Reflections on An Internship Cut Short

oleh Grady Textler

I came to IVAA with little experience in art or archiving. Art has always been interesting to me – I’d visit galleries with my dad when I was younger, and tried to go to new exhibitions in the city throughout high school – but it always remained at this surface level interest. I’d never studied or worked in the field of art, and I’d definitely never felt a part of the “art world” in my hometown. Upon coming to Jogja, this inexperience is what drew me to IVAA: the opportunity to learn about something totally new to me, and, moreover, the opportunity to learn about Jogja through the unique window of contemporary art.

In the beginning, I was mostly confused – I read a few large volumes about the history of IVAA and the history of contemporary art in Jogja. I edited pictures from galleries and uploaded them to IVAA’s online archive. But with limited Indonesian language skills, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do. I tried my best to absorb what knowledge I could. Even just being in the office felt like a learning opportunity. Each day offered me a chance to practice Indonesian, or to learn some new thing about art in Jogja.

I proposed my own project – a study of gapura kampung, neighborhood gates – and was able to spend a few days out of the office trekking up and down busy Jogja streets to take photographs of the various ornate gates that the city has to office, each demarcating an RT or an RW, Indonesian neighborhood governmental units. It was hot and sweaty, but interesting to collect these photographs. I was also able to interview one of the Pak RTs, leaders of the neighborhoods. This project culminated in a presentation to the office, in which I contrasted these gates with statues as forms of art in public spaces. This presentation was immensely stressful (I tried my best to do the whole thing in Indonesian, which I’d only had one semester of) but one of the most fun things I did all year. Everyone from the office grilled me on my argument or shared a different perspective and I had a great time talking with everyone.

I was also able to help out with two different exhibitions before the year ended. I helped set up and then “run” a resource room of IVAA-Cuppable-Pryakkum-Pararupayogya at Pekan Budaya Difabel, “Disabled Culture Week.” I also was an exhibition educator for Masa Lalu Belumlah Usai, a showcase of exhibition posters from 1974-2019 by Dicti Art Laboratory. This role had me sitting at the exhibit and helping to answer questions from gallery-viewers about the exhibition. Obviously, language was a limiting factor for me here, but I was grateful to be allowed to help and learned a lot from helping to set up, run and take down an exhibition.

Before my internship was cut short by COVID-19, I had embarked on another (perhaps overly) ambitious task. I wanted to delve into the tattoo culture in Yogyakarta, and so had begun to conduct a series of interviews with tattoo artists about the tattooing community. I had hoped to then string the responses together into one cohesive manuscript that told the story of tattooing in Jogja from community members’ perspectives. I only got through half of the interviews I wanted to, and wasn’t able to complete it. But I’m glad for the work I was able to do – the Indonesian-language interviews helped me develop my language skills and it provided interesting insight into a community I otherwise would have never come across.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything I did at IVAA, but these are the things that stand out in my mind as I reflect on my time cut short. I’m immensely grateful to all the staff and interns I met at IVAA. It was quite a challenge to be an intern in a foreign country, and even as I made mistakes I was always met with patience. The organization supported me in pursuing my own independent projects. Even as I’m unsure of the amount of help that I actually provided for the archive, I’m totally sure that I left my internship a different person – someone with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the art world, and someone who can’t wait to be back to Yogyakarta.

Artikel ini merupakan rubrik Sorotan Magang dalam Buletin IVAA Dwi Bulanan edisi Maret-April 2020.