Documenta fiffteen has officially ended yesterday. I couldn’t be more proud of ruangrupa as the first Indonesian artistic director of this world renowned and prestigious art exhibition! Their approach was radical, focused on collaboration and networking/ shared value (hence ‘lumbung’ as a concept), rather than curator-led. ruangrupa invited art collectives, organisations, and institutions from around the world, and they invited another artists/collaborators for their project, and so on. So God knows the exact number of participating artists in this documenta edition!
Despite the controversies that were surrounding (you can google it yourself, but it’s safe to say I’m on their side), ruangrupa has shown us what a non-eurocentric art exhibition looked like.
Although I live 11,000 km away from Kassel, Germany, where documenta fifteen took place, I can feel how heartwarming and full of solidarity this whole ‘lumbung’ and ‘ecosystem’ exhibition was through their well organized virtual programs and daily updates on social media. Of course I didn’t hesitate when ruangrupa asked me to be the editor for their Indonesian and English edition of Lumbung magazine.
As part of the exhibition, documenta fifteen was publishing two issues of a magazine that hone in on the core idea of the exhibition, which is collective working. In total there are 26 works, written by Indonesian (spread from Aceh to Papua) writers, researchers, and contributors. It’s a humbling experience to be able to work (even just to edit and proofread her writing) with prominent figures, such as Prof. Melani Budianta, M.A., PhD.
(Read my previous writing about Majalah Lumbung magazine here.)
I guess 2022 to me is about bidding farewell and gaining something new from it. Congratulations once again to ruangrupa, organising committee, and to all collectives, organisation, and institutions! My highest respect to all Indonesian artists involved, I’m a proud friend/ collaborator! ✊
Our new regular content #ShopeeCanda was quickly gained popularity since its premiere on Youtube last Wednesday, July 13. Still relying on the same comedy pillar, we did a format refreshment and pivoted a bit from the typical stand-up comedy. Then we mixed it with a good ol’ local comedy (lawak) which proven made our nights and living room livelier and full of laughters back in the 90’s and early 2000.
The premise is very simple: how four suburban men who regularly ‘nongkrong’ at Pos Hansip interact with the passersby. The hard part is choosing the right talents. We’ve come up with several pairs of personas and judge them based on their role and chemistry with each other, before finally decided to go with Tretan Muslim, Rigen Rakelna, Indra Frimawan, and Hifdzi Khoir. It’s totally unscripted, except for the passersby/participants part, which they’re required to write a 1-2 minutes bits. So as you can imagine, we heavily relied on the four comedians to make the ‘story’ flows. The result was…well, as expected, but still a bit surprising!
We’ve achieved 100k views in less than 24 hours (slightly over 16 hours to be precise), surpassed 200k views on Day-2, and hit 300k views on Day-4, also a total of 1.5k NEW subscribers added so far from this single video! As of this blog is posted, the video has garnered almost 500k views!
The velocity is fairly good too, with 2.7k VPH (views per hour). If you’re wondering what VPH means, VidIQ translates it as a great way to determine which videos are taking off to become viral. For comparison, the talk of the town #VinDes ‘Tepok Bulu’ got 3.4k VPH for their 8.7m views video since published 2 weeks ago.
By far, this is our best regular content, performance-wise. And to consider that this was all done organically, I gotta say it out loud and proudly that our teams (I’m talking to you content, creative, and production squad!) “Still got it!” ✨
It’s been almost three years since we at the Brand Content team have regularly produced horror content. The first horror content was posted back in September 2019, so the initial discussion must be done around July or early August. By adding horror to our existing content at that time, comedy and romance, we had three working formulas of the content best practice.
The very first discussion was pretty much just us sharing personal horror stories. I still remember when our former creative shared an urban legend (sort of) of the infamous headless ghost at the post production house basement in Kemang, South Jakarta, area. In the middle of the story, the lights suddenly went out and we all spontaneously screamed. It turned out the light’s switch was accidentally pressed while he’s standing leaning on it. Right there and then, we knew that with the right storytelling, horror content would be big.
We were right. Cerita Misteri Shopee quickly gained popularity and became one of our content pillars on Shopee ID Youtube channel up to date. In total we have produced 83 videos, in which 35 of them are collaborations with top tier horror Youtuber such as Risa Saraswati, Om Hao and Kisah Tanah Jawa team, Frislly Herlind, Filo Sebastian, and Ewing HD, while the rest of them are coming from Sobat Shopee real horror experiences.
You might wonder, what does an e-commerce company have to do with horror content in the first place? Well, sit tight. Google recently published a Youtube Culture & Trends Report 2022. It has so many interesting data and insights about people’s behaviour in producing and consuming content around the globe. They found the forces that drove pop culture’s evolution took three distinct forms: community creativity, multi-format creativity, and responsive creativity. The last form, responsive creativity, has a close relation—if not every notion regarding—to the horror content pillar I was telling since the beginning.
In the report, Google translates the responsive creativity to “creation and consumption trends that derive from the ways people adapt video platforms to suit their psychological and emotional needs”. During the pandemic, there has been a significant number, a whopping 90% of viewers, specifically Gen Z, who watched a video that helped them feel like they were in a different place. While 83% of them have watched soothing content on YouTube to help calm and relax themselves. Most of them agree that they find comfort in creators who have familiarity with them. A sort of parasocial interaction (a kind of psychological relationship experienced by an audience in their mediated encounters with performers in the mass media, particularly on television and on online platforms) forms and exists between them and the creators. Michelle Choi is one of the ‘comfort creators’ who has a regular content series called Living Alone Diaries.
In a similar vein, many people also find comfort in horror content. 53% of Gen Z agree that online horror content appeals to them. It may seem contradictory, but there’s actually a scientific explanation behind this antithetical phenomenon.
When watching scary movies, we can experience psychological responses similar to exposure therapy, a technique used to treat anxiety disorders where we force ourselves to face fear in order to overcome it. A sort of a cathartic release for some.
In 2020, National Geographic published an article titled how horror movies can help people overcome real-world trauma. According to Mathias Clasen, Director of the Recreational Fear Lab and an Associate Professor in Literature and Media at Aarhus University in Denmark, the controlled fear experiences such as watching horror movies “may have positive effects in terms of fine-tuning coping strategies.” We are genuinely frightened, maybe even screamed while watching, but we’re also aware that we’ve done it from the safety of our bed or living room. The article further explains that a study of more than 300 people shows that horror fans are showing a much better psychological condition than non-fans during the distressing time of pandemic.
Taking everything into consideration, the Shopee Brand Team decided to tap into the horror content as well for campaign promotion. It was a parody of a horror vlog, where a man is doing a livestream in the middle of the night in a supposedly abandoned complex with a dirty pool and lush trees. To make it more convincing, the video was posted on one of the biggest anonymous Instagram accounts in Indonesia. The strategy worked. People got hooked, intrigued, and stayed until the very end of the video when the Shopee brand message appeared.
So what’s next?
Like any other trends, as a genre, horror has evolved too. Still from the Youtube Culture & Trends Report 2022, Google defines the genre based on the generation. They reported that millennial horror tends to be more about the adrenaline rush of the jump scare. Remember Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, or The Ring? While the younger generation or Gen Z prefer a more atmospheric horror. That explains the found-footage style (think of The Blair Witch Project) or ‘analog horror’ trend has risen.
A little throwback to the early pandemic, there was a trend circulated among the online community called ‘liminal space’, which later formed a new “youth-driven internet folklore, TheBackrooms”, wrote Samantha Culp, a journalist, writer, and creative strategist in her piece titled Liminal Dust-up.
‘The Backrooms’ was originally a meme, posted in 4Chan on May 12, 2019, on a thread calling for “disquieting images” that “just feel off”. It’s the disturbing feeling of the unknown that has drawn many people into it. It now has spawned stories, comics, fan art, video games, and increasingly high-production value viral videos on YouTube.
Working in digital content production means we need to keep improving and adapting. In order to have a long lasting, meaningful, and great bonding with the viewers (with Gen Z as the majority), we have to understand their content consumption behaviour. What interests them and what’s relevant to them. And that specific part about the ‘Millennial vs Gen Z horror’ becomes valuable insight for us as we’re cooking something fresh for the viewers to enjoy!
So did our decision to add horror as one of the content pillars for Shopee ID Youtube work or did we just get lucky? I believe both answers are right. It’s a proven formula that ‘horror, comedy, and romance’ topics are among the best-selling topics in history. However, I’ve to admit that the timing is in our favour. Horror content consumption seems to have increased, especially since the beginning of the pandemic, and is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. In the meantime, we’re not so surprised to see our competitors (yes, plural) using the same strategy by tapping into horror content on their Youtube channel.
Amazing piece by Samanth Subramanian in New York Times about ruangrupa and their collective approach and direction for the upcoming documenta fifteen.
Journalism requires dedication, and I can only wonder how long does it take to write this article since I can trace back his interview to September 2021 in here!
If someone ever asked me again about ruangrupa and/or their involvement in documenta fifteen, I’ll just send them over this long-but-satisfying feature article.
As someone who was once part of the collective and in charge for OK. Video, I can say nothing but proud to see them evolve and ‘takes over one of the world’s biggest art shows’! I actually also took part in one of documenta fifteen’s publications called ‘majalah lumbung’. Read the full story here.
If you’re in Gemany or have a plan to fly there, make sure to pay a visit to Kassel to experience documenta fifteen (Sat, Jun 18, 2022 – Sun, Sep 25, 2022).
In less than 2 weeks, documenta fifteen will be officially opened in Kassel, Germany, from 18 June – 25 September 2022. ruangrupa, a Jakarta-based collective was appointed as the curator—the first Asian curator to be precise—of this world renowned art exhibition.
For those who are not familiar with the art world, documenta is considered as one of the most prestigious high-quality global art event and even holds special position or on par with other world class biennales, such as the Venice Biennale or the São Paulo Art Biennial.
Judging by the scale of the project, it’s only natural if the collective has prepared for this project since 2019. The official announcement of ruangrupa appointed as the curator itself was on 22 February 2019 by the general director of documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH, Dr. Sabine Schormann.
The concept ruangrupa has prepared for documenta 15 is “Lumbung”. A lumbung – or rice barn – is a place to store communally-produced rice as a common resource for future use. If documenta was launched with the noble intention to heal European war wounds, this concept will expand that motive in order to heal today’s injuries, especially ones rooted in colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchal structures. (read more about the concept here)
So in short, it’s a communal work where curators, technologists and economists, as well as other initiatives and collectives in different corners of the world are working closely for this exhibition. These collaborators are then expected to employ their respective strategies in reality by grafting their existing practices, to then be staged in Kassel in 2022.
Now, here’s the exciting part.
I’m excited to share my involvement in documenta fifteen as editor for both Majalah lumbung and lumbung Kios publication. But since the work for lumbung Kios is still ongoing, I will only share about majalah lumbung. The use of Indonesian words for ‘majalah, ‘lumbung’, and ‘kios’ is intentional.
As part of the exhibition, documenta fifteen is publishing two issues of a magazine that hone in on the core idea of the exhibition – collective working. The lumbung component in the title refers to the communal rice barn where Indonesian farmers store surplus crops to share. The two issues, Harvesting and Sharing, will be published together in one volume to accompany the exhibition.
In total, there are 26 short stories and features by leading journalists, researchers, and writers from Indonesia, majalah lumbung touches on topics such as cosmology or architecture, food or eating together, thereby forming a foundation for the content featured at documenta fifteen. The individual contributions are conveyed through numerous illustrations and an attractive layout in magazine quality.
I worked along Putra Hidayatullah who also one of the lumbung members as Indonesian editors for this magazine. Each of us took one edition to work on, me with the ‘Harvest’ and him with ‘Sharing’. Then I continued the work as the editor and proofreader for the Indonesian and English languages. Zamira Loebis, a lecturer/ interpreter/ journalist/ TIME correspondent acted as the translator team leader for this magazine.
It was a pleasure to worked along great minds and amazing contributors from all over Indonesia, including one of my long-time idol in the field of social, art, and culture, Prof. Melani Budianta, M.A, Ph.D.
My favourite writing was from Rahmadiyah Tria Gayatri, a cross-media artist, producer, activist, and disaster literacy activist. Her piece is about collective movements after conflict and natural disasters in Central Sulawesi. She shared a haunting experience as a conflict and natural disaster survivor, but somehow managed to craft it beautifully and in a poetic way.
So if you’re in Germany or will be travel to west Europe around the same time of documenta fifteen will be held, make sure to pay a visit to this 100-days of world class art exhibition in Kassel and buy a copy of majalah lumbung!
The magazine is part of the four publications that are centered around documenta fifteen principles – like collectivity, sustainability, and shared resources – not only in terms of content, but also in their production process, appearance, and mode of distribution.
Majalah lumbung is published together with Hatje Cantz as partner publishing house and will be available in Indonesian, English, and German.
Approx. 320 p. | approx. 200 ill. | 20 x 26 cm | Softcover
€ 28,00 [D], € 32,00 [A] | ISBN 978-3-7757-5285-5 | June 2022