“ The project and the nature of the collaboration has been an extreme rarity in the photographic scenery in Indonesia. Whilst has attracted some local and international documentary photographers, the last remaining traditional theatre troupe of the Ketoprak Tobong Kelana Budaya in Yogyakarta, merit a research and art development based project of this scale to do justice to their surviving struggle. Their decontextualised portraits in performing outfits allow them to symbolically reiterate their long forgotten social status. The provocative setting of their poses is a literal undertake to contextualise their existence within the contemporary Yogyakarta.”
Curator and photography historian, co-curator of the Singapore International Photography Festival 2014
“ The dissonances, the ironies, the impasses are remarkable! I was recently in Indonesia for a year and the photos capture the historical contingency the country and its peoples find themselves in with unique clarity and humour. Are you organising an exhibition here in London or in Jakarta where the audience can access your work? “
Dr Kostas Retsikas
Lecturer in South East Asian Anthropology, SOAS
“To revive interest in Tobong, Risang has collaborated with British artist Helen Marshall to exhibit a series of photographs that poignantly captures the clash between the two worlds that the artists live in. The Tobong Project kicked off a long delayed plan to begin documenting this ancient art form.”
Yap Mun Ching
Air Asia Foundation
“ Risang’s residency at Gasworks marks an incredibly exciting time with regards to UK and Indonesian Cultural relationships. Through his time here, I was able to learn more specifically about his photography practice and the different ‘modes of production’; how an artist creates artwork from a different context / location, and how an artist can explore their creative boundaries when feeling culturally ‘displaced’. Although the residency at Gasworks gave Risang a wonderful opportunity to develop his practice, it also gave other artists such as myself a chance to extend various networks both on a national and international level. These opportunities included an Artist Talk I gave with Risang at Gasworks, and a Keynote Dinner Speech which I also gave at Gasworks. Both events made me realise how important it was to highlight and raise awareness on the local and global impact of art; what art can do and how it can impact lives.
British artist of Balinese descent.
“I had the opportunity to look at and present Project Tobong during my time as director of Open Eye Gallery. I particularly liked the two levels of artistic collaboration established by Helen Marshall for this project; that with fellow artist and photographer Risang Yuwono (co-author of the series) and that with the Ketoprak Tobong theatre troupe, who inspired and modelled for the work. As a westerner visiting Indonesia, Marshall could have easily slipped into one of the most common mistakes and clichés exoticising the country and its traditions for the benefit of foreign audiences.
Project Tobong is a very humorous body of work. It is also ambivalent as it is never clear whether the actors who perform in front of the camera have themselves chosen to be represented in a certain way (costumes, poses, locations, backgrounds, etc.) or if they are simply responding to the artists’ instructions. In short co-authorship and co-ownership is what makes this project distinct and worth looking at.”
Curator , Open Eye Gallery
“ Struggling to survive in a world that seems to spin away from their traditional ways, the performers opt to break away from the stage and venture into the city, no longer playing for a live audience, but for the camera. Photography offers a ‘new eye’ for the troupe’s practice, not only by placing it in a contemporary context but also by revealing the social story behind it. Marshall and Yuwono’s images both account for the performed narrative, but also for the story of the performers themselves. That’s what makes these images special and important. ”
Art historian and photography curator based in London
“While London is a great magnet to artists around the world, it’s a difficult place to negotiate and especially so for artists from cultures that are less well represented in the city. Gasworks does a brilliant job in providing the greatest gift imaginable to artists from these countries – a humane and stimulating hospitality. Having visited Indonesia recently and begun to make friendships there myself, I was honoured and delighted to be a participant at Risang Yuwono’s and Helen Marshall’s amazing and inspirational end-of-residency dinner.”
Lewis Biggs, Curator
Folkestone Triennial 2014
“The hosting of Risang Yuwono (through our collaboration with Helen Marshall) was a great pleasure for us at Gasworks, and felt like a monumental occasion. This partnership gave Gasworks a rare opportunity to work with an artist from a region under-represented in the UK, and one we would almost certainly never have been able to include in Gasworks residencies programme before now. Not only did the residency feel like a great success in terms of supporting networking and professional development opportunities for Risang in Europe and the development meaningful engagement with Gasworks local audience, but we hope that Gasworks can build upon this experience to develop further contacts and collaborations in South-east Asia. It will be a strategic focus to work on this region over the coming years, as Gasworks continues to reassess both its position and function globally..”
Gasworks, Residencies Programmer
“ It was a pleasure to be able to meet Risang Yuwono in London and to engage with him in dialogue about the trials and tribulations of managing a kethoprak troupe in contemporary Java. Congratulations go to Helen Marshall for putting this project together, and opening up the discussion of Javanese tradition in the globalized art world to such a diverse range of participants. The dinner at Gasworks and the quick tour of Risang’s studio there were highlights, and I am very grateful that Helen opened up her ‘artist’s house’ as part of London’s first Southeast Asia Festival.”
Matthew Isaac Cohen
Professor of International Theatre , Royal Holloway, University of London
“ This project is an inspired de-centring of tradition that destabilises present day heuristic aesthetics. This project will give me a wonderful opportunity to engage and explore, through the work of Helen Marshall and Risang Yuwono, the performing practice of Ketoprak Tobong Kelana Bakti Budaya, by interacting with the work of the group through a number of digital avenues, and being involved in a panel discussion about the activity at Gasworks. A longer term objective would be to work with the group on producing a contemporary piece that is enriched by their Asiatic travelling players tradition, a commedia dell’arte of the East, for live and recorded mediums.”
SEA Arts, SEA Arts is a network of internationally recognised South East Asian dancers, actors and artists.
“Just a quick note to say thank you all so very much for the invitation and the generosity and wonderful evening. It really did feel like a privilege to be there – we were beautifully hosted. Helen and Risang I wish you every luck with progress for Project Tobong and do keep me up to date about the Horniman dates. Helen thank you also for letting me sneak one of the indonesian decorations away- here it is in situ!”
Curator, The Photographer’s Gallery
“ ARTi UK is glad to be one of the organisations that has been supported Project Tobong since its early stage. Good luck with the next venture and wish that this project will bring better future to all members of Ketoprak Tobong. Project Tobong has revived Ketoprak Tobong’s existence. From a forgotten tradition to a performing art with promising future through its contemporary approach of documentation.”
Felicia Gerda Nayoan-Siregar
Indonesia Kontemporer SOAS