Dyah Retno is one of the artists involved in the main exhibition of Biennale Jogja XIV Equator #6 2021. As a ceramic artist, she works a lot through experimentation by exploring various types of materials. Her involvement with the Biennale Jogja XVI Equator #6 2021 started from the previous year when she participated in the Asana Bina Seni program. At that time, she presented her work on waste soil management, and this year was given another opportunity to be involved in the residency program and the main exhibition at Biennale Jogja XIV Equator #6.
Dyah did a residency from June to July 2021 in eastern Indonesia, Kupang. To be precise, in the Lakoat.Kujawas community in Mollo. This community is engaged in archiving and also pursues local food processing. Together with this community, Dyah went on a residency trip for 2 weeks.
Dyah with Lakoat.Kujawas did a lot of experiments and search for clay in the NTT area, such as in Mollo and Fatumnasi. According to her, the clay in NTT has different characteristics than the clay she found in other areas, such as in the Pagerjurang area, Gedong area, and Godean area.
According to the local story, pottery was used a lot by the Mollo community. However, with the development of the times, interest in pottery in NTT is also decreasing. Now, there is only one village that still makes pottery. But many delved in the craft.
After finding the right type of dirt, Dyah set up a simple workshop in Lakoat.Kujawas, which was attended by several villagers, ranging from children to the elderly. She taught techniques for experimenting as well as determining the local potential of clay in the area to find out whether it can be processed or not. After that, Dyah invited the workshop participants to carry out the process of forming, drying, and burning clay.
During the workshop, Dyah encountered several obstacles. Luckily, friends from Lakoat.Kujawas and the villagers were very cooperative in helping to deal with these obstacles. For example, the matter of cold weather. It could drop to 11-15 degrees during the day with no sun, which makes it difficult for clay to dry. However, they managed to dry the clay at Rumah Lopo (round house) overnight using a cloth.
Likewise with the combustion process. Because no stove’s hot enough to burn ceramics, Bapa Fun, one of the participants, was quick to respond to make an impromptu stove from the material used to cook pork.
After the workshop, they wanted to build a foot lane, a clay stove for a preservation process, and also make bread with easily found ingredients.
From the results of her residency trip, Dyah saw that the characteristics of clay in Mollo are indeed more difficult to process and that they break easily. The weather is very cold and there is very little sun. Besides being difficult to dry, the soil also looks green and gray.
“From my hypothesis, indeed the clay is still in the earthenware realm, but the adhesive power is lower than the clay I used from the Pagerjurang area and the Godean area,” said Dyah.
In addition to looking for traces of pottery, and also recognizing the potential of clay, Dyah found pottery motifs. According to Dyah,
“Indeed, the motifs use a lot of triangular or zigzag motifs which I think are derived from the ancient characters.”
The residency also birthed artworks for Dyah. Though not be entirely from the dirt acquired from NTT, she realizes that her work is indeed influenced by her experience while undergoing residency. This work was then presented in the Biennale Jogja XVI Equator #6 2021 at the Jogja National Museum.
Dyah’s work tries to combine three clays from the NTT, Godean, and Pagerjurang areas. Due to Dyah’s interest in the material approach, she tried to compare the three clays.
In addition to installation artworks, Dyah also made a mural in which the material is made from clay from the NTT area and it is very easy to remove because of the characteristic of the clay, which is difficult to make ceramics or pottery. In her artwork, Dyah also used the lota script as an effort to introduce it to the wider community.
Friends from NTT said, there are only two elders left who mastered the lota script. If both died, it could be that the knowledge will also be lost.
Another inspiration that inspired Dyah was the circular house. The house is usually used for various activities and deliberation. Dyah then adapted the chair and circular shape in her work at the Biennale Jogja XVI Equator #6.
“Thank you to Biennale Jogja for this opportunity. For giving me a place to study and sending me for residency in the NTT area and making me an artist in the main exhibition of the Biennale Jogja. Hopefully, in the future I’ll improve and can provide new knowledge to friends and the wider community,” said Dyah Retno.