Hafiz Rancajale on Organism, Film, and Bumi Manusia

We met Hafiz Rancajale—artist, curator, film-maker, and critique—in his first solo exhibition “Social Organism” after a long time. We talked not only about the creative process behind artwork, but the collectiveness of growth and… the upcoming “Bumi Manusia” film.

You’ve been around for 20 years, what finally drives you back to art creation and holding a solo exhibition?

This is definitely not my first, but yes, it’s already a long time since I held one. There are two different reactions I got, in general. Older artists mocked on me, “Oh, you’re back as an artist now?” while, for younger counterparts, this must be the first time they can finally see my artworks. They’ve been curious about that, and since we’ve been working on it for few years now, why not. Over the last 20 years, I have been heavily involved in social projects with artist collectives. I think I just miss being an “artist”.

Imagine you lived a life where you can only pick one to make. Which one would you pick: documentary or fictional film? Why?

I think I am more known as documentary filmmaker than fictional, but I don’t think there is actually a clear distinction between the two. There are facts in fictional movies, and there is fiction in documentaries as well. It’s just a matter of story framing.

Other than creation and curatorial, you are one of figures who actively initiate art collectives (e.g. ruangrupa, Forum Lenteng). Describe to us in one sentence why assembling as collective is as important as creating art for artists.

When I was young, you know, it is “cool” to be an artist—to be someone who rebel because there was someone we all fought against, which was the authority. Today, you can’t simply create art and be an artist—believe me; you’re not going to change anything. Time’s different now and we no longer have “public enemy” that becomes the rationale of our art. Then what’s next for artists? It’s time to explore the chances of changing one thing or two, and today you should do it together. I personally believe that the changes our society face come from collective, not individuals. No individual has ever started a revolution on their own; it’s always a group of people. You can start with education, like Forum Lenteng does. Or you can simple explore the aesthetics and value of everyday life—I think it’s the narrative of our post-reformation era of art.

The media has changed a lot since the digital invasion. How does this phenomenon change the way you think, or the way you create and distribute multimedia art?

Oh, it changed so much you can’t imagine. It used to be very difficult to build your own media empire, to print and distribute your newspapers or magazines. After 1998, if you remember, there was “media boomer” going around—looked like everyone was in euphoric mood for journalism. Everybody wrote, everybody publicized and distributed their media line. There was no sense of controlling the information flow. It’s pretty different now, although yes, the digital media is now on the rise as well. Information flows at the quickest rate now, and there’s no telling which one is which. I think some control would be needed. However, I’m cool with the fact that digital storage has allowed us to access historical, good art pieces to learn about them.

If you can personify yourself as a film, what film would you be, and why?

*long pause* I think that would be Coffee and Cigarettes (1986) by Jim Jarmusch. It is a series of short film, have you watched it? It looks exactly like us right now *gesturing to both of us* sitting, talking about depths and widths of things, with only coffee and cigarettes on their desk. It was very simple, but really nice film. You should watch it sometime.

People have been talking about Bumi Manusia adapted film these days, mostly for the actor and director picks. We would like to hear your opinion about it.

*laughed* yes, yes, it’s been viral these days. *exhaled deeply* well… What can you say? Bumi Manusia is, you know, very “romantic” for people in my generation. Back in those days, you cannot carry the book anywhere you want, you can’t find it in bookstores; you really can’t have that book without hiding it like bloody treasure. Thus, it’s not easy at all to make a movie out of it, mostly calling the story “a romance between two human beings”.

I don’t mind it being turned into silver screen or who is the cast because, you know, perhaps it could bring good things. Perhaps young people would turn for that book and read it like they did with Chairil Anwar’s “Aku” on Ada Apa Dengan Cinta after they watch the film. I really wanted the film to be nicely done, though I don’t think it’s necessary to treat the book as sacred as it used to be. The director should play a great part here, but who knows. Even if it turned out to be a bad film, I guess it would still be good trigger for young people to encounter local literature. We can still make another, no? I also wanted to do that, if you ask *laughed*.





Load More...