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.


1. 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

Above: An image from the Arkipel Jakarta International Documentary and Experimental Film Festival, 2018 (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro). [source] Below: Yuki and Zikri.

1. Introductions.

2. Gotong royong as method.

Zikri describes Forum Lenteng as based primarily on collaboration and a community-based organization rather than an official organization. Zikri relates this principle to gotong royong, a principle and way of life in Indonesia in which people work together and help each other through a practice—though not necessarily expectation—of reciprocity. This principle, based on friendship rather than professional ties, becomes the context in realizing any kind of project or program. 
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.
The venue for the 2019 Arkipel film festival.

3. Collaboration in Arkipel.

Yuki explains that collaboration is likewise central to Arkipel Film Festival. When Arkipel first began in 2013, the project had few resources besides its network of friends and was difficult to run. However, friends were keen to help even when they did not totally understand what the project was. Within this network, responses from experimental filmmakers who Yuki and others did not know directly were usually nonetheless positive. Other Indonesian film festivals were also a source of support.

4. Decentralizing knowledge.

Zikri describes that the way to make this kind of relation work is not to understand but rather to feel: putting trust in one’s friends and feeling pride when one’s friends achieve something. Zikri also discusses the importance of decentralizing knowledge, emphasizing that knowledge does not come from one source as well as the importance of context and environment.

5. Shared methods. 

Zikri describes a similar way of life throughout Southeast Asia and a shared context across the region but also questions how this can be made into a global and cosmopolitan movement. Zikri recounts going abroad to Korea for a film festival and presenting on collaboration as a method within Forum Lenteng. Afterwards, he joined filmmaker Lav Diaz for dinner to discuss these methods with him; according to Diaz, the principle of working collectively, though perhaps historically shared, is no longer as common among younger filmmakers in the Philippines, who tend to work more individually.
"Jatiwangi art Factory (JaF) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on discourses of local rural life through arts and cultural activities such as festivals, performances, visual art, music, video, ceramics, exhibitions, artist in residencies, monthly discussion, radio broadcast and education." [source]

6. Aesthetics of collaboration. 

Zikri talks about the ways in which the idea of community and working together for communal rather than personal benefit is reflected aesthetically. Zikri uses an example from another community: Jatiwangi Art Factory in Majalengka and their annual ceramic festival, which production of which is modeled on working together in the ceramic factory. While ten or twelve people together can produce the traditional ceramic works in just a day, this would not be possible with just a person.
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.

Yuki discusses the importance of using collaboration to know one another, know how friends work and what they need, and fill in missing gaps. For example, in the formal structure of Arkipel, Dhuha is in charge of the website, but in practice, there are three or four people who work on the website together. Yuki contributes to the website, though it is not his responsibility, and does so without any request from Dhuha.
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.”
Members of Forum Lenteng at the 2019 Arkipel film festival.

8. Film festivals.

For Arkipel, smaller and experimental film festivals are a resource for making connections for film programming and future connections. These film festivals are very important, because it can be difficult to meet and make good friends who are on the same wavelength or frequency of thinking. Both Yuki and Zikri describe Busan Film Festival as too big, and Yuki discusses learning about different “species” of film festivals. At smaller and experimental festivals, it’s more possible to make new connections and have unexpected conversations.
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.
Panels at Forum Festival, a symposium held prior to Arkipel that involves artists, critics, and academics. 

9. Spirit of study.

Zikri discusses the connection between the kind of intensive training given by Hafiz and Otty and the members’ curatorial freedom within Forum Lenteng. First established as a forum to study, study is the spirit of Forum Lenteng, which provides knowledge lacking in formal education. Most of the participants do not come from an art background, so it becomes necessary to fill in large gaps in knowledge with a mode of teaching and discussion not found in the universities, sometimes outside of regular schedules. Learning is expected to be ongoing: for example, Otty requires that all participants of 69 Performance Club watch all of the films in the festival.
A multimedia piece by Forum Lenteng's 69 Performance Club, at the 2017 Arkipel film festival. [source]

10. Curatorial process.

Yuki talks about study in terms of the curatorial process. Most of the curators at Arkipel do not have an art background but knowledge from criminology, philosophy, accounting, IT, computer science, etc, requiring a new strategy for learning about art history and infusing this knowledge day by day. While workshops only occur twice a week, conversations towards this learning can happen every day.
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.
The 2016 festival was themed "social/kapital." [source]

11. Growing Forum Lenteng. 

Yuki brings the conversation back to Arkipel Film Festival and its strategy for sustainability. The festival’s call for volunteers works as a a way of informally bringing people in; after volunteering at the festival, they can come to Forum Lenteng and start conversations and new projects with others. This also becomes an opportunity for them to make their own networks and make new international connections.

12. The art world and film world. 

Forum Lenteng occupies an in-between relationship to the art and film worlds in Indonesia. Yuki notes that Forum Lenteng is sometimes understood and that there is often a wall with both the art and film worlds—too much an art collective for those in film, and too much of a film collective for those in the art world. However, there are also strategies to bridge the gap between the art world and the film scene; for example, Yuki describes that all of the works in 69 Performance Club possess a filmic quality.
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.
Arkipel 2017, Penal Colony. [source]

13. A new curriculum.

Zikri and Yuki continue talking about the way Forum Lenteng fit fully neither into the art nor the film worlds. Zikri recounts Otty’s studies at the Jakarta Arts Institute. When she went to finish her undergraduate thesis, she was told that her project was film rather than art. Zikri describes this as an old school way of thinking and that most art schools in Indonesia use this sort of old curriculum—there is no contemporary vision to see video as video, as film, and as art.

14. Indonesian experimental cinema.

Arkipel is an attempt to map out the unwritten history of experimental cinema in Indonesia. Yuki notes the introduction of cinema to Indonesia as a way for the colonizers to document the colonized region. Experiments with cinema began in the 60s and 70; Peransi, a founder of Jakarta Art Institute who participated in juries at Oberhausen and Mannheim Film Festival, from there, brought experimental films to be screened to the public. However, while experiments with cinema occurred, they were not framed through the discourse of 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.

Arkipel’s yearly themes are a way to talk about current events in Indonesia and globally, generated by what is interesting to the members of Forum Lenteng. For example, 2014 focused on the sociocultural condition in Indonesia and presidential election in an aesthetic context. 2015 was the 50th anniversary 
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.

The vision for Forum Lenteng’s future—and its strategy for sustainability—is to grow and deepen commitments but nonetheless remain small and intimate. 
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.
Forum Lenteng members in 2018. [source]

17. Community-to-community-to-government.

In networking, Forum Lenteng is not meant to be subversive to the government but rather to invade it—for example, their public funding and public space. 
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.

Zikri discusses inviting British experimental filmmaker Ben Cook to Forum Lenteng and programming British experimental films. As Zikri notes, there is a lack of access to other experimental films as well, and transnational collaborations are a way of opening new sources. The events are meant to be egalitarian—for example, during Ben Cook’s visit, everyone, including younger members, were able to talk with the guest in order to facilitate learning through these conversations.

19. Forum Lenteng’s future.

Zikri uses Akumassa to discuss Forum Lenteng’s future and its program to publish serial books and encourage local writers to become journalistic investigators. 
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.