Earlier this year, Bandung-based artist trio Tromarama, aka Febie Babyrose, Herbert Hans and Ruddy Hatumena, built an interactive house inside the National Gallery of Victoria. According to NGV, with more than 50,000 children having come to play so far, it’s well on its way to being the gallery’s most successful children’s exhibition to date!
Showcasing an imaginative interpretation of materials and objects, Tromarama’s Open House for Kids at NGV is custom designed for fun; it’s a large-scale installation filled with playful elements. The house facade is a collage of window shutters, blinds, doormats and front doors whilst, inside is furnished for the most part in an upside down topsy-turvy manner; each room showcases the artists’ videos, alongside familiar household items. In the kitchen,Ting* sees children watching a chorus line of white crockery perform beautifully choreographed sequences, then run away to play in the park – only returning at night to once again become functional objects. Three white mugs represent the artists, the video is a metaphor for the artists’ feelings of missing out on creative play time whilst working at the office all day.
“Ya, it’s just the three of us!” explain Tromarama’s Herbert, Ruddy and Febie. “We formed as a trio in 2006, and have continued to, will continue to, think of themselves as a trio.” Originally from Jakarta, the art group formed whilst studying within the Faculty of Art and Design at Institut Teknologi Bandung. Herbert and Ruddy found Febie in the Graphic Art Studio. They had been friends since SMA and moved to Bandung to study Visual Communication design.
“Initially we were focused on both music video and animation but animation is the medium that we use most often to execute our ideas. We started experimenting together, making projects, and in 2006 we took a video workshop after school in Bandung. The workshop was about the making of music videos and from there we made our first video. We called it Serigala Militia.”
Tromarama are proactive in their approach to exhibiting. Gaining a reputation as young emerging artists who create outstanding art works and are becoming well known. They held their first solo exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Japan, in 2011, and since then have been represented in major biennials and triennials across the Asia pacific region. They contacted Kate Ryan, curator of the NGV for children’s programming and in December 2014, were invited to exhibit in the gallery space.
According to Kate Ryan, NGV recognises that artists’ ideas are an authentic and appealing means through which children can learn about art and its importance in the lives of people around the world. The NGV Kids program breaks new ground by acknowledging children as a key audience for both contemporary art and design and in recent years, they have been keen to make the gallery a great place to visit for children and families. With a strong emphasis on interaction and connecting children with living artists, the exhibitions and programs welcome young visitors into the gallery and encourage each to discover exciting ways to experience contemporary art.
Kate liked that Tromarama often describe their creative approach as ‘kidult’ – a pop psychology term used to define young adults who find it difficult to let go of their childhoods. She went on to discover that, in their art practice, this unleashes a creative freedom to articulate their observations in imaginative ways. “This unique approach and way of thinking was very attractive to us – we felt the artists and their art works would be very appealing to our young audiences and their families.”
Open House was Tromarama’s idea. “NGV was really free with us, with how we wanted the exhibition.” the artists explain. “In February 2015, we came to Melbourne to see the gallery space. During one week, we held discussions with the curator and exhibition design team from the NGV to develop the exhibition plan. We wanted to change the gallery space into a home and so we sketched the kitchen, dining room, garden, bathroom and bedroom to be applied into the gallery space. Then all these ideas were discussed with the curator and exhibition design team in NGV.”
What makes this exhibition different to Tromarama’s usual work is the target audience; it’s their first exhibition for children and, according to them, making an exhibit for young audiences has its own challenges. During the planning of this exhibition, the interactive level between the work and the children was the main focus. “For the exhibition at the NGV, we didn’t create any new video work; “all the videos featured in the exhibition is work that we created earlier than 2008. We chose to focus on creating Tromaramix, the stop-motion video app for kids.”
In the bedroom bathroom – children use the app, installed on iPad, to make their own animated film inspired by the artists’ films working with their preferred materials of found objects and toys.
With over 20,000 stop motion films made in the open house, children’s responses to the exhibition have been wonderful.
The gallery team had tested the idea with kids, from the early days of design, and their response was extremely positive. “As we all know, kids today are digital natives, savvy with technology and familiar with stop-motion films.” explains Kate. “In collaboration with Febie, Herbert and Ruddy, we decided to give children the opportunity to step in to the artists’ shoes and create their own stop motion films – they become movie makers! One of the most exciting aspects of this exhibition was all of working together to produce the Tromaramix app. The app gives children the tools and the know-how to make their own films. It’s been a great success in the space. Everyday children, parents and carers are enjoying time together making films. This highly engaging activity is igniting thousands of children’s imaginations – we are seeing them taking in their everyday surrounds and expressing their ideas in creative ways.”
The NGV isn’t Tromarama’s first time exhibiting in Melbourne. “In 2011 we participated in a group exhibition at MIFA. We really like the atmosphere of the city. There seems to be so many exhibitions and street performances everywhere. Aside from Melbourne, the trio have also exhibited in The Netherlands, Japan, Singapore, America, Germany, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, Estonia, France, Mexico, Austria and, of course, Indonesia. According to Tromarama all have brought them special memories so they can’t highlight one city as better than another because they’ve all been different.
Unfortunately for us, we haven’t had much time to truly explore Melbourne – but it seems like a wonderful place to live and work. We choose to live in Bandung because, for us, it is conducive to work. The air is clean, the traffic is friendly and the food is good.”
Whilst Tromarama continue to feel that media art is still relatively unaccepted by the market in Indonesia, they remain forever optimistic and motivated by circumstance. If artists are invited to create overseas exhibitions, at a museum, usually museums help to finance this production. It’s difficult to find funding in Indonesia, so we have mostly financed our own work but rather than focus on making something to sell, when we work, we stay focused on the idea or notion of our work. If our work is sold, through the result of an exhibition at a gallery or a museum, we regard it as a bonus. It’s important to understand that the lack of infrastructure in Indonesia, such as museums, force practitioners of art, such as us, to find our own way to present works. Today there are very few commercial galleries that accommodate media art. Generally, the focus remains with paintings and sculptures. We make the most of emerging artist spaces; usually artist spaces are designed to accommodate more experimental art forms. Besides these, the internet can also be used as a space for artists to present their work.”
“Mulai berkarya dan terus berkarya!” the artists exclaim with encouragement. Tromarama are focusing preparing a work for a solo exhibition at Edouard Malingue Gallery in Hong Kong, in
December this year.
Photo by: Windu Kuntoro , doc.NGV