‘Green hypermarket’ Unpacked
By Zoe De Luca*
As a photographer in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Edwin ‘Dolly’ Roseno is concerned with convergence of the rural, urban and global in daily life. Past photographic project focus on interplay between people, context and signs (often literally) and document his local environment. In his ‘Green Hypermarket’ series 2011-12 Roseno diverges from observation and takes on more active role developing a modest relational-project-cum-large-scale image bank. Basic human needs-eating and drinking – are its starting point; from there, broader ideas relating to ecology and enviromental responsibility grow. In the artist’s own words:
The most basic human need in pyramid of needs is to eat. Basically…to survive one needs to eat and drink…fast population growth means a greater demand for food revolution has impacted on land degradation; agricultural and livestock development do not have principles of sustainable development1
For ‘Green Hypermarket’ Roseno marries consumer waste with plant life, borrowing plants from neighbour and local nursery and replanting them in old cans, bottles, jars and containers. The project connect the artist with his local community, connecting them with contemporary art. APT7 visitor encounter a mass of circular photographs – taken in the artist’s studio in Yogyakarta and printed and mounted aluminium in Brisbane – presented with the slickness of an advertising campaign. In each photograph, Roseno creates a visual energy between the manufactured and natural
…what attracted me to containers is the global icons attached to them: Campbell’s Soup, Absolut Vodka and so fort. Then i try to find the right combination. For example, I always think that aglonema flower suits the Absolut Vodka bottle2
Roseno describes the project as a way finding new beauty, but our gaze is instinctively drawn to the branding. In contemporary culture the advertising system of signs visually dominates – it is designed to. Roseno clearly considers matcing proportion, colour and density, while some of his combinations provoke deeper ruminations on the origin and history of his mated plants and products. For example, the image of bound plant springing from a Coke can, beraing the slogan ‘ 125 years of making new friends’ has strange and sinister neo-liberal connotations.
Prepackaged foods are among globalisation’s most convenient symbols. Often owned by big multinatinationals, transcultural foodstuffs can be grown and sold, shipped off for processing, sent back again for sale, while company dividends are redistributed to shareholders worldwide. Some brands in ‘ Green Hypermarket’ have complex colonial histories: Ayam was started by frenchman in Singapore (which at the time was part of British Malaya) and is one of the most recognisable brands in Asia today. Western brand dominance gains extra symbolic currency in the context of regionally specific exhibition like APT, while items such as Serena egg rolls an Mili Longans, less familiar outside of Indonesia, offer insights into local culinary tastes.
Outside these references to global contemporary life, and the obvious connection to Warhol’s soup cans and Pop art. Roseno’s use of branding and packaging speaks to the history of the indonesian New Art Movement, founded by artist from bandung and Yogyakarta in the 1970′s3. In his writing on this period, Jim Supangkat, eminent curator and one of the movement’s founders, remembers:
Magazines, printed materials, photographs, billboards, and advertisements appeard almost out of nowhere, stimulating visual sensation and affecting people’s sensorial faculties…in the midst of this condition, a few young painters in Yogyakarta underwent some shock, facing a changing visual reality…like the teenagers, these young artist’s collected cuttings of magazine covers, advertising pictures, T-shirts, photographs and posters. And in this situation emerged the idea to use this collection to create new things4
While four decades may have passsed since then, ‘Green Hypermarket’ shows us that this subject matter is still enticing for young artist in Yogyakarta. Roseno’s rubbish selection is part of global trend in which the detritus of contemporary living and throw – away culture is reappearing in contemporary art. Curator Nicholas Chambers suggests that in times of economic downturn and rising enviromental concerns, ‘cheao, improvised and contigent forms prove adept vehicles for addressing the complexity, speed and contradictions of contemporary life5. Presented en masse, the wall garden of 150 images in ‘Green Hypermarket’ displays the remnants of industrial food production as art spectacle, suggesting a metaphorical link between production and consumtion cycles, and the political and economic circuits of contemporary art. Importantly, however, the project also represents the idea of natural world overcoming a post-consumer environment.
*Zoe De Luca, former Curatorial Assistant, Exhibition and Research
1Artist statement 2011 (translated)
2Edwin Roseno, email to the author, September 2012
3The New Art Movement encourage socio-politically driven work and exhibitions in response to President Suharto’s liberal – militaristic New Order regime and is generally cited as the starting point for contemporary art in Indonesia
4Jim Supangkat, ‘Indonesia in contemporary art discourses’ in Contemporaneity: Contemporary Art in Indonesia (exhibition catalogue), Timezone 8, Hong Kong, 2010. p.33
5Nicholas Chambers, ’21st century recession art’, in 21st Century: Art in the first Decade (exhibition catalogue), Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2012, p.45.