Commentary english

Collaboration Conundrum

Two years have passed since ruangrupa introduced the ‘Lumbung’ concept as the central theme for documenta fifteen in 2022. This significant art event, once viewed as exclusive and distant due to its global-north dominance, now radiates warmth and inclusivity for the first time.

Lumbung, loosely translated as “rice barn,” holds deeper meanings for many communities in Indonesia beyond mere storage for harvested crops. In several regions, ‘lumbung’ embodies a scarcity intertwined with local rituals, serving as a vital food reserve in rural areas, crucial for addressing community food insecurity. Within this context, local communities have fostered ‘collaboration’ within themselves as a solution to past and potential future challenges.

Recently, I’ve been pondering over the concept of collaboration—its essence and implications.

When is collaboration necessary? Who should join forces to ensure its effectiveness? Why do different organizations, products, services, or brands opt to devise individual solutions rather than embracing others’ contributions?

In Indonesia, collaborative efforts between brands or public-private sectors to tackle societal or individual challenges are not very common. Despite facing collective issues, numerous organizations, products, services, or brands often prioritize profit motives. Understandably, effective solutions often lead to financial gains. However, remembering lack of collaborations that effectively addressed social issues leaves me wondering. Air pollution, for instance, remains a major problem, particularly in Jabodetabek and most Java regions. Although various organizations have diligently engaged with the public sector to seek nationwide solutions, we mere mortals can only implement short-term solutions by protecting ourselves and our families. While the long-term solutions, whether we like it or not, must be entrusted to the government.

Regarding brand collaborations, while not always focused on problem-solving, I particularly like a Ramadan/Eid advertisement jointly presented by, Sasa, Matahari, and Nutri Sari. I can’t recall if similar collaborations have occurred in the past, but this campaign stood out because of the perfect timing and it just feels…natural. Aren’t we all just living embodiments of multi-brand collaboration in real life? A notion perfectly captured by Camus: “Life is a sum of all our choices.”

Now, returning to ruangrupa’s role as a consistent collaborator, engaging in societal discourse through artistic practices, I’m thrilled and optimistic about the forthcoming project, collaborating with these Jakarta baddies! It’s a joint effort organized in partnership with a ministry that has steadfastly supported the local art scene, even long before my involvement with ruangrupa over a decade ago!

While I’m unable to spill more details about the project, I can share that it involves artists, collectives, and art curators and researchers from at least 12 different cities from Sumatra to Papua. Notably, the project places local communities at its core—a truly distinctive aspect.

“Do you feel like you’re coming home now that you’re working in arts and culture again?” a friend once asked.

“Not really, because I never truly left home.”

I firmly believe that pursuing multiple interests doesn’t require you to abandon one for the other. Sometimes, when different interests come together, they can create unexpected benefits. Isn’t that the essence of true collaboration?