This conversation from ISCP’s archives is between Kari Conte and Mira Asriningtyas and Dito Yuwono, founders of LIR Space, ISCP’s 2019 institution-in-residence.
Kari Conte: Firstly, what is LIR Space?
Dito Yuwono: Now it can be anything.
Mira Asriningtyas: It is an art space. It was a physical art space, but now it can be anything. It’s a movable institution.
D: Yes, I agree.
K: Can you speak about past LIR projects? How has the programming evolved into what it is today?
D: LIR started with space in 2011—a physical space—which at first focused on young artists, and then on alternative education. In 2017, we started a project called 900mdpl, which is a site-specific project in Kaliurang, Indonesia. And in 2019, we decided to close our physical space and make the institution nomadic rather than a permanent institution, after that we continued with the second edition of 900mdpl.
K: You mentioned that you focus on alternative education, meaning outside of the academy. What does this specifically mean for you in the Indonesian context? What is the lack you perceive in traditional Indonesian art education that motivated you to create a platform for alternative education?
M: What we see lacking in the education system is the space for experimentation by young artists, to work with other disciplines, rather than just art.
D: Especially in our context, it doesn’t make sense if you are talking about art only from the established art scene, it doesn’t make sense because everything collides together. At the same time, there’s a strong political movement, as well as many social problems. Maybe that is why people across disciplines come together to achieve one common goal.
K: You mentioned that your programming is supported by “social exchange” more so than monetary budgets. Can you elaborate on what this social exchange is, and do you see your programs continuing primarily with that kind of support structure?
M: All staff is paid, that’s number one. But then there are other social structures and alternative exchanges, not unique to LIR but which are present in many art spaces in Indonesia, which you can read more about here.
D: This kind of exchange is part of the social art world in Indonesia. Without solid support from the government, we try to find solutions together with the community, from the bottom up. In the case of Kaliurang and the context of 900mdpl, one of the examples of how we give back to the residents who are generous with their time and energy is to help them build a structure to attract new kinds of tourists. Together, we developed a tour of colonial architecture, and then we brought together artists to do some fieldwork and research on the buildings. We shared this research with the Kaliurang community for them to use as part of their tourism initiatives.
M: We also developed an alternative education program at LIR Space together with senior artists for younger artists called Ex.Lab. This platform ran for two years and it was based on how we (LIR and senior artists) share the same concern for artist education. So, the senior artist usually taught voluntarily.
K: Let’s talk about 900mdpl. It’s a project you initiated in Kaliurang, you’re working towards your third edition next year, and you’ve translated the last two editions into the exhibition at ISCP. In short, the exhibition consists of site-specific works that you commissioned about Kaliurang, which is an active volcano town. 900mdpl preserves the historical knowledge of the town and transient generational knowledge, memory. You’ve talked a lot about the artists conducting research based on the villager’s storytelling. But you haven’t spoken about the textual archive or textual resources for the artists that come to do the projects. Is the written archive something that doesn’t exist or is it because the artists are more interested in developing their projects through oral histories?
M: When the artists first start their project, we give them a pack of books. We have a package of many writings, for example, books on the volcano, anthropology, on history, or even children’s books about mythology. These ones are usually for the Indonesian artists, because many of the books are in Indonesian. So, the artists already know and have an idea of the village before the residency. But we are also working on new texts in English to be added to the 900mdpl reader that we publish after each edition.
D: The project itself aims to preserve knowledge, and it is also important that we produce something that is physical, which is the book, and this arises from the people’s stories. So, these people, these oral histories were documented and materialized into book form for 900mdpl. This is why we are interested in publishing, and not only reading existing books.
M: Every year there will be new writing on the art commissioned for 900mdpl as well writing on alternative histories of Kaliurang.
K: The third edition will be about how the town’s own mythology preserves the ecological conditions, or I imagine the lack of environmental degradation. Can you speak about how you envision the next edition?
M: The starting point is the exhibition’s site. The first edition was presented around the village area, the second edition was located around the colonial building areas, and the third will be near critical or sacred areas such as water sources and the forest, places at risk for mining and gentrification. We will work closely with the local traditional community, who have many rituals to preserve nature and we will work with local wisdoms or mythologies circulating among the people of Kaliurang. We’ll start from this and we’ll then invite international contemporary artists to give different perspectives.
K: You mentioned that there are fifty art spaces in Yogyakarta, and one of your aims for LIR is that of institutional renewal. LIR transforms according to what is needed by its community, and you’ve been in New York for the last three weeks, which has a robust art scene. Has your research here led you to new ideas that you can take back to LIR and your own community?
D: Actually, the context is completely different. It is too bad that we couldn’t visit some underground art spaces.
K: We don’t have many.
D: I think we can learn something from that kind of institution, rather than large ones. In Yogyakarta, we don’t have the structure for larger institutions. But maybe the most impressive thing for me has been the independent bookshops here, in terms of self-publishing.
K: Did you visit Printed Matter?
D: Yes, we visited Printed Matter and Bluestockings among others, these two were amazing.
K: Does Indonesia have a contemporary book fair?
D: Someone is trying to make one.
K: What’s next?
M: We are working on new projects with platforms we never tried before. It’s still off the record but follow us through our Instagram @lirspace to get updates!