Yuki Aditya and Manshur Zikri
In August 2019, we interviewed Yuki Aditya and Manshur Zikri about their work with Jakarta media collective Forum Lenteng. They discuss collaboration as a method of film practice, the role of film festivals, and the spirit of study that drives Forum Lenteng. Listen to their discussion below.
Contents1. Introductions | 2. Gotong royong as method | 3. Collaboration in Arkipel | 4. Decentralizing knowledge | 5. Shared methods | 6. Aesthetics of collaboration | 7. Collaboration and structure | 8. Film festivals | 9. Spirit of study | 10. Curatorial process | 11. Growing Forum Lenteng | 12. The art world and film world | 13. A new curriculum | 14. Indonesian experimental cinema | 15. Curatorial themes | 16. Forum Lenteng’s future | 17. Community-to-community-to-government | 18. International experimental cinema | 19. Forum Lenteng’s future
2. Gotong royong as method.
Otty and Hafiz are Zikri’s aunt and uncle, and Zikri’s curiosity in Forum Lenteng began with wanting to know more about what his aunt and uncle were doing, watching them work with students and conducting art classes in their home, which at the time was Forum Lenteng’s headquarters.
In 2010, Zikri joined Akumassa, which Otty directed him towards because of his interest in sociological research. Akumassa develops subprojects with other communities outside of Jakarta, conducting workshops meant to experiment with the moving image and to empower local perspectives. As an example of the collaborative method, Zikri notes that Akumassa video projects do not use the term director or filmmaker, but rather credits the works to all participants.
3. Collaboration in Arkipel.
4. Decentralizing knowledge.
5. Shared methods.
6. Aesthetics of collaboration.
In the case of film, film is not in and of itself a goal but rather a way of connecting with others and building connections between the local government and local people. Zikri describes that there is no difference between working in the ceramic factory and working as an artist and making films—the idea affects the aesthetics. Akumassa’s moving image workshops use the idea of the “eye medium” to follow and share the story of location.
7. Collaboration and structure.
According to Zikri, there is no formal structure, but collaborators meet and join and do whatever they can. Friends do not have to ask what they should do, but rather come in, observe, and help as needed in an organic process.
Zikri recounts how Valencia got involved with Forum Lenteng as an example, describing an intentional way of bringing people in but an organic process of working together. After Hafiz met Valencia at Glasgow Film Festival, Hafiz invited her to come work with Forum Lenteng. Valencia asked, “What will I do in Forum Lenteng?” Hafiz responded, “Just come, you will know what you will do in Forum Lenteng.”
8. Film festivals.
While these connections made at film festivals play an important role, the programming also comes from the members in an open and organic manner. According to Zikri, in gotong royong style, members of the collective can express and propose their own ideas: for example, 69 Performance Club was one that came from the younger members. These ideas sometimes emerge casually rather than out of formal meetings, and they then work to make the ideas sustainable.
9. Spirit of study.
10. Curatorial process.
Zikri recounts a Forum Lenteng intern, who was instructed to come to Forum Lenteng to watch one film and write one review each day. It then becomes possible for him to share his new knowledge of experimental films to his friends and therefore build more networks.
11. Growing Forum Lenteng.
12. The art world and film world.
The term “film curator” was first used in Indonesia by Arkipel. Previously, the term “film programmer” was always used, with films programmed from other festivals with little rationale for why the films were chosen. As a whole, the films were generally not connected to one another. Arkipel takes a curatorial approach: the festival is not a party to celebrate films but rather uses films to focus on particular contemporary themes.
Arkipel criticizes the practice of film programming in Indonesia. In film curating, the curator has a vision and a problem to be shared through film; in other words, films became an articulation for talking about an issue. Even if a film is bad, it still has a place if it has relevance to the issue at hand.
Zikri sees divisions—between art and film, as well as between documentary and fiction—as conservative. Forum Lenteng and Arkipel’s approach is not to be exclusive.
13. A new curriculum.
14. Indonesian experimental cinema.
Zikri also frames Arkipel as experimental not only because it screens experimental films, but because the production of the festival and the act of collaboration itself are also experimental.
15. Curatorial themes.
2015 was the 50th year anniversary of the 1965 Tragedy, in which the Communist Party of Indonesia was disbanded. That year’s theme addressed the tragedy though not in necessarily in literal way but framed a discussion of how power can construct history.
2016’s theme was “social capital” as a response to the world economic crisis; the theme questioned if there were alternatives to the idea of currency as capital, returning to the idea of gotong royong and social capital as an alternative strategy to survive.
16. Forum Lenteng’s future.
Within Forum Lenteng, there is a push to be professional in an alternative way; because there is no regional infrastructure in art education in Indonesia, it therefore must be created through Forum Lenteng.
Zikri frames Forum Lenteng as a home that members can return to; with over 80 members since 2003, once one becomes a member, they will be a member forever. As the members grow, the community also grows. Yuki describes this as a way of regenerating while maintaining a small size.
Zikri contends that the government does not understand what it is that they do, but that it’s important to make them understand. For example, Zikri hopes that Forum Lenteng’s perspective can show them the importance of creating an archive of Indonesian cinema is for the public. It is the job of the National Museum to provide this knowledge to the people, but because they do not their job, Forum Lenteng must do it. However, Forum Lenteng still must involve them—collaboration is not just community-to-community but also community-to-community-to government.
Yuki discusses the Ministry of Culture and Education’s project to restore one film from each year and digitize ten films each year. As Forum Lenteng began to get involved, the Ministry chose to digitize a leftist film. For him, it is important know the history of Indonesia’s own cinema and create discourse as to why a film is chosen to be restored.
18. International experimental cinema.
19. Forum Lenteng’s future.
Zikri also talks about working with a group of students from ITB. In the process of putting on a student film festival, the students wanted to learn how to produce curatorial writing and work within a curatorial framework. Zikri saw this as a good sign to trigger that kind of new culture within the student film festival. With an archive of submissions since 2007, the students were encouraged to reframe the existing archive in a new curatorial perspective.
Yuki asked the students to watch all the films that have been submitted since 2007 as a starting point to create film research about student films.