Notes from the Artistic Director

by Dolorosa Sinaga

Photo taken by Ary “Jimged” Sendy. Courtesy of Jakarta Biennale 2021: ESOK

Dear Farah, Grace, Qinyi & Sally,

I’m writing this to reflect on what we have spoken after all this time. Your questions often make me think of what ESOK means to the general public and us, as curators, art workers and even artistic director for this coming Jakarta Biennale. Unlike the word “besok” that literally means tomorrow in Indonesian, “esok” is used to pin-point what is to come. ESOK is inclined towards the future, with a strong sense of urgency; the immediate future.

The way I see it, ESOK is hope; it is a prayer for all humans to be gratified instead of being repressed or to be tortured. We are all entangled in histories, personal or otherwise, that are made complicated by our entanglements and encounters with human rights issues. At one point or another, some of us were victims and some of us were aggressors. Despite these differences, I urge you to join me in committing ourselves to agitating, facilitating, instigating and participating in various acts that may alter our livelihood. .

ESOK is a commitment; for me, for us, for everyone, to act towards creating radical social change. Let us insist that, in bearing these shared past experiences, we shall bond and lay the ground of our togetherness in building histories for a better society. Our base principles in pursuing this is to insist on improving the basic human rights as a form of currency over the planet. It is the struggle towards strengthening solidarity across borders, across genders, across histories to collectively progress towards a better future.

It is imperative that we fight for ESOK as the critical battlefield on worsening societal and environmental malaises for different generations, and till the fields for a viable future. I honestly believe that it is important for an institution like Jakarta Biennale to reposition itself in order to inspire, facilitate and concretely contribute towards social change, rather than merely being a platform for expressions. We need to lay activism as our grounding vision.

What are the formulations of activism are we looking at? Try seeing yourself as a spectator. When you see an artwork in front of your eyes, you see something that changes your perspective, you can get a new vision of the world. A work of art is never burdened with expectations. An artwork may move your sympathy for its openness to interpretation. Meanwhile activism comes with clear targets. By rooting art and ourselves in activism, let’s invest more on our sensibilities and our responsibilities to our comrades and our people.

ESOK is an intergenerational conversation that addresses contemporary issues caused by policies, actions, systems inherited from our predecessors. In this way, ESOK is a reflection of the history of humanity from the here and now. Let ESOK be the challenge for artists, for all of us, to find reason to charge the universe through the power of art. Every participant can share with us their tactics and production strategies, according to their own context and in their exploration of human rights violations.

I would like ESOK to incite the necessary changes that are built on the foundation of humaneness and humanities in order to benefit all.

Let’s begin our journey towards ESOK!


Dolorosa Sinaga


Click here for other letters by the JB 2021 ESOK team.

Dolorosa Sinaga is an artist and activist who currently serves as the Artistic Director of Jakarta Biennale 2021. She graduated from Lembaga Pendidikan Kesenian Jakarta (now Jakarta Arts Institute) and Central St. Martins School of Art, London. Her artistic practice echoes her alliance to the fight for humanity, justice, and equality. Various social political events and dark moments in history motivates her artistic practice. Dolorosa has also been the Dean in Faculty of Fine Art at her almamater, as well as the initiator for the course, Art and Activism. She is still active as a lecturer today.