Living in the surreal, exhibiting the mundane

by JB2021 ESOK Curatorial Team

Contemporary politics’ affair with various forms of capitalism and power-craving monsters are as surreal as its immediate impact on our social reality. It wouldn’t even be much of a surprise to consider the cruelty of our day-to-day lives as surreal. Yet, in the recent two decades, art practices seem to be more invested in the day-to-day activities, more rooted in the mundane, and, interestingly, less motivated in being exhibited, staged, or shown. Artistic practices seem to be driven by its necessity to “simply” happen, it has grown far from motivations such as expressing, claiming, defining, making, evaluating, etc. At times, we can argue that, to some artists, it doesn’t even matter anymore whether people (at large) would understand, accept, or agree upon it as art or not, let alone its type or genre. What matters is that it happened in a particular situation where anyone involved had various chances of engagement with it, despite the level of awareness, consciousness, and tolerance. This conversation will be looking into artworks of Maddie Leach, Moelyono, Wok The Rock, from the previous Jakarta Biennale which had no representational motive, be it on a conceptual level, in the artists’ practices themselves, and in its appearance in the exhibition; while attempting to tinker, in times like this, what can exhibitions (do or) be?


Abby Cunnane is a writer and curator based in Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa. In January 2021, Cunnane took on the role of Director of Christchurch art gallery The Physics Room. Previously, Cunnane worked as Director (acting) at St Paul Street Gallery AUT from 2017 to 2018, and prior as Assistant Director from 2013 to 2017. From 2007 to 2012, Cunnane was employed by City Gallery Wellington as a curator, and worked alongside Aaron Lister on the exhibition The Obstinate Object: Contemporary New Zealand Sculpture. She is the co-editor of The Distance Plan, with Amy Howden-Chapman. The Distance Plan was founded in 2011 to provide a platform for discussion about climate change within the humanities context.

Asep Topan is a curator and lecturer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He holds an MFA in Curating from Bandung Institute of Technology and BA from Jakarta Institute of Arts. He formerly participated in the de Appel Curatorial Programme, Amsterdam (2015-16). He has collectively and individually initiated numerous exhibitions, public programmes and long-term projects. Asep worked for Jakarta Biennale Foundation as the vice-director (2016-2018). Currently he is working independently as curator, as well as teaching at the Faculty of Fine Art, Jakarta Institute of Arts.

Kristi Monfries is a Javanese – Australian creative producer and curator. Kristi specialises in collaborative and experimental arts projects between Asia and Australia and she is particularly interested in risk and experimentation with a passion for working with emerging to mid-career artists. The projects that she has led include: The Instrument Builders Project (co-curated with Joel Stern) at the National Gallery of Victoria, Indonesian Contemporary Art Network, MONA FOMA and Kyoto Art Centre; Ancient MSG: A live Art Performance for Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Kuda Lumping: Ritual Trance from Java for Supersense Festival at the Arts Centre Melbourne, Tropis///Subsonics Experimental Music Festival at Yogya National Museum, Indonesia. In 2014 she was the Associate Producer for the Australian Embassy Jakarta’s Arts and Culture Program, where she assisted in the delivery of a series of programs for Footscray Community Arts Centre. Most recently she curated a music program for MINECRAFT Platform: Indonesia for The Substation, Melbourne.

Grace Samboh is in search of what comprises a curatorial work within her surrounding scene. She jigs within the existing elements of the arts scene around her for she considers the claim that Indonesia is lacking art infrastructure especially the state-owned or state run as something outdated. She believes that curating is about understanding and making at the same time. She is attached to Hyphen —, affiliated to RUBANAH Underground Hub, and currently undertaking a doctoral program at Arts and Society Studies, Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta. She’s logs her writings at


This monthly event is supported by Plus Jakarta, Enjoy Jakarta, the Ministry of Education and Culture, SAM Fund For Art And Ecology, and jointly held with Jakarta Arts Council.

Image used in our publications are courtesy of Wok The Rock 


JB2021 ESOK Monthly Event is a platform run by the curatorial team as a way to expand and share ideas, thoughts, and the process of working towards making JB2021 ESOK happen. Stay up to date on our upcoming event through our social media channels on Instagram and Facebook.