Eko Nugroho

In my work, I do not try to enlighten or change society. My work absorbs and depicts what is happening in our society and the international community, and is positioned as part of this era. I believe that art plays a role in social change, but it is one that is felt and often unseen. 

—  Eko Nugroho's quote from his interview with Ken Jenie for Whiteboard Journal's "Process and Perspective with Eko Nugroho", 2015.

Art has the ability to cut through distance, cultural and language barriers to bring understanding to those otherwise far removed. It is no coincidence that great art emerges in moments of political revolution where this becomes imperative to represent those unheard. Eko Nugroho is in that class of artist, coming to prominence in the late 1990s during the Reformation era in Indonesia, which was triggered by a massive financial crisis that resulted in the toppling of Suharto after 31 years of ruling as a dictator-president. 

Eko’s practice is rooted in socio-political commentary and reflections of identity in particular are shown through his recurring motif of the masked figure. Masks serve as a large part of traditional Indonesian culture, mostly worn during traditional ritual or ceremony as a way to transcend the wearer’s identity to be more acceptable to higher beings. Eko uses this idea of the mask as a way of identity concealment to draw parallels to contemporary Indonesian society that began during Suharto’s rule.

In "The Witness - Radio Projects," this figuration takes on a new meaning being embedded in a working radio. It serves as a reminder of the boundaries of free speech which continue to pervade daily life despite the shift to the New Order era. This piece also serves as an example of the evolution of his practice across mediums. From graffiti-style mark making, comic-book illustrations, embroidery, wearables, to sculpture, Eko continues to find new ways to critique the world around him.

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Àbadakone / Continuous Fire / Feu continuel. 2018. Image from artist's website.

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