Art Center Renaissance
The revitalization project of the Taman Ismail Marzuki Art Center is suffering political pressure from the DPRD and DPR. The PDI-P is the most vehement against the project.
ACCOMPANIED by the Chief Executive Officer of Jakarta Propertindo (Jakpro), Dwi Wahyu Daryoto, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan invited five artists from the Forum of Concerned Artists for Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) to a Japanese dinner in a South Jakarta restaurant on Wednesday, March 4. The meeting was initiated by Deputy Chair of the Education and Culture Commission of the House of Representatives (DPR) Dede Yusuf Effendi, who was also present.
The five were Radhar Panca Dahana, Noorca Marendra Massardi, Johannes Marbun, Tatan Daniel, and Exan Zen. The meeting discussed the revitalization project of the Taman Ismail Marzuki art center initiated by the Jakarta administration. In the past five months, Radhar and colleagues have held an ongoing protest against the project.
Tatan Daniel told Tempo on March 12, they asked Anies to halt the plan to construct a hotel on the premises and to alter the design of the new structure to the art center based on input from artists. They also urged Anies to annul Jakarta Governor Decree No. 63/2019 regarding appointment of Jakpro for the TIM revitalization project. The artists who make use of the art center are concerned that TIM would be turned into a commercial entity because under the ruling, Jakpro would manage the art center for the next 28 years.
According to Tatan, no debates arose during the meeting that lasted four hours. “Anies was more busy making notes and promised a further future meeting,” he said. Dede Yusuf verified the same of the meeting he initiated. After midnight, the meeting adjourned.
The Forum held another discussion with representatives of Jakpro on March 6 in Cikini, Central Jakarta, where the art center is located. Four days later, a second meeting was held at Jalan Kebon Sirih, Central Jakarta. In the two meetings, the artists’ Forum forwarded several suggestions. Jakpro’s Operations Director Muhammad Taufiqurrachman, said that the artists wished for separate offices and rehearsal halls in the new construction for each branch of the arts that make use of TIM.
Aside from allocated spaces for the specific art forms, said Taufiqurrachman, the artists also requested Jakpro equip the art lodge—which rumor in the beginning had it was to be made into a hotel—with bunk beds. “They wished to keep things homey and allow for a free flow of exchange of ideas when artists stay over,” he said. The Forum also demanded the new structure’s facade to highlight Indonesian ornamentaton. “Our design is still open for additional ornamentation,” he said.
The series of meetings of the Jakarta administration with the artists’ protest group was held in the middle of the moratorium to the restructure of the art center. Speaker of the Jakarta Legislative Council (DPRD) Prasetyo Edi Marsudi ordered for the halt of the project when he paid TIM a visit on March 3. He instructed Jakpro to first hold consultative meetings with the artists at TIM before going ahead with construction. “All sides have to be approached because this is a cultural preservation zone,” said the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) politician.
On March 10, the thrum of excavators, cranes, and heavy pounding machinery in the project area stopped. A bunch of construction workers could be seen huddled together under the trees with nothing to do, not far from the Planetarium. Building progress could only be heard in the vicinity of the Amir Hamzah Mosque construction—also located in the Taman Ismail Marzuki—which does not fall within the moratorium.
THE plan to revitalize the Taman Ismail Marzuki was kickstarted on a visit by Governor Anies Baswedan to the Jakarta Art Center on February 12, 2018. After meeting with several artists, Anies agreed to renovate the majority of buildings inaugurated by Jakarta Governor Ali Sadikin on November 10, 1968. Anies also promised to reorganize the ecosystem of the arts in Jakarta. He formed a Revitalization Team through Governor Decree No. 1018/2018 dated June 7, 2018.
Anies recruited five artists present in the meeting at TIM that day. One of them was Arie Batubara. Arie said, the Revitalization Team in fact is not only involved in renovation of several of the art center’s buildings, but is also charged with planning the ecosystem of the arts in the city. On July 3, 2019, Anies laid down the first stone to mark the start of the renovation project. He declared that TIM will be the place for artists and the cultural community to exchange ideas and experiences to give birth to new initiatives. “So that what is nurtured here in TIM are not mere buildings, but a healthy (arts) ecosystem,” said Anies.
Yet the project eventually drew rowdy protest from artist circles because they heard rumors a hotel was being planned in the Taman Ismail Marzuki grounds. Holding a series of discussions, the group of artists stated opposition of the planned hotel and the management scheme they deemed contained indications of commercializing TIM. In a discussion forum on the revitalization idea, some time in November 2019, the Deputy for Tourism and Culture Dadang Solihin was dragged into an heated argument with the artists who did not see eye to eye with the renovation concept.
Refusal to the revitalization program also bubbled up in Jalan Kebon Sirih, the offices of the Jakarta DPRD. In a meeting in the first week of December 2019, The DPRD Budget Committee trimmed off construction capital amounting to Rp400 billion allocated to Jakpro—the region-owned company appointed to conduct TIM’s renovation. Jakarta DPRD Speaker Prasetyo Edi Marsudi stated, the decision to trim the fund was to halt Jakpro’s plan to build a hotel in the TIM grounds.
The PDI-P Faction downright opposed the whole revitalization plan. Chair of the PDI-P Faction Gembong Warsono said, his party’s position adhered to that of the party’s General Chair, Megawati Soekarnoputri. Gembong related how, Megawati in a party management meeting at her residence in Jalan Teuku Umar, Central Jakarta, in early February, discussed several Jakarta government policies, including the tearing-down of the buildings in Taman Ismail Marzuki. Said Gembong, Megawati questioned the move. “The PDI-P faction has to preserve (governor) Ali Sadikin’s legacy in TIM,” said Gembong echoing Megawati’s words.
A refusal for the project was brought right up to the House of Representatives (DPR). When the Education and Culture Commission received a delegation of the Forum of Concerned Artists for Taman Ismail Marzuki on February 17, PDI-P Faction Commission member, Rano Karno, was one who vehemently demanded a moratorium. According to Rano, the project should have been discussed with artists, and not handled like it was purely a Jakarta Capital City government project. “TIM was only looked at as a piece of land. Where’s the position of artists and scholars of culture in here?” said Rano.
Support of the moratorium was also voiced out by the party coalition supportive of President Joko Widodo. Deputy Chair of the Culture Commission of Golkar, Hetifah Sjaifudian, stated her party urged Governor Anies Baswedan and Jakpro to hold discussions with artists to think things through on the revitalization design and concept. Chair of the Education and Culture Commission-cum-Deputy Secretary-General of the National Awakening Party (PKB), Syaiful Huda, said a moratorium could be conducted if the Jakarta government adamantly does not involve artists in the conversation. “All the demands made by the artists have to be fulfilled by the provincial government and Jakpro,” Syaiful said. The DPR then decided to call in Governor Anies on February 27.
A day before the meeting with the DPR, Anies held a special meeting with some close colleagues to prepare his presentation narrative. A Jakarta official intimate about the preps said Anies asked the revitalization program be framed in the concept of bringing up Indonesian arts to international levels. The governor also asked that the files and documentaion of all the meetings with the artist groups be put in chronological order. His aim: to show that Jakarta government indeed had held consultations with the artist groups.
With that in hand, Anies answered all questions by members of the Education and Culture Commission. When time came for meeting’s conclusion, the demand for a moratorium had collapsed. “Implicitly, the moratorium is still an option if the aspirations of artists are ignored,” said Syaiful Huda.
Yet Prasetyo Edi Marsudi instead chose to halt the project on March 3. Neither was the moratorium as instructed by Prasetyo followed up by an official letter from his institution. Jakpro Corporate Secretary Hani Soemarno claims to having never received a written instruction to postpone the project. Neither has Prasetyo sent a letter to Governor Anies. An official at City Hall, who assists Anies in matters relating to the TIM revitalization, said his superior has yet to receive a letter from, or meet in person with the DPRD speaker.
Prasetyo verified he had not sent an official letter to Anies and Jakpro to inform about halting the project. He claims the decision was made based on the meeting results between the DPR Culture Commission and the Jakarta government on February 27. “I only complied to the conclusions,” he said. The moratorium was also abetted by several artists who camped out in the Taman Ismail Marzuki grounds for two nights on March 8, under the pretext of safeguarding the moratorium decision.
Ad interim chair of the Jakarta Arts Council, Danton Sihombing, regrets the moratorium. According to Danton, any postponement results in financial losses and has potential to make the project fail its timeline. “Artists too feel the brunt of performance uncertainty and postponed creative activity in TIM,” he pointed out.
Jakpro Operations Director Muhammad Taufiqurrachman is optimistic the project will resume after Governor Anies Baswedan met up with the artist’s delegation. “We hope the project will resume on March 19 at the latest,” he said.