Established in 2000. Live in Jakarta.
The art group RUANGRUPA are based in Jakarta. Their project focuses on t-shirts (kaos in Indonesian) as a form of popular culture. In Jakarta, t-shirts are used as propaganda, statements or ways to represent an ideology or identity in public space. The wearer might express a collective or personal identity through the t-shirt, or simply be a poser. In particular, many t-shirts in the city used the heads of world famous figures such as Einstein, Che Guevara, Jim Morrison, Superman or Osama Bin Laden and collaged them with the face of Jakartas local hero, Benyamin Sueb.
Benyamin Sueb (1939-1995) was a famous singer and film actor from Jakarta. He represented the social reality of Jakartan people in funny, critical, honest and simple ways. His works were very important to Jakartan people of every class and he became a major icon for the city influencing everything from the language to the local football club.
This project reflects on how an iconic figure represents his or her environment. The confrontation between local icons and international celebrities is played out here. The local figure is not only an object of adoration, but can be used by the population to make personal statements or to become a symbol for people that can influence the way they behave on an everyday level. In parallel RUANGRUPA have researched the status of similar heroes in İstanbul, providing an insight into the different roles and possibilities of popular culture in the two cities.
Esra Sarıgedik Öktem