Indonesian artist Keni Soeriaatmadja is one of the participants in the Australia Council for the Arts International Leaders program.
This year, keni has selected pvi’s Kelli McCluskey as a mentor, and we spent some time getting to know more about Keni and her artistic practice before her arrival in australia.
Keni started dancing at a very young age, learning traditional Balinese dance, and attending the Ayu Bulan Dance Workshop (Bengkel Tari Ayu Bulan), a dance studio founded by traditional Balinese dancer, ENT specialist, and medical lecturer, Ayu Bulantrisna Djelantik.
Earning a Master’s degree in Anthropology from the Faculty of Social and Political studies at the University of Padjadjaran, Bandung, and a Major in Fine Arts and Design (Ceramics) from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Keni was awarded the Ganesha Prize for excellence in 2002, which gave her the opportunity to study aboard at the Amsterdam School of the Arts where she studied a module in Museology.
In 2015, Keni was one of the co-founders of the the Sasikirana KoreoLab & Dance Camp, a community and platform for contemporary dancers to explore how their practice can evolve and serve as an impetus for critical thinking and cultural diversity within Indonesia.
The camp runs annually at NuArt Sculpture Park, an art museum and gallery owned by Indonesian master sculptor, nyoman nuartam. Keni was the program manager at NuArt Sculpture Park from 2016 – 2020, and was integral in forming DokumenTARI, an auto/biographical narratives web database for Indonesian dancers, which went live in 2020.
Keni met with pvi Kelli in a series of zoom meetings throughout 2022 prior to her november/december residency. we were lucky enough to have Keni share her thoughts about her practice, her journey as an artist, and what her hopes are for the future.
Tell us a little bit about the Sasikirana Dance Camp and your influence in its creation
I was a good traditional Balinese dancer at that time, in 2015, I was trained for it since I was 6 years old. However, I’m not Balinese. I live in Bandung-West Java, so I don’t have the actual root to the tradition of Bali so there were a lot of questions that emerged in me about identity and how it impacted my cultural practices.
So I was wondering if contemporary dance could give me (and others) a neutral space for understanding the body, to explore the discourse of the body without needing to represent something else (I can talk a whole lot more about how traditional dance has been politicized as a diplomatic tool for the nation, but anyway..)
We didn’t have a strong contemporary dance scene in Bandung, so my colleague and I decided to create one. I guess, that’s the spirit we have in Indonesia, if we don’t have it, we create it. We can’t wait to be supported by the government. The question now is how Sasikirana KoreoLAB & Dance Camp can sustain having about 150 alumni from different parts of Indonesia after running for 7 years.
How did studying Museology at The Amsterdam School of The Arts help shape your current artistic practices?
I must say it was actually a personal impact. I remembered feeling frustrated in class during my short course in Museology because I didn’t know how to ask questions in class. Our education system in Indonesia didn’t train us to ask questions, we memorized things, we were drilled with knowledge. The experience studying in Amsterdam, even though it was short, really hit me. I realized in order to ask questions we need to know more than what was told in the class, we need to have at least the logic of how knowledge works.
From then on I’ve been trying to increase my curiosity and started to learn to ask questions. That skill has opened many doors of opportunities.
What drew you to selecting Kelli as your artist mentor for the Australia Council International Leadership program?
Because she looks fun :)) I adore people with such a bright energy at work, meaning that they don’t really feel ‘working’. It seems to me that Kelli sees her work as a journey to be engaged with people, to question the society, and contribute to social changes. That’s the quality that I would like to know better, I want to expand my knowledge to different possibilities of cultural approaches, to be engaged with more audiences and to create strategies from it.
what outcomes do you hope to achieve through the Leadership Program? how do you hope the program and mentorship will benefit you as an artist individually, as well as the future of the Sasikirana Dance Camp?
I’d like to be more confident about the sustainability and the growth of the programs I’ve been working with my team. Like a turbine, the water can stream from anywhere, but we need to make sure that the turbine works well in order to create electricity (I won’t use the word Power :)) and girl, we know electricity leads to many exciting things!. I’m hoping that somehow I can support the emergence of new turbines around me, but I need to make sure mine works well first.
You can find out more about Keni and the Sasikirana Dance camp by following them on socials, or by visting the website. keni will be in residence at pvi studios from 29th november – 9th december
- @dokumen.tari (The Narratives of Indonesian Dancescape)
- @sasikirana.dc (Sasikirana KoreoLAB & Dance Camp)
- @bubbukeni (keni’s personal account)