Yogyakarta’s biannual international art exhibition touches the visitor’s empathy through beautiful artworks of humanity.


What is your plan for this weekend? If nothing is written on your calendar, then you might want to take yourself on a nice walk around an art exhibition. Do not underestimate the power of art, because Biennale Yogyakarta 2021 offers you an emotional rollercoaster in each of its corners. So prepare your heart, and of course, your camera, before you head to Jogja National Museum.

'Bieannale' is the fancy term for 'biennial', which means a large exhibition held every two years in the art context. Originated from Venice, Biennale now spreads all around the globe and has been initiated by many regions, including Yogyakarta. 

The first Biennale in Yogyakarta was held in 1988. And since then, it has represented the dynamics of art and creativity in Yogyakarta for more than two decades with 16 massive exhibitions. Not only in Indonesia, since 2011 Biennale Yogyakarta is also known as an exhibition that showcases contemporary art practice and discourse of local and regional art scene in Southeast Asia as well. Biennale Yogyakarta started its new phase in the world of international contemporary art in 2011 where the foundation works in partnership with country or region in the equatorial by inviting the artists and art communities to showcase their works and create a series of Biennale Yogyakarta called the Equator Series. 

This year, Biennale Yogyakarta held its 16th international art exhibition at Jogja National Museum from 6th October until 14th November. "Indonesia with Oceania" is raised as the tagline that unites 34 artists from Yogyakarta, Central Java, East Java, West Java, Tangerang, Ambon, Jayapura, North Maluku, New Caledonia, Auckland, New Zealand, Australia, Timor Leste, Netherland, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea. Due to the high numbers of participating artists, the exhibition was held in four different locations: Taman Budaya Yogyakarta, Museum Tanah Liat, Indie Art House, and the main exhibition at Jogja National Museum.

The main exhibition of Biennale Yogyakarta 2021 is entitled Roots <> Routes which raises issues about the relationship between Indonesia as an archipelago, and Oceania/Pacific region. Through a long history from migration routes, traces of language and cultural assimilation, religious missions, or colonialism, but also through its association to contemporary socio-political situations. There, the art installations were creatively designed with numerous media and instruments. Most of them utilize technology like spotlights, holograms, audio, laser, and video. Though traditional art instruments like paints, leather, cloth, photographs, papers, and canvas are still apparent


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The artworks showcase the relationship between Indonesia and pacific countries as partners sharing common issues: diaspora, internationalism, de-colonialism, decentralization, and local wisdom. The artworks beautifully touched our empathy by showcasing the failure of humanity. For instance, the phenomenon that happened to migrants and refugees who are highly dependant on charity, environmental issues as the result of natural resource’s exploitation, the extinction of indigenous myth due to modernism, racism, and colonization. 

Some of the art installations explicitly raise awareness about some current issues, there is a room fully dedicated for the Afghanistan refugee trapped in Indonesia who have no access to basic living needs like electricity, water, food, education, and workforce. There is also a retelling of exploitation in Papua and the bloody conflict that happened there. Another artwork showcased the struggles of migrants adjusting to racism and discrimination. The whole exhibition is actually a learning experience of humanity and how humans adapt the culture of their roots in the foreign land. The artworks taught us how to view things in detail and gently replace our ego with empathy. 


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To enjoy the artworks and to feel how it feels like to be truly human, Biennale offers offline and online experiences. If you are too far from Yogyakarta, you can access Biennale Yogyakarta 2021 on their website For the offline visits, you should make a reservation first by filling out a google form at the same website, a day prior to your planned visit at 1 PM. The committee of the exhibition has regulated health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so the number of visitors is strictly limited.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your form registration fast before the slots are full booked! 

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