akumassa Ad hoc Project Darivisual Province: DKI Jakarta Regency/City: Central Jakarta Subdistrict: Senen

Art On Senen Border

Written by Otty Widasari

Seni di Batas Senen_10

What happen at Senen lately?

Based on the pictures that were screened on a cigarette stall man’s cell phone at the entrance of Kramat Baru Street, Senen District, there was a loud cheering event of Indonesia U-23 football team winning over Turkey u-23 team at Jakabaring Stadion, Palembang, by ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers around, siomay merchant, the next office cleaning service officer and some people who passed by. That winning as a result of 7-6 penalty shoot out had brought Indonesia to final round at Islamic Solidarity Games.

Dokumentasi akumassa Ad Hoc: suasana para penonton sepakbola di sebuah warung di Senen ketika laga Indonesia VS Turki. [Foto: Otty Widasari]

[Photo: Otty Widasari]

It was evening on September 27th 2013. I stopped by the stall at the entrance of Kramat Baru Street to buy a bottle of cold water, after strolling around a small part of Senen district by foot. The stall man was nowhere to be seen. He left his stall unguarded to watch the semi final match with other people at a guarding post next to the stall. I was interested to join them to watch the penalty shoot-out which would determine whether the Garuda Team would make it to the final or not at the Islamic Solidarity Games. It was very interesting and full of tension match. But the most interesting part for me was when the stall man, who seemed to know the result by guessing, took out his cell phone and started to record the final seconds of the match with his phone camera. He did not capture the match from the 14” television, but the situation in that crowd. And at the end of the match, where Indonesia U-23 Team won, the crowd exploded, cheered and jumped around in excitement. The stall man had the documentation. Regardless of what would happen with the video materials in the future, at that moment, subjectively, I saw that the documentation awareness which was owned by the camera holder, played a role in art field, where the event that he captured as an important moment for him was a location reality which had happened at the same time as the real time show on TV.

The documenting area of historical events for the country in sport had already been covered by mass media. The stall man had covered the other artistic area, which was the documenting of the event that had happened among proud Indonesians.


At Kampong Paseban ondelondel always passed through Perintis field every afternoon. Children had never been bored with the noise. The sound of rebab leading a melody of the most top current dangdut song had already been heard from the end of an alley at the eastern side of the square. Ngak…ngek…ngok (the sound of the friction between fiddle and  rebab string )…and children ran to greet them happily. At the final bar of the melody they shouted together, “Buka dikit, JOSS !! Slide up a bit, JOSS!!” accompanied by ultimate hit from the big gong carried by two people.

Cuplikan adegan di film "The Rainmaker" [kompilasi karya akumassa Ad Hoc]

A film footage of “The Rainmaker” [akumassa Ad Hoc]

The difference between them was only in make up, because the female one did not wear mustache.  Ondel-ondel was very big but it was not as scary as when I had seen it at the Monas square when I was a child. If my height had only been one fourth the height of ondel-ondel then, now my height was more than half its height. The sight I had never seen when I was a child was when the person behind the ondel-ondel was exhausted. One member of the group helped lifting the very big ondel-ondel’s body frame then the actor got out of it to be replaced by another actor. That scene broke through the ondel-ondel’s theatrical role, which as though it lived as a fantasy creature, making the show in front of my eyes went back to reality.  I was quite amazed to see that scene. Children kept dancing, encircling the ondel-ondel. Some children with their mother’s, father’s, sister’s or brother’s camera cell phone were busy taking pictures and even recording the ondel-ondel show. They did not even miss the player change scene and recorded it on their camera.

Cuplikan adegan di film "The Rainmaker" [kompilasi karya akumassa Ad Hoc]

A film footage of “The Rainmaker” [akumassa Ad Hoc]

That documentation might be erased when the cell phone memory was full. Or maybe their parents would erase it after all when they felt it was not an important documentation. But of course there was a possibility that the documentation would be saved and could be watched twenty years later as a childhood event at Kampong Paseban. When residents had series of supporting equipment to archive their produced document, it was certain that the awareness would grow automatically.

Bang Gallis, seniman topeng di Sanggar Budaya Paseban [Foto: Harryaldi Kurniawan]

Gallis, the mask artist at Paseban Cultural Community [Photo: Harryaldi Kurniawan]

Mba Ira dan Bang Gallis berfoto bersama Harryaldi dan tiga orang anak-anak warga Paseban [Foto: Harryaldi Kurniawan]

Harryaldi took a picture with Ira and Gallis as well as three kids of Paseban residents. [Photo: Harryaldi Kurniawan]

At Senen, art grew along with the arrival of rainy season at the end of this October. It also presented in an attic room of a house at the end of the alley through mask expressions made by Galis, the mask artist. Art also came every time ondel-ondel group came and danced at Perintis square.

Cuplikan adegan film "To The North" [kompilasi karya akumassa Ad Hoc]

A film footage of “To The North” [akumassa Ad Hoc]

While working class residents were sleepy after lunch and hoped that the working time would soon be over, the residents of Kampong Tanah Tinggi enjoyed their glamorous days with singing dangdut karaoke accompanied by private single organ and sound-system at the house terrace which directly adjacent to edge of the canal. Art presented extravagantly at the riverbank of Kali Sentiong, like the life of an aristocrat family who did not have to work hard to the fullest but only enjoyed the day singing and training the racing pigeon for the next day bet.

Suasana kerja di salah satu workshop kaleng yang masih tersisa di Pondok Kaleng {Foto: Andrie Sasono]

A man was working with the cans in their workshop [Photo: Andrie Sasono]

Pak Ukon, salah satu pengrajin kaleng yang masih ada di Pondok Kaleng [Foto: Andrie Sasono]

Mr Ukon, one of the remaining can craftsman at Pondok Kaleng [Photo: Andrie Sasono]

Sometimes art also presented at a row of Pondok Kaleng workshops from morning to afternoon, when there were many orders of aluminum advertisement, neon box or kitchen utensils. The thud of hammer colliding with a slab of can compete with the hum of can refiner machine. The musical composition produced functional aluminum.

The understanding that art was unnecessarily functional was an ambiguity for me, because however, it presented with a function as provider of beauty for human and life. Here I stood exactly on a line separating people’s life from understanding of art. The perspective that was formed in my head was that art was inseparable from people’s life whatsoever. The experience of art learning for 10 years now brought me to a frustration, where common people could not see art as a domain that could be understood. Of course this was caused by the disablement of educational system in this country. While the art circle also always appeared in the middle of community as an exclusive circle which was different from people in general. So I decided to stay on that line with perspective I had mentioned above, that before the (art) educational system got better, the community empowerment movement should be framed by artistic perspective, and these days either media-based approaches or the principles of media awareness and media used are necessary action to be implemented because people and media were already inseparable.


Toward noon, a small wedding was held unceremoniously at a small house on an alley in front of a grocery shop at Kampong Paseban. Only a bunch of guests attended and it was seen like a common hang out, like days at Paseban. The bride sat cross-legged unsolemnly. She had difficulty to sit properly, because of her pregnant belly which ready to give birth in two months. But she still looked pretty.

It seemed like not enough food and plates for all attended guests. The groom seemed could not stand the ritual that had to be endured. He got out first after the procession and immediately hung out with his friends outside the house fence, smoking. It was really nothing special. But the wedding had been documented perfectly since the bride got her face made up in the room, until the wedding was over. It was documented using pocket camera with audio visual recording facility, also by many cell phone cameras owned by family, partners and residents. In the future those materials would be cut, edited and touched up using home computer program, compressed in DVD to be played by DVD player to be enjoyed as a citizen’ history.

Seni di Batas Senen_07

It was dusk, the cake merchants at Senen Market gathered around watching a football game of Indonesia Garuda Team who was playing live, from a cell phone owned by one of them. People took the role to produce information just like journalists or artists. Beside that, at one event happened at Senen, like at other places, people also appreciated those productions with their background diversities.

Although later those productions still had to enter the exclusivity to be recognized as ‘art’, because there had to be a person called ‘artist’ who would frame it with his or her subjective sensitivity, still, did they realize that they got it from society?



This article has been published in the Art on Senen Border journal (Forum Lenteng, 2013). The journal is one of the results of collaborative work of the authors of some of the communities who were involved in the Project of Akumassa Ad Hoc initiated by the Forum Lenteng AKUMASSA Program, in order to participate in the Jakarta Biennale 2013 – SIASAT (Tactic).

Read this article in Bahasa Indonesia

About the author


Otty Widasari

OTTY WIDASARI is an artist, writer, director and curator. Currently, she is the Director of the Media Education and Empowerment Program (AKUMASSA) at the Forum Lenteng.

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