ruangrupa is an artist’s initiative formed in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2000 that has grown in the last fourteen years to become one of the most significant small-scale institutions in South East Asia. Jakarta is a sprawling city, not unlike São Paulo, divided into a series of neighbourhoods characterised by diversity. Working with the texture of the city, ruangrupa make use of the opportunities that emerge from existing cultural dynamics – responding to what goes on around them. This may mean promoting a band, curating an exhibition or developing an international network that can connect Jakarta’s artists to the wider world.

The members of ruangrupa therefore work across many fields including music, education, video, community projects, festivals, architecture and their own artistic practices. For the 31st Bienal, they present a hybrid architectural/sculptural structure. This vertiginous environment presents the different activities of the group as reflected through the meetings and experiences they have had during their time in São Paulo. By connecting to diverse aspects of this city, they create a kind of trans-city portrait – one that projects São Paulo back onto itself through the eyes of Jakartan artists, in dialogue with how local initiatives understand the meaning of being a collective.

All the elements of ruangrupa’s activities found in this installation reflect their spontaneous, entangled yet always thoughtful ways of working. In this way, ruangrupa is able to remain firmly anchored within their local situation while developing a collective awareness of how art is changing across the world. It is this awareness of the possibilities of art today that the group wants to offer to the public of the 31st Bienal. – CE