WE’RE FREQUENTLY told not to bite the hand that feeds us, but they didn’t say anything about laughing at it.
In last month’s Art Jakarta, the Indonesian capital’s art fair, there was a section devoted to small galleries. Artist management initiative Alias Aliases presented an exhibition on a mysterious figure with a name that sounds silly and angry at the same time: Beyond Crap.
Beyond Crap’s work consists of comics inspired by works from the 1930s and ’40s; simple enough. However, the cartoonish expressions on the subject’s faces are all vehicles to make fun of the art world. One such work is dear god, a UV print on Hahnemule paper, that shows a despondent artist kneeling in prayer, saying “Dear God, can you restart my career?” A second panel shows the same artist finishing their prayer: “I think I’ve chosen the wrong gallery.”
Another one, Right Away, pokes fun at the shallow tastes of art collectors: a woman says, “You can send your bathroom photo, and we’ll render it with the painting right away!” Other works of conceptual art aren’t safe either: a man has been punched by a mechanical fist, and with a look of bewilderment, the man says, “Who the hell curates this?”
Sabiq Hibatulbaqi, project manager for Alias Aliases for the exhibition, gave some clues as to the identity of Beyond Crap: they’re a little bit older than 30, and while they poke fun at the art scene, they gladly participate in it — their work was also displayed at Art Jakarta that day. Mr. Hibatulbaqi says that most of the work of the anonymous artist behind Beyond Crap consists of installations. “I told him that it would be fun if we talked about the art market in the art fair,” said the project manager.
There’s a universality in the local artist’s work: no matter where you are in the globe apparently, an artist will have to wade through negotiations, the hypocrisy of dinners and openings, and all the sort of “crap” one wades through in the art world, when many times, all an artist wants to do is to create art. Another panel by Beyond Crap summarizes it: a figure hulks over an artist covered in mess, with the figure saying: “Stop overthinking and do what the market wants!”
Artists themselves, in their pursuit of fame and glory in their chosen field, aren’t safe from their anonymous colleague’s eye: an artist in a state of undress holds up a pair of jeans and says, “Ahh…the collector magnet! Perfect for tonight’s opening!”
Mr. Hibatulbaqi said about the artist’s choice to remain anonymous: “He can see the threshold of what is fun and what is not in terms of the art scene.” — Joseph L. Garcia