The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
Training arts managers to support the activities of the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic artists of Indonesia   Jakarta's art NPO Kelola
Sato: You and Sardono have also interacted with Japanese artists and art organizations. Do you think that such collaborations could be a key for the Indonesian performing arts community to develop further?

Kusumo: Sardono came to Japan so many times. So far, working with Japanese artists has been a very good experience. We have worked with Yas-Kaz, Yuji Takahashi, and Hiroshi Teshigawara. One time Hiroshi Teshigawara did the artistic design, Yuji Takahashi was music director and Sardono choreographed and together they did a performance in Kumano. And we have also coordinated Indonesian tours for such Japanese companies as Byakkosha, Sankai Juku and contemporary dancers in collaboration with JCDN, etc. But I don’t think it is enough. We need to see more Japanese artists come and perform in Indonesia because now things are changing so much in the world. Seeing what other artists are doing is a very important learning process. I think more artists should be able to travel, not just to perform, but to work for longer periods of time with artists from outside of their own culture. I think we should do more on this side. Not enough collaborative work has been done between Japanese and Indonesian artists. Collaboration takes time. It is not easy. You have to understand them first. That takes time.

Sato: In 2006 when I was invited to your workshops in Indonesia, I realized a lot of the difficulties people face Indonesian performing arts are facing. One thing is the Indonesian currency value in the world and how it influences the arts. I also felt technological problems due to financial difficulty.

Kusumo: I think one problem is that people don’t know how to access information. That is why we try to provide information. Sometimes there are opportunities for artists that they don’t know about. The Internet is still difficult because many people do not have computers. The Internet is still slow in many parts of the country, even in Jakarta. Within the country, mobile phones have made connecting with people much easier. People communicate more with SMS because it is fast and cheap. Now when people have performances, information about the show is done through by short text messages. It is very effective.

Sato: Indonesian identity seems to be based on a “unity in diversity” with the country’s wide spectrum of languages and ethnicity. How do you see that as an arts manager in performing arts?

Kusumo: I think Indonesia is still more of a political concept because what we call Indonesia today is the land that was formerly occupied by the Netherlands. Culturally it is still hard to talk about Indonesia because the culture of central Java is different from west Java, Bali is different, South Sulawesi and North Sulawesi is different and so on. They are all different. If you ask, “what is Indonesian art?” it is hard to answer. The richness and diversity is a unique part of our cultural heritage, and always makes Indonesia vibrant and interesting

Sato: Do you have a vision for your management based on such diversity?

Kusumo: From my experience of working with different people, the most important thing is to respect their ways. Thus it is important that you give yourself time to understand the context in which they are working, before you try to work with them. I think in Indonesia this is the only way to approach it.
    As many arts form is often closely linked to a certain community, it will be very difficult to work with an artist from a community if you do not understand and respect the unwritten rules of the community.

Sato: Recently the term “Asia” has became very important among Asian arts communities. Do you also have some ideas and hopes concerning Asia as a member of Asian arts community?

Kusumo: I have high hopes as an Asian. For a long period of time we have been more oriented to the West than to Asia. We can get grants to visit Europe, we are invited to America. You see many Japanese artists or Chinese artists go to New York. There are less Asian artists going to other Asian countries. Why? I think part of it is the funding. I think it is structured that way. It is not good or bad. It is how it is. Something in place to allow Asian artists to visit another Asian country. Finding support to go to Vietnam is more difficult than finding support to go to the United States. I have hopes that some people working in Asia can start talking about this, and look at ways to make inter-regional exchange possible.
    This is the first step. We have to know each other first because we cannot collaborate or do something if we do not know each other. I would like to plan a week-long event and invite colleagues and artists from other Asian countries. During this week they will get a chance to see exhibitions, performances, meet artists, go to their studios and see how they live and work. Hopefully through this process people will have a better understanding of what artists in Indonesia are doing, and the challenges they are facing. I am confident that once we have better knowledge of each other something will develop.

Sato: Maybe it is good timing to start now. So I hope there will be more interaction between Asian countries.

Kusumo: I think it is a good time. I hadn’t traveled much in Asia actually, but when I started working for Kelola, I became interested in cultural exchanges. That prompted my first trip to many Asian countries. I got a grant from ACC to travel in Asia and went to Malaysia, India, Cambodia and several other countries. It is ironic that an organization based in New York was supporting my visit to other Asian countries.
    Japan is economically strong in Asia, so I hope that in the future Japan will take a bigger role in promoting understanding through cultural exchange between Asian countries.
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