Children need good role models. This is especially true in Bali where modernity collides head-on with tradition, and in this rapidly evolving world it is the younger generation who are the most vulnerable.
“Education is the key,” says Balinese contemporary artist, social activist, musician and father Made ‘Bayak’ Muliana. “The Indonesian youth are addicted to consumer gadgets and other trappings of the modern consumer society. More education is needed to inform them about their behaviour.”
“Through my art and music I can bond with people of all ages and from different backgrounds and communicate to them what I believe is important,” Bayak says.
Social collectives such as schools, art associations and even the family have become channels Bayak’s utilizes to communicate, and in the case of the art exhibition Arm the Family, held in August 2012, it is his own family that becomes the platform upon which to express an essential message.
Born in 1980 in Tampaksiring, Central Bali, Bayak studied fine art at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) in Denpasar from 1999 to 2006. It is here he met his future wife Komang Kartika Dewi, also a graduate of ISI and teaches art at Sukawati Junior High School. Along with their young son Damar Langgit in Arm the Family, via the narratives in their paintings, they together emphasized the significance of parents and adults being positive role models to children.
“Being a role model is something I am conscious of, and with Damar, rather than attempt to teach, I am vigilant to highlight to him the need to care – about people, animals and nature. I trust in his intelligence and I am already noticing positive results in his actions, art, performance and music.”
Bayak is dedicated to his community as a member of the Sanggar Anak Tangguh (Building Strong Children) organization in Banjar Wangbung, Sukawati, where he lives with his family. Established by local parents in response to the inadequacies of the Balinese public education system, Sanggar Anak Tangguh offers weekly workshops concentrating on child development. Since 2010, each Sunday morning Bayak facilitates art classes to nurture and enhance the children’s innate creative abilities.
Not only was the recent exhibition Children and Imagination by the Sanggar Anak Tangguh in collaboration with the Seniwati art collective at Sand Fine Art Gallery in Sanur, Oct/Nov was a testament to the creative prowess of the participants, yet also highlights the growing trend of children’s art exhibitions in Bali.
Although he has strong opinions about the environment and its rapid state of degradation in Bali, Bayak, however, is literally manifesting his ideas into a distinctive style of art. “The issue of pollution has inspired me to develop my art using plastic waste as an environmental statement,” he says.
Through a process of experimentation, Bayak developed a technique layering plastic bags, wrappers and packaging to create a surface upon which he draws and stencils images, and then he encases the works behind a layer of glass. The subjects are cultural icons; the Barong (the Balinese symbol of universal benevolence), Balinese dancing girls in traditional costumes, and decorative cultural motifs, for example.
The resulting visual effect combines textures of crumpled plastic along with the dynamic coloration of branding and logos juxtaposed against the inked and stencilled black images, creating powerful aesthetic contrasts.
Plasticology, Bayak’s art project that began late 2012, features a series of art exhibitions throughout Bali that will continue on into the new year. However, in 2014 he plans to transform his knowledge into new workshops that he can facilitate within the local junior schools.
In September during the Global Initiatives Networking (GIN) 2013 program, Bayak led a group of children and teachers from local international schools on a field trip investigating plastic trash at the Padang Salak beach, Sukawati. After a cleanup the debris were sorted and analyzed and the information was uploaded to the Teac Wild’s marine debris identification database. Children then created strategies to reduce the use of plastic, as well as for other related educational purposes.
“From this activity I wish to create a presentation on plastic trash and its dangers that will eventually form a model I hope will be shared within the local public education system,” says Bayak. “During the field trips we will clean up selected areas, record data about our findings, and then finish by creating artworks from the litter.”
I asked Bayak whether such a project would be difficult to implement into an education system that by foreign standards appears antiquated and lacking vision. “At the local school some of the teachers are my friends,” he says. “I trust that these teachers of the same generation as myself will understand the virtues of such a program and give me the support needed so that the workshops will become a reality.”
On recent controversial issues that have captured great local media attention, the Benoa Harbor reclamation project and the political rhetoric surrounding the Balinese Hindu philosophy of Tri Hita Karana (the man lives in harmony with natural environment and the Gods) and sustainable tourism in Bali, Bayak is a harsh critic of the Balinese government. “We have heard enough of their foolish talk,” Bayak says in response to the local government’s ideas.
Music is another creative channel for Bayak, who is a guitarist in the heavy metal rock band Geekssmile, whose mission, via the lyrical content of its music and social activism, is to communicate with, and be a voice for younger generations. Geekssmile is a permanent fixture on the local music scene and regularly contribute to social awareness campaigns and events.
“What is important is I do something in my own small way. I trust this will be an inspiration to others to do similar things, but in a bigger way, doing it collectively and forging new community relations.”
Within the Balinese contemporary art world there is a minority of artists prepared to make social statements. Few, however, are driven to become activists. Bayak stands alone for his social consciousness and his contributions to the local community.