud, these objects were intended to symbolise the oppressors who had robbed residents of their livelihoods, voices, and histories. This parade ended with a carnival and concert where citizens and artists alike sang together, expressing their discontent and continued concerns for the future of those affected by disaster and corruption.


(Shari, 2011)

The style that the posters used gave rise to a new type of art that referenced comic style. They like comic books where allegorical, telling the story of the Sidoarjo community.


(Sinaga, 2010)


(Sinaga, 2010)

Taring Padi’s work with the community of Sidoarjo is exemplary of this group’s engagement with local communities in Indonesia and abroad. Artist Dolorosa Sinaga describes the emergence of Taring Padi in December 1998, shortly after the fall of Suharto’s oppressive 32-year New Order regime stating,

“Through art, they began building an understanding amongst the people to fight against injustice, helping to forge a community aware of environmental, social, political and cultural issues, inviting the community to be active and courageous in voicing their real life experiences and their opinions on the performance of government.”(Sinaga, 2012)

With a desire to continue the fight of the student movement, which had played a key part in the demise of the New Order, the founders of Taring Padi set forth with a goal: to create art that would both help to educate and give voice to marginalised communities. Work created by Taring Padi never holds the signature of a single artist but rather is the product of the collective and the communities they work with. While the production of art is a significant aspect of their work, the process of communication and collaboration is held superior to the production of objects. This type of art practice can, in part, be seen as a type of “social practice” or “socially engaged” art.

This is a subcultural movement motivated against corruption and injustice. This collective has through their art has brought attention to flighting injustice that the country locally, nationally and humanity globally.

This collective has continued make art that bring awareness to social issues that face Indonesia.


Google Images. 2017. Sidoarjo Mud Flow. [ONLINE] Available at:….0…1c.2.64.psy-ab..0.1.278….0.pQo6r34BVAc#imgrc=oifBji5qEexdLM:.

Abbott, A. “The Radical Ethics of DIY in Self-Organized Art and Cultural Activity.” Presentation for Ixia ‘Public art and Self-Organization,’ Leeds, United Kingdom, October 1, 2012. Retrieved from

Bianpoen, C. 2009. “Art and the Nation: The Cultural Politics of Sukarno.” In Beyond the Dutch: Indonesia, the Netherlands and the Visual Arts, from 1900 until now, edited by Meta Knol, Remco Raben, and Kitty Zijlmans. 94-103. Amsterdam: KIT Publishers.

Google Images. 2017. Sidoarjo Mud Flow. [ONLINE] Available at:….0…1c.2.64.psy-ab..0.1.278….0.pQo6r34BVAc#imgrc=oifBji5qEexdLM:.

Google Images. 2017. Sidoarjo Mud Flow. [ONLINE] Available at:….0…1c.2.64.psy-ab..0.1.278….0.pQo6r34BVAc#imgrc=oifBji5qEexdLM:].

Google Images. 2017. Sidoarjo Mud Flow. [ONLINE] Available at:….0…1c.2.64.psy-ab..0.1.278….0.pQo6r34BVAc#imgrc=oifBji5qEexdLM:].

Google Images. 2017. Sidoarjo Mud Flow. [ONLINE] Available at:….0…1c.2.64.psy-ab..0.1.278….0.pQo6r34BVAc#imgrc=oifBji5qEexdLM:].


Bishop, C .2006. “The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents.” Artforum 176-83.

Kester, G. 2004.Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kuss, A. 2000. “Proximity and Distance – The Field of Tension Between Individual and Society. In AWAS!: Recent Art from Indonesia, edited by Alexandra Kuss, Damon Moon, Mella Jaarsma, Midori Hirota, and Nele Wasmuth, 25-40. Yogyakarta; The Cemeti Art Foundation.

McMichael, H. 2009. “The Lapindo Mudflow Disaster: Environmental, Infrastructure and Economic Impact.” Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies 45: 73-83.

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