Hafiz Rancajale

Image: Behind the Flickering Light (Hafiz Rancajale, 2013)

B. 1971, Pekanbaru, Indonesia.

On August 21, 2019, we interviewed Hafiz Rancajale, one of the founders of Jakarta media collective Forum Lenteng. The interview took place at Duo Nyonya restaurant. Valencia Winata conducted the interview in Bahasa Indonesia [access the original transcript here], based on Jasmine Nadua Trice's questions, later translating it into English. You can read the English translation below or listen to it in Bahasa.



1. Early life | 2. Movie-going and education | 3. Alam: Syuhada | 4. Anak Sabiran | 5. Filmmaking process | 6. Origins of Forum Lenteng | 7. Challenges of starting Forum Lenteng | 8. An alternative school | 9. Forum Lenteng's organic structure | 10. Utopia & idealism | 11. Friendship and the machine metaphor | 12. The space of Forum Lenteng | 13. The neighborhood | 14. Community networks | 15. Digital platforms | 16. Culture & education | 17. History & documentation | 18. New projects
Jasmine Nadua Trice, Valencia Winata, and Hafiz Rancajale.

1. Early life.

Valencia Winata: Today is 21st August, 2019. I'm Valencia Winata, and I'm interviewing Hafiz Rancajale. Hafiz, my question to you, so you moved from Pekanbaru to Jakarta, what was your reason–what made you choose Jakarta? Hafiz Rancajale: [Clears throat] Yeah, actually that was, how do I say it? Like–when we were young, we imagined what we wanted to be. And when I was still [clears throat] in high school, I decided that I didn't want to stay there, in Pekanbaru or in Riau because–because [clears throat] I think Pekanbaru wasn't challenging, especially when it came to education. Valencia Winata: Um-hmm. Hafiz Rancajale: That period–and my siblings have this tradition, they generally–well, for school they went outside Riau, some went to Padang, it didn't have to be in Java [coughs]. Some went to Padang and somewhere else because we thought–our assumption was for our education, it was better to go to Jakarta. That's all. And I had wanted to go to Jakarta since I was still in high school. Because, first, I wanted to learn. I wanted to know more cosmopolitan stuffs. Second, I initially didn't want to go to an art school. I was more interested in international relations, in what else [sniffles], in English literature too. But my family–well, my father was an artist, a painter. My mother was a teacher. So yeah, I ended up in art too. For me, moving to Jakarta was like opening, opening not in the sense of knowing how [pause] to live or to think, to think of education and the rest of it. But opening as in it showed a new way of seeing, "Oh, so there are many aspects that can be explored in education or intellectual world." And they aren't just for money, because when people go to school, what they think is how to earn money, to work and work and work. But when I came here, I came to Jakarta, I got into IKJ, and I made friends, met some activists. All that opened and showed something that was different from the stereotype about education that it was just for finding a job. That's all.
The grounds of the Art Institute of Indonesia (IKJ). [source]

2. Movie-going and education.

VW: And when you came to Jakarta, how was your relationship with films? HR: Yeah, so this all began with watching films as something I've loved to do since I was little, there was a cinema near my house in Pekanbaru. Then in Jakarta, when I came to Jakarta, I went to IKJ [Institut Kesenian Jakarta/Jakarta Institute of arts], they had a film school, I was in fine arts but I made friends with the film people there. And there was a cinema in that area, in TIM [Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural centre].
When I was in that art school, I found a film world that was more serious, it had [film] discussions. We attended–I attended film screenings that were seen as–we saw them as the better ones, in foreign cultural centers such as the French one, the British one, the Japanese one. And they became a kind of place [05:00], a place for us to travel abroad, to watch the better films. From there, I started to know more about films, the history of film in a more critical context, and not just seeing them as an entertainment. And because I went to an art school that had a film department in it, so I met some film people too. VW: Yeah. HR: And those people that–at that time there was only one film school, and that was on my campus. So, the people in the film industry, those who work in film in Indonesia–well, they are from my campus. So, I know them, I know them well, it's not just knowing their names. So I'm friends with the alumni, with [coughs] many of these film people because we are all from IKJ so it's easy to connect with them.
The Taman Ismail Marzuki Art Center was established in 1968, the first arts and culture center of its kind in Indonesia. In 2019, revitalization plans led to the eviction of the center's XXI TIM Cinema. [source]

3. Alam: Syuhada.

VW: And what about your films, what was your first film? HR: So, I used to see making a film as something that was just my imagination. Because to me, it was, what was it–making a film was impossible, because I was a fine arts student, making two-dimensional works. I studied printing, graphic design. And film was just a hobby, and when–-and it seemed impossible to get the access to its technology. Why? Because when I was still in school, they were using celluloid, weren't they? And there were only a handful of people who could access that, and I was not part of them, because I wasn't a film student. So, it was impossible. And when–it was after the Reformation that we could get the access to it, because the technology was already available. Also it was cheaper, because of the digital technologies.
So in 2000, I started making moving-image works, video works. And I learned it by myself. I was never taught editing, directing, I was never taught–I learned it by myself, by experimenting. But at least when I was in my uni from the '90s, I'd started reading, reading film theories, watching films, and then what else–so I was already familiar with the concept of editing, by reading Film as Form by Eisenstein and others. And for me, they became the basics. The basics for me to try it out in practice.
So, from 2000 I started making works, which wasn't that intense, to be honest. I never proclaim myself as a filmmaker because I think medium is just a matter of choice. Because [coughs] as an artist or a practitioner working in art, I use my imagination to focus on--what is it?--to focus on activism. And I can use any medium in my activism. So Valen, when you asked which films, out of all that I've made, are the most important for me? There are some, one is Alam: Syuhada, which I think is important because [clears throat] for me it's a method, a method in profiling, how to profile the people close to me. And in terms of medium, practice, its form, I found–there were some findings in there. And [clears throat] there are other films, Façade 5A, I think Façade 5A is important because, because it shows how to poetize film, [10:00] or video art. And the film is very autobiographical. It's autobiographical and contradictory, it shows things that are contradictory and I think that is interesting. So, that too became my findings.

4. Anak Sabiran.

HR: The other important film is of course the one about Misbach. Anak Sabiran. That's my first feature film, it's very long and–because during the production, we had in quotation, "a lot of drama" such as the film's figure has died. VW: Yes. HR: And between me and the source, we had an ideological struggle. The source, Misbach, was very suspicious of me. He said, "Ah, Hafiz. He is PKI." He said that. So, we had things like that. But then we also joked with him [smiles]. At one time, he got suspicious, "Hey, where did you get the money to make this film? Is it from abroad?" But in fact, we didn't. So, I found it, what was it–it was quite emotional for me as it became an ideological struggle, struggling with our thoughts.

5. Filmmaking process.

VW: And about what you've said earlier, when you were still a student, you were with–I mean you interacted with other students, and with other institutions that opened your mind. What about your filmmaking process? When you were making the films– HR: Oh, my films? VW: Yes, did you collaborate, interact with other people? HR: My tradition is not a film production's tradition. Mine is an artist's tradition. VW: Yes. HR: As an artist, we work alone, Valen. We work alone. But I have this habit, I've been an organizer since I was a uni student. So my filmmaking process, it's more–my scheme is unlike the film production's, mine is more like a collaboration.
So, for me, the tension isn't to, "Oh, you are this, you are that, you do this part for the film." But mine is more like, "Do you engage with me? Do you engage with this film?" If they do, they are good collaborators. So, in the context of production, we fully dissociate ourselves from–it's not like the concept of film production in the industry world, we never state, "You are the director, you are the cameraman." But we see it as a collaboration.
But I don't know if–will it diminish the quality? I don't think so [frowns] because we discuss what we're doing. And each of us doesn't think of it as, "This is a production that has a commercial value." So, it is that awareness. When we're making films together, it really feels like we're having a discussion. When Valen asked if I collab–did I? I definitely did. Definitely. Many friends like Diki, Otty, who else–many, many people and they are my sources, I see them as my collaborators.
Even with Misbach, in Anak Sabiran I see him as my collaborator. When I asked him to make the film with me, he became my collaborator. So, my working model isn't like the subject-object and object-subject working model–no. They become friend, they are subjects and we are equal.
Image: Anak Sabiran (Behind the Flickering Light). [source]

6. Origins of Forum Lenteng.

VW: Okay, about–so now we are going to talk about Forum Lenteng. HR: Okay. VW: So, when Forum Lenteng–Hafiz, why did you form Forum Lenteng, what was the urgency that encouraged the formation of Forum Lenteng? HR: So [coughs] Forum Lenteng–the more urgent need was [15:00] that we didn't have that kind of organization, there was no such organization in Jakarta at that time. One thing, at first I formed [art collective] ruangrupa. I formed ruangrupa, and three years later I initiated the OK Video Festival. In OK Video Festival, I–from 2000–I've said before that I began to focus on the audio-visual world, I produced and studied its literature, so I was serious about it–and I noticed in my previous place, in ruangrupa, they didn't have that interest. I didn't have discussions friends, friends like, the collaborators, to talk about audio-visual, moving-image.
So, since 2003, Otty [Widasari] and I thought–we, well Otty is like my collaborator. We chat, discuss films, discuss media and so on. And [clears throat] in 2003, after the OK Video Festival, I stepped down. I stepped down from ruangrupa as its director.
Then we–I was busy figuring out how to work from home. And I had the idea to–well, to make myself active at home. Because I have a collection of films, a film library, editing tools and others, we invited students. They were communication students, and we formed a discussion: discussing films, watching film, discussing media, and so on. So, we started simply as a forum, as a discussion forum, a forum where we talk like this.
And when we were making our first project, we discussed it and we decided that we had to formulate [smiles], to make it a forum; we called it Forum Lenteng.
So, this need came from our assumption–I assumed there was no organization or group that focused on media criticism, film criticism, and moving-image criticism, and so on at that time. And for Otty and I, this is very important. And in the beginning–when we formed Forum Lenteng, we didn't think of it as a film collective. No. But we thought of it as a media activist collective. Because it was interdisciplinary–the participants at that time were students in journalism, advertising, and other majors, while Otty's background is journalism, mine is art, and so our focus became media. And I gave an insight from my art background, how to form an experiment.
An image from the OK Video Festival. [source]

7. Challenges of starting Forum Lenteng.

VW: When Forum Lenteng started, what were the difficulties, the challenges? HR: The difficulty was–well, Forum Lenteng was initiated by both of us, Otty and I. And with–of course, the difficulty was how to develop it, because we definitely needed money and other things to develop it. And at that time I had to look for–we had to earn money to survive in Jakarta.
During the time we first started, Otty was pregnant [laughs] and we had to earn money for that. So, we had to balance this creative work, this collective work with our private stuff. Well, we tried to combine both to make it work. And in the first five years, we really–certainly, we had to use our own money to support this. [20:00] And all the tools, they were mine--the camera, the editing tools and other things.
And the most difficult thing was how to convince these students or these friends, these new participants, how to challenge them so that, "This is indeed useful. It's for the future." Whereas I already have in quotation, "that spirit", Otty too, because we've been in activism and familiar with its concept since '90s.
But those students, nineteen, twenty years old–to convince them that the world of activism, arts, or media activism is important, that it could–in quotation, "feed you"--convincing them was a difficult task. That's why when we started, we had about fifteen to twenty participants but in one, two years' time, there were only four, five people left that we could convince. So, that was the challenge, how to convince them of that. And second, another challenge was they didn't have a film background at all, no art background. So, the challenge was in synchronizing this, this signal, our signal when we talked about something. It was the frequency, the frequency of our discourses, that frequency had to be equal, if we wanted this forum to work. So, that was the challenge that we had in the beginning.
The Kultursinema Travelling Exhibition 2019, Semarang, Indonesia. [source]

8. An alternative school.

VW: About the points you just mentioned, about the intensity from the members that wanted to join or had joined, with their different backgrounds, is it still the same now? If we compare the past with the present. HR: Yes, actually we sort of made–Forum Lenteng became, at first it was a forum discussion. And second, through that forum discussion, we formulated and produced something.
Then, it became–because of our discussions, we initiated and carried out research. And then, we also initiated empowerment programs. So, all those were the result of our discussions. And in the end, those discussions–Forum Lenteng then, it became, what is it? It became a school. An alternative school.
It became a methodology, methods that we could try out. Especially me and Otty and Diki, tried, what is it? We tried out the models that we think could build the initiative, the initiative of these people to, in quotation, "to learn, to try," and also to understand "what activism is, what criticism is." And that's the challenge for us, to look for new methods, which just keeps changing. Every era, every year, every one or two years, three years [pause], each generation has a different background and perception in their minds. The generation from one, two years, three years ago and the generation now, they are completely different.
VW: Hafiz, if you could give me an example, how different is the latest generation? HR: Well, actually–for example in the previous generation, it was far more didactic, but we didn't have fixed rules because we tried–in the beginning we wanted to build that fun part. And because that was the beginning, we wanted–Otty and I wanted them to have fun first, with this kind of work. So, everything we did, it was for fun.
And that worked quite well, everyone was happy in doing it–when we worked on our first project, we presented Massroom Project [25:00] in Goethe, and we had a crowd coming in, and we received good critics from our friends and film communities, and they were really happy, so we maintained that. If we compare it with the present, it's very different. Now, it's really–Otty and I tried turning it into a program, so it's programmed. It's programmed with a structure, "Oh, let's see, this generation, what is their language now?" And we use their language as a method.
And it's been pretty effective, actually. In our last project for example, we formed Milisifilem Collective as a study group, it's actually–almost all of them stay because apparently they find our method relatable. We still have fun, but it's also tough, we have discipline. So, that's that.
Also, there's craftsmanship. The first batch in Forum Lenteng, they lacked craftsmanship [smiles]. Because craftsmanship could get boring sometimes, right? I thought it was boring at that time. So yeah, the lack of it. But to the latter generation, they actually found craftsmanship pretty fun. I just realized that. Since then, that way has been quite effective for building a constructive thinking, thinking about criticism, thinking about aesthetics and so on.
Millisifilem members create drawings of film stills using China ink. [source]
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9. Forum Lenteng's organic structure.

VW: Talking about the structure, Forum Lenteng's structure, can you explain–so it was initiated as a forum–
HR: So, from 2003 to 2008, there was no structure, we had no structure. We just­–the people just told me, "Bang, why didn't you just be our leader." So, a leader here is just a leader, they just named someone older as the senior, that's how it was.
But from–and we never had it written down, we just said, "Bang Hafiz, you are our leader, okay. And who will be in charge of the money, there was Akb–no, it was Barbar." We just asked them directly. And at that time, our system was like this, we supported ourselves from the money we were given.
When we gathered, "Hey, let's hang out." We collected five thousand, ten thousand for the operational needs. So, in–it was 2008 that we made a proposal to get funding, to get support, financial support, for that we had to get registered, okay. We had to become legal, legal as an organization. So, we formed that structure. I learned from–when I formed ruangrupa and others, I made some sort of structure, a structure that was more, how to say it? More horizontal. And, horizontal means that the highest power is held by the members.
And we decided that the organization would become an association, and within that association the members have the highest power. So, I was still appointed as the leader, then Andang [Kelana] was the secretary, the finance at that time was managed by–currently is by Yuki [Aditya]. And, that's all.
We have program coordinators in the other parts of the structure, Otty is the coordinator of the archives, database and others. Diki manages the research. And that's it, as a structure that's how it is. So, the structure is more–actually it's really simple. The main structure in Forum Lenteng is really simple. And each structure–it then becomes its own cell. For example, about the programs, Otty, she made that empowerment program, how it's a workshop–she developed all that. And Diki, he made his own cells.
So, that's the other method we discovered [30:00]. Yes, there is a written structure, "This is the division, okay?" But because Forum Lenteng wants to preserve its organic style, so the structure is really about how this can legally be recognized, how it can be seen officially, "so this is what we are, the members in this organization." VW: But to preserve your organic character, do you think a structure is needed? HR: Not really. VW: No. HR: Honestly, the friends in Forum Lenteng respected, appreciated me or Otty because we are the oldest. Because I am the oldest, no one else. Secondly, I've been, from 2003, I was like a teacher to them, so automatically they respect me. And I think it's just a historical fact that "Well, I can't do anything with it". I can't, even if I want to, I can't play with the young members and–I can't, I can't do it. And, that's the organic part.
And–but in making some decisions, well, they have to work towards that. And personally, sometimes, well, I don't want to care about that. Because, because this is a studying space, and we encourage them to do their own experimentations.
Now, Valen, you were also involved with Kultursinema in Jogja. About Kultursinema stuff, I don't know about them at all. I knew the content only when I discussed with Diki. Or else, "What is the content, Dik?", "So, we have started...". But when it came to organizing matters and the like, that's done. Diki has organically developed it by himself. About the funding, looking for funding, it's not top-down. It's developed. For example, in Visual Jalanan [Visual Street], Andang developed it by himself. He did it, and now they have their own office in Pejaten. And also the recent one, we have 69 [Performance Club] that just got started. So, I hope that they could develop using their own ways.
We actually...this is adjusted according to our needs. Even though this is an organization, and all these rules are agreed upon, but it should be–it could be broken, so that we could develop ourselves. But of course, the rule breaking cannot be severe, but it could be broken. VW: But how far do you think that goes, that "this rule has been broken"? HR: Well, it's about ethics for sure. Then the second is the issue with–well, organization stuff that we have agreed on, like funding issues. Also, we have this, we have the same imagination about criticism, politics. We have the same imagination. And there is some stuff for us–the line has been crossed when for example–well, don't talk about anti-inclusivity, conservative etc, so the stuff related to that. But if it's related to freedom, we don't have a problem. So, in Forum Lenteng's case, I think there's almost no rule breaking. No one has crossed the line because they are conscious.
Left: A mural in West Solok, Sumatra, covered by the Visual Jalanan program. [source]. Below: Visual Jalanan office.

10. Friendship and the machine metaphor.

VW: And about the synchronization. Well, how–how difficult it is to synchronize everything? Or, have you encountered anything not in sync, but you continued– HR: Yes, that's the challenge. We see it as a part of this term that we call organic. Sometimes things are not in sync. They are not in sync, but when they are not in sync, they could become new challenges for the members. For me, that's not a problem. [35:00] So, it's really, we're not like a machine. People often think of Forum Lenteng's projects, which are a lot as, "Forum Lenteng is like a machine." Maybe when it's seen from Western perspective, "Gee! They are crazy. This is very machine-like."
But actually we're pretty relaxed, the members and I work together, and I enjoy it, "Let's work, work, work. That's it." If it's failed, or we couldn't do it, it's okay, we're just human. That's the concept in Forum Lenteng, it's human. If there's indeed someone who gets scolded, if there's some project left unfinished, we scold them, we talk with them, we evaluate it, and it's not institutional, it's not a punishment. But it's more like, "Hey, you are my friend, you don't finish your job, what's wrong with you?"
So, it's like that. That's very us, that's very Asian. "You, you, you are my friend, as my collaborator in this organization we work together, why don't you complete the task? We have many other things that we need to do." So, there is, if there is a part of machine that's not working, we'll remind it. But they are not a machine that needs to be–when this machine–if this machine is broken, it's stopped working, "Oh it's this, this myrrh must be replaced, it must be thrown away." It's not like that. Forum Lenteng isn't like that. Forum Lenteng, in the beginning I always said to our friends in Forum Lenteng that when they join Forum Lenteng to study, they are part of Forum Lenteng, forever. They become a permanent part of Forum Lenteng. We have to admit that they are part of us together. When you look at each of ARKIPEL's catalogues, we put the members of Forum Lenteng in it. Who the members of Forum Lenteng are, it's at the back page, also with their photos in it. VW: Yes. HR: Every year, our [catalogue] content keeps changing, but the members remain the same in it. Actually we–for me and our friends, we sort of see it as a joke, that we still have–that they are still part of us. Although we haven't seen them in five years, but the most important thing is that they are part of us, we have to remember them–keep remembering them. That's about it.
Forum Lenteng's live-work space, August 2019.

11. The space of Forum Lenteng.

VW: If–this is the question about your location–so your activities and your office are based in Haji Saidi. So, the organization, is that some sort of classroom? And how­–I mean is there any lack of or difficulties in working and creating your works there? HR: Okay, in Forum Lenteng nothing is ideal actually. There is no such thing because...we actually, in Forum Lenteng we learn to challenge the meaning of idealism [smiles]. What kind of idealism that we imagine, an ideal thing like an ideal place.
It's difficult to think of something ideal because of the way we're thinking. And, for me, if you ask whether our place is ideal or not? It isn't, it never is. Well, Valen, you know how it is with that place, there are many people, we use the space for studying, for archiving and the others. Even before that, when Forum Lenteng haven't moved to its current place, our place was similar to a squat. We rented seven, eight boarding rooms, all were boarding rooms.
So, that boarding room became a library, we emptied the room, we took the stuff out, and we filled it with books. And people could access the library. And in another room, we turned it into a studio. And we've got another room for the members to work, so it became a workshop. So that's how it worked. And it's–to watch films, we did it in a field. So, our site to watch films was outdoors. Now it's better, it's indoors now.
VW: Yes, it's inside.
HR: Yes, it was used to be outdoors, we made–we watched films outdoors. If we want to talk about what is ideal or comfortable etc, we actually feel pretty comfortable [40:00] All of our friends who have, who have the commitment to join, to study in Forum Lenteng, well they must make themselves comfortable. That is indeed the most important thing because we have this limitation, but it's not a limitation for them. Forum Lenteng could only facilitate them to a certain extent, but, "Could you adapt in order to make this more comfortable for you?" That's all.
Forum Lenteng's space, August 2019.

12. Utopia & idealism.

VW: Hafiz, you've said before that–well, there is nothing ideal in Forum Lenteng, but you also search for that idealism. Do you keep searching for that idealism even though it's not possible to obtain that, or instead–could be, could you... HR: explain that? VW: –explain that again? HR: Yes, so an idealism, idealism is some kind of utopia, isn't it? VW: Yes. HR: And a utopia is important. In our imagination as a collective, as a group, as an organization, as an artist like me, a utopia is important, "How big is your ambition?"
We never saw ourselves as an organization–no, it's not that we didn't see, we just never envisioned it. We never envisioned Forum Lenteng having an office like now. We never envisioned ourselves having a festival. Right? That's just an imagination or a utopia.
But it turned out that we could. So, we'll go towards that direction, towards a–but that utopia, or that idealism is actually, how to say it? Something that motivates us to keep experimenting using the initiatives that we've made. And if it's failed, it's okay. It's okay. Because a utopia is like, it's like building an enthusiasm.
So, what's the importance of going for that idealism? Well, so that we have a direction in our head, an ambition. So, if we don't have that, well we [pause] stop living, Valen. VW: Yes. HR: It's over. We stop living, that's it, we're done. If that happens, we–if I become a civil servant, that's it, I stop living. Working in a bureaucracy, working from nine to five, it's over. But with this kind of work, every day we're looking, and keep looking for something. Well, we didn't know that–for example, last night in the opening, it actually happened, "Oh, finally it happened." We could make the festival happen although we don't have money, we have nothing really. So that's that.
Jalan Haji Saidi, RT.7/RW.5, West Tanjung, South Jakarta City.

13. The neighborhood.

VW: And Hafiz, could you tell us a bit more about the office in H. Saidi, do the neighbors in H. Saidi collaborate with Forum Lenteng? Or does Forum Lenteng influence its surroundings? HR: So, there's a difference between Forum Lenteng and the other art communities that are community-based. Forum Lenteng is a study space, right? A study space that looks for–what I've said earlier, looks for something ideal. So, we focus on how to build a discourse, the activism, and the others. And that, it's very–it becomes very–quite unbalanced in relation to its neighborhood, the neighborhood space. We have to admit that it's not balanced.
But of course we have a pretty good relation–very good relation with our neighbors. Our relationship with the neighbors, with the head of neighborhood is very good. And when the head of neighborhood asked us to do mural, mural in a field, we did it. Every seventeenth of August, they always use our equipment, they come to us. And two years ago, I've said to them, to those youths who came to ask for money, "Rather than keep asking for money, it's better for you to come here to study," I said that. They were happy, "Oh, we'd love that, Sir. And so, and so...", "Okay." But they never come. So, yeah. Because they are still shy. [45:00] But they are very kind. And a lot of activities happening in the neighborhood, we helped a lot, especially those related to arts and youth activities. VW: Hafiz, could you explain more about the unbalanced relation, what does the unbalanced relation with your surroundings mean? HR: It's unbalanced. Let's see, we are talking about experimental films, about arts, the big ones. Meanwhile, the neighbors are still talking about things that are more practical. This isn't degrading, I don't degrade them. But they are engaged in practical things like daily life, so it's not possible to force them to join us, it's not possible. And we have to do it slowly. That must be–the initiative must come from them. We wanted–well, we tried doing it in a more practical way too. Practical stuff like making mural together, helping them during the seventeenth of August event, also when they gathered to watch a football match, we lent them our projector, they would watch a match, sometimes I joined as well. So, it's more practical. We can't talk about things like, "Wow, this film is good, we show you this film." No, it's not possible, as in we are aware that it takes time, it needs to be more persuasive, something like that. And the most important thing is they know that–I've been there for four, almost five years, I'm grateful that the place has organically developed, and the people there--they see us as something positive, it's not negative. You see that the office is open 24 hours, right? Open until two or three am, and the members were still hanging and talking there. The head of neighborhood passed by, well they knew, "These people, they aren't doing something negative." And for me, for us to be able to do stuff in that area, their acceptance is highly generous. That area is pretty conservative. If we compare it with the front line–if we're talking about an Islamic group and things like that, that's an FPI area. But the people there could see us in a more organic way, "Wow, these youths still have the enthusiasm to do something. They're not, they aren't doing something hedonistic." So, it's about maintaining that relationship. Maintaining the relationship with the neighbors, that's the most important.
Otty and Hafiz's home library and art space, across the street from Forum Lenteng.

14. Community networks.

VW: What about the relationship between Forum Lenteng and the other communities? HR: With the other communities, well it's like this. From the 90s, I was actually, well, I was connected to the activism network, with the community works. When I formed an organization, ruangrupa, and Forum Lenteng, we were automatically connected with them [smiles]. VW: Oh, I see. HR: We're connected. We're connected to a wider network, it's not just to the arts network, but to the human rights, environmental, and the other ones, we're connected to them. And a lot of communities have that kind of relation. And also because I've been initiating things for quite a long time. Many communities formed by my friends in many places such as Jogja, Bandung, Surabaya, Lombok, those communities, well they were formed by my friends, or we've known each other. So it makes us connected. And when we made a program that focused on how to use media as part of empowerment and raising the public awareness, we collaborated with some communities. That AKUMASSA program, that can be a very effective tool in collaborating. That concept of friendship, the concept of networking that we've been building, [50:00] we're finally connected. Connected, and we become part of that, we become part of that big community. And finally we made the AKUMASSA network. AKUMASSA is a network. And it's pretty big one I'd say, because they're all connected with each other, they are creating, critiquing, and contributing, which is very community-based, the base is very collective and communitive.
And honestly I think Forum Lenteng is one of the organizations that has the biggest community network in Indonesia. It's the biggest one in Indonesia and the most–because we are one of the oldest organizations. In terms of community, collective group, Forum Lenteng is one of the oldest. The others are ruangrupa, Forum Lenteng, and also MES in Jogja, MES 56. But in the beginning of 2000, communities were flourishing but they were short-lived, within one, two years they were disbanded. And Forum Lenteng lives the longest, we are still active, and that has brought us a lot of friends.
And it can–Forum Lenteng can be a role model for many other communities. It's because of the platforms that we made. For example, film, workshop, performance, festival and researches, the cameras and others. Also we have media, we have online platforms that can be a model for other communities on how to develop their organizations. And we always help, we help the other communities, we even helped them starting their own fundraising. So, the communities in Lombok, in Solok, where else, in Jatiwangi, Forum Lenteng helped them look for funding.
So, it's the friendship. That's what I said earlier, it's about building as many friendships as you can. Because I believe that, well, if you want to survive, what you need is a lot of friends. That's it. Especially if you're in this sector.
An image of Bagasworo Aryaningtyas’s work, from AKUMASSA's website.

15. Digital platforms.

VW: Yes. And what you've said about your platforms, when your programs have their own platforms, they flourish, develop and become mobile. So, about the platforms–Forum Lenteng use digital platforms a lot, you maximize your digital channels. According to you, is there any challenge in using digital platforms, I mean what was the difficulty? What are the advantage and the difficulty in using digital platforms? HR: About its advantage, there are definitely a lot of advantages because of the distribution model–Forum Lenteng is a space where people can study, network, discuss and everything, the distribution of knowledge in Forum Lenteng is open, it's not exclusive. We try to make knowledge inclusive. That's the concept of Forum Lenteng, right? So, those digital platforms give us a room to build that inclusivity. The public could access, they could have the access to various kinds of information, knowledge, book access, film access and so on. And our mission–what Forum Lenteng does with those digital platforms, it's more than just distributing information of our activities. But it's to really, really challenge the public to obtain knowledge of many aspects of culture. When you see Jurnal Footage, it's a knowledge, knowledge of archives, film history, criticism and many other things.
We, before now, on Jurnal Footage we gave a list of links of downloadable films. So, films like world classic films, we put hundreds of links of those films. [55:00] But after that, we deleted them because...[laughs]. So, it's like building, building a distribution of knowledge. And it's the same with AKUMASSA, it's a platform that distributes texts, videos, and others from our community friends.
And you see 69 Performance Club, its platform really shows, "This is an artwork, we try to give it a context, text and so on, there's a text that accompanies it." Even another digital platform such as social media, we use it for that purpose. For example, on Instagram, if you see Performance Club's Instagram account, it really talks about the history of performance. It's not–so, everything has its context.
And I think that–or with Milisifilem, if you see Milisifilem on Instagram, it gives an information that, "So, this is it. We can show the Nirmana practice, drawing practice and other things to the public." They are not just publications. And it's that awareness that I think we try to raise together, that you can use this digital platform to build, to mediate the public about media practice, art practice, and the practice of making art platforms and so on. And we think of this as a challenge, "Oh, this is actually great. It works with this method." That's it.
And up till now, well, the people, they seem to think, "Oh, that's crazy. Forum Lenteng and its digital platforms... They are better." It's like that. They are pretty, pretty amazed with–until now, [in Indonesia] there is no other digital platform, online platform–website that nicely discusses performance, there's only 69 Performance Club. Until now, we don't have other film journal as comprehensive as Jurnal Footage. We don't. Until now, there's no digital platform that talks about the archives of street visual, grafitti, mural and others. There isn't any. There is only–well, the one that we've created. So, it's, it becomes, many of our things become a model for the people. VW: And about what you've said just now that the digital platform could be the method to distribute information– HR: No, it's not that, it's not just to distribute information, but to build an awareness that the digital platform could function as a cultural platform.
69 Performance Club's online archive. The group is named for Forum Lenteng's house number.

16. Culture & education.

VW: About that cultural platform, do you find that maybe going digital alone is not enough, maybe we need a physical realm to develop that– HR: Yes, that's correct. VW: –that cultural development. HR: Yes, so there are these layers, correct? Our society are layered. One belongs to a real workspace, and another works–there is this platform that stays in digital realm, in the cloud, and that is our target. But with that method, we could encourage the actualization practices. We have the examples of the works, the models, which are to be directly practiced, they aren't just actions, actions in the digital realm. I think they are closely connected. Closely connected. If you see Performance Club's digital platform, you'll see that, "This must be practiced." And it–if we look at their Instagram account, they show you how–their practices, their works, their weekly practices, etc. That, I think it shows how serious they are with their works. So, that's the example from us, we show what we practice along with our archiving process of it. They are all equal, and are closely connected. VW: And what do you think of Forum Lenteng as an educative agent for the public? I mean [1:00:00] for a wider public, not just for its own members. HR: Yes, that's what I said. There's no film symposium until now. But we've been doing it for the fourth time, we invite the academics to talk. That's a platform to educate the public, reading films, reading film activism, or everything, reading film discourses in a more critical way. Or a film festival that–a film festival actually educates the public too, like ARKIPEL.
And the performance shows that we've been doing every month, that too educates the public. What a performance practice is, what a body practice is, what an art practice is. And we also have an Instagram account for Milisifilem. That is to educate the people out there.
And also, you know people like me, Otty especially, and the other friends, they go to some place every year, they go to Lombok, to Palu, wherever. That is educating, building, learning together, which I hope could–that our other friends could help disseminate. And what else? We've done a lot, Valen. Our friends have done a lot to disseminate knowledge or education, actually.
Also for example, I am happy that–for example in the Ministry of Education and Culture, there was no sector that talked about media-based arts or media arts before. But they have that sector now because we initiated that. Now, there is a sector that talks about media arts. Also, in the new Acts, in the Acts of Cultural Progress, it mentions media arts. That term itself has just been recognized, it's finally known. That educates the public that this technology platform and others could be parts of arts. Frankly, we don't have, we don't have a technological tradition, right? VW: Yes. HR: So, as we don't have a technological tradition, when it comes to arts, it's very difficult for us to think of technology as arts. We have a different way of thinking, ours are very different to the Europeans'. Because the Europeans do realize that their thinking is technological, structured. And we aren't like that.
And introducing that–introducing doesn't mean we follow, no, how the Western sees the arts, but no, what we mean is there are terms of art practices out there, many of them have the potential to be applied. And there's the role of organizations like Forum Lenteng, we educate that. We're educating ourselves, and also sharing that education to the public. That's what I think.
Akedemi Arkipel [source]

17. History & documentation.

VW: If we talk about self-education, about history in Forum Lenteng–I think that Forum Lenteng has a consciousness of documenting, of history and, "Where am I? My position within this history." Can you tell us about your documentation process? What are the things needed to be improved and how so? About the documentations done by Forum Lenteng. HR: If we talk about the problems, we still lack many things actually, Valen. But I think there is one interesting thing about our friends, if they've chosen to do something, they've decided, they are intense in doing it. They do it intensely, thoroughly. For example, we decided on studying films, on films specifically, we concentrated on films, so we investigated the film history [1:05:00] until we could see its roots. What the film history in Indonesia is. And we searched for its documents. And we were serious in doing it.
We've been doing it since 2003, and Diki is still doing it, going after archives, film archives and other things, its texts, its discourses and so on. And it's the same with, for example with media. We even research on media history, video technology history, media and other things, we go after their history until we get to their roots. And we gathered their documents.
If we talk about fine arts history, arts like visual arts, we researched its roots, from Sudjojono era, year 38, 37, 38, we searched for the documents, and we stored them in Forum Lenteng. We keep them, we digitized them, and we compiled them.
And now–three, four years ago, we started doing performance, our members have been researching the roots of performance, what is it like in Indonesia. That's the interesting thing about the members in Forum Lenteng, if they do, if they start on something, "Let's do it!". Well, the foundation of culture is the documents, isn't it? VW: Yes. HR: The documentation, database, etc. They are the foundation. And since the beginning, in Forum Lenteng I've often said, "The pillar in Forum Lenteng is that database, that is our pillar." VW: The pillar? HR: The big pillar, the big foundation, the big pillar for us is the database. How to make, to build as much database as–on any platform, be it on film, performance, anything. It's from that. Because personally, I think it's like–being in a world that is, how to say it? A crossover. And for other friends, that could be their references in developing any practice, writing a research, creating research-based artworks, etc. So, they have references for that. You see that we have a collection, for example a collection of films, we have more than eighteen thousand films, and they aren't ARKIPEL films. I don't include ARKIPEL films. VW: Yes. HR: And I assume that–I'm not bragging, but maybe our collection is the largest film collection in Indonesia. Films that–we have eighteen thousand films. And I said to our friends who wanted to study films, "we–-all films, all that you want to know about world cinema history, we have them." We have, I'm not bragging, we really have all of them. We also have Indonesian films. So, that's that.
And you know that we are having Gelora Indonesia exhibition. We asked for all Gelora Indonesia archives from National Archives, we worked together and asked the support from Ministry of Culture. So, that's how we do it. Our friends here have the passion that, "If you want to know something, do it seriously, you complete yourself." So, it's not for fashion or on the surface. And I think our friends in Forum Lenteng have a pretty good awareness of that. VW: About Forum Lenteng's documentation of their program, do you mean that–it seems that all your activities are documented. I see you did encourage the members, "This must be documented, this must be documented–" HR: Yes, it's–yes. Since the beginning, Forum Lenteng did–every discussion even the very early ones were documented in Forum Lenteng. VW: And are there any problems that you find in the documentation practice in Forum Lenteng? HR: Of course there are problems. Sometimes that–sometimes mentally, sometimes there are members that don't have that mentality. When they are asked to document something, they sometimes don't do it thoroughly. If–a documentation should have its database, its catalogue and so on.
And these kinds of problems, we do have them, it's normal. And all activities in Forum Lenteng, those we deem as important, they are definitely well-documented. But it's just, to encourage the members to have that documentative consciousness, [1:10:00] that's their own homework, it's theirs. Not everybody has that consciousness, that documentative consciousness. Because although now people have, we have mobile phones, that's not–that consciousness is not documentative. VW: Yes. HR: That consciousness, it's performative, "I'm here. And I'm here, I'm here." It's not documentative. So that's the difference. Even though we asked them to document something, they didn't do it very well sometimes. That's the problem we've got.
VW: There are several Forum Lenteng films related to the history of archives and documentation, like that film, the one about Misbach. How does a historical consciousness influence the works of Forum Lenteng, the way you make films, or the way you look at Indonesian films? HR: It's like what I've said earlier about what we think. What we think, about films or whatever, art practices, or activism practices, they are closely related to history and how history works, how the history can be traced way back. Maybe it's directly or indirectly related, but there is something that can explain why things happened.
And to fix that­–no, fix isn't a correct word–it's to see, to see the present with a more objective eye, we must see the present and trace it back to the past to see "Oh yes, yes, oh yes, yes". We could see it more objectively and more critically, just by having a historical consciousness. And when we have that historical consciousness, we–that history is able to be speculated by us. We could speculate as in we could create a history according to our version. Because our history, the history–well, especially in Indonesia–our history is singular. Indonesian history, it's singular because it's under the authority of the country. It was only after the Reformation that we could have our history, but it's become pieces that weren't recorded. Indonesia is the jungle of unrecorded histories. And it's the duty of us who have that media consciousness and other things to pick those pieces up, to gather those pieces. One of them is film. And if you ask about Forum Lenteng's activities on history, on documentation, they are definitely related with each other. All art practices, film practices in–or workshops, we definitely relate them to that. Because one of the most important things in building media consciousness is a consciousness towards documentation, towards history and others. It's important, it becomes, it becomes the backbone of Forum Lenteng.
And if you see Forum Lenteng's works, our friends', the individual ones, the personal ones, you see my works, you see Otty's works, you see Diki's works, you see Andang's works, Paul's works, or other friends' that–even Zikri's writings, they are related to how history works, they definitely are. It's impossible not to have that, because that's–it becomes, "It's like this is probably the way to build a better consciousness of culture," and Forum Lenteng is building that. That's it.
Akedemi Arkipel [source]

18. New projects.

VW: Okay, I think this is my last question. HR: Okay. VW: Do you have any new projects? HR: [Laughs] I think there are new projects everyday [Otty laughs]. Okay, it's actually–well, we–I [1:15:00] am participating in Singapore Biennale this November. And I'm still finishing my works for that. And then this September, we–Otty and I will have a residency in Prague, we don't know yet what kind of work that we want to make, and well I think sometimes, that must be speculated, that we indeed don't know yet. And about our planning for the coming years, we do have lots of things. We have lots of things that–well, I have planned them, what artworks, or arts, or films that we must make. For instance, I had this thought five years ago that I wanted to make films that [coughs] are biographical, biographies on our friends, my friends, artists. We don't have, we really don't have that kind of film, like Misbach's, we don't.
And next year I want to make that kind of film maybe about a certain artist, so that's the film that I want to make. That's just an idea, I intend to do that. But that idea has been planned–I've planned it since five years ago. I've got the proposal, everything–but because of other things, but it seems that next year I could–well, I need to be serious in it. And I have other activities as well, you know we have our ongoing platforms that I'm still helping with. Well, that's about it. Okay? VW: Okay. Hafiz, thank you. HR: Okay, thank you, too.