This document is printer friendly, simply select "Print" from the file menu in your browser.

Nattering with members from the former Apotik Komik

Apotik Komik was an artists’ collective based out of Yogyakarta in the nineties, who created work in response to the political and social conditions of Indonesia during that decade. Apotik Komik was: Arie Dyanto, Samuel Indratma, Bambang Toko, and Popok Tri Wahyudi. Today the artists still create work from the same socially/politically-driven approach, however, each works individually.

Nattering with Apotik Komik
Photo Credit: Megan Wilson

Megan Wilson     What exactly was Apotik Komik?

Apotik Komik     Apotik Komik was a visual community living and working in Yogya [in Indonesia]. Collectively we made work in public spaces – alternative spaces outside of the gallery that we found – empty walls, billboards.

MW     Did you guys get permission to use the spaces that you worked on?

AK     Not always, and we did get in trouble with the government at times, which led to the design of "official" uniforms that we’d wear when we made our public work.

MW     Sort of like guerrilla actions?

AK     Yes, exactly, these were guerrilla actions.

MW     What kind of materials would you use when you did your work, and did you ever use spaces that already existed and alter them – like billboards?

[The group exchange sideways glances and laughs.]

AK     Yes, much of our work — then and now — is about this type of play, working with irony and subversion instead of trying to hit people over the head with a message. Our work is political and comments on social conditions here, but it’s not meant to be a direct political action or protest. We want it to be subtle and humorous – poking fun at tradition. We often use plywood or cardboard and house paints because the materials that artists normally use, like – canvas and oil or acrylic paints, – are very expensive here. And we like the idea of using these alternative materials and the idea that they’re temporary until destroyed. We also make comic books, … individually and collectively.

Under Estimate, cardboard and paint, 1999, 300 x 500 x 40 cm

MW     When did you guys start working together – and how did Apotik Komik start?

AK     It started in 1992, however we began to get a lot more visibility in 1997 with a show that Samuel (Samuel Indratma is the fourth member of Apotik, who was unable to be at the interview) organized at his house called Apotik Komik. It took place on the day of the general election and was risky because the government had associated our group with the PRD (Democratic People’s Party), which is outlawed here and they were keeping a watch on us. It was a group show and used the wall of Samuel’s house with the theme of "flying."

MW     So what happened?

AK     It was very successful and got a lot of attention from the art community and from the press (private television companies – (RCTI, SCTV and Anteve, the National broadcast TVRI) – and several printed media (– BERNAS, Kedaulatan Rakyat dailies and Panji Masyarakat magazine.).

MW     That’s great that you had such support.

Sakit berlanjut/ Ongoing illness , Wall installation, cardboard and ink, 1999 detail

MW     So where did the comic book influence come from?

AK     We all grew up looking at DC and Marvel comics, which were an important influence, but then when we saw RAW, that was it. We became much more interested in that form of nontraditional comic book, but using the form to comment on the local community.

MW     Are comic books popular in Indonesia?

AK     Yes, both the traditional Indonesian comics and the American ones, but there is a difference between here and Bandung [Bandung is another city also recognized as an artistic and cultural center on the island of Java]. Bandung is more interested in the traditional comics and action figures, where as Yogya has a more alternative approach to this form of art – more the RAW approach.

Comic books
Photo Credit: Megan Wilson

MW     The do-it-yourself approach?

AK     Yes, do-it-yourself and print it and publish it yourself.

MW     So I’ve heard this comparison between Yogya and Bandung before – what’s up with that?

AK     The art collectives from Bandung, like Taring Padi, are more like hippies and very directly political. They’re more like Rage Against the Machine, and we’re more like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We like to drink coffee, tea, and beer, to smoke cigarettes, and to natter.

Megan Wilson is a member of the Stretcher crew.