SUNY Students Explore Art & Social Movements in Indonesia

Erik Hammarlund, current VIA fellow posted in Jogjakarta, shares his experience assisting with the Art & Social Movements Program.

​Last week, I had the opportunity to join up with one of VIA Indonesia’s January programs, the “Art and Social Movements” class organized by SUNY Cortland. My intention was to help out as a volunteer in whatever ways I could; however, since the VIA staff who organized the class were characteristically well-organized and prepared for any eventuality, my role on the trip amounted to simply joining the events and classes as another student, lending my experience and enthusiasm whenever they were needed.

It was one of the best ‘jobs’ that I’ve ever ‘worked.’ Over the week, I got to experience my home of Yogyakarta through an entirely new lens, visiting some amazing museums and temples, engaging with artistic communities across the city, and getting to know my charming, fun, and enthusiastic co-students. As a relative newcomer to Yogyakarta who intends to stay here for quite some time, one of my favorite aspects of the trip was connecting with several remarkable artists’ collectives and other cultural organizations around the city.

With Cagar Budaya ID, an archaeological-tourism organization, we explored the awe-inspiring Prambanan and Ratu Boko temple complexes; with Studio Batu, a media-arts collective, we attended a short film screening and lively discussion; with Survive Garage, a visual-arts collective, we made some spectacular woodblock prints; with Gayam 16, a musical collaboration organization, we performed (or rather, attempted to perform) some gamelan orchestral music; and with Mulyakarya, a cartoonists’ collective, we created some beautiful paper-cut drawings.

Each of the organizations we met with was incredibly welcoming, friendly, and just as engaged in our class and its curriculum as we were. It was a reminder of how vibrant and healthy the arts scene is in Yogyakarta, and it reminded me how lucky I am to live in this city. I’m immensely grateful to the SUNY program and to VIA Indonesia for allowing me to piggyback onto this program, and I’m so excited to continue to engage with and participate in these organizations’ work in whatever ways I can over the coming months. They’ve inspired me to tap into my own creative energies and endeavors while I’m in Yogyakarta; doing otherwise would feel like a waste of the amazing artistic and cultural opportunities abound in this city.