Marmar Herayukti: A Balinese Art-Activitist Inspiring the Next Generation

The winds of change are upon us, and 2020 is the benchmark. A revolutionary new generation has dawned upon Bali that is determined to alter the future course of the island. Empowered by the 21st-century digital creative economy, this is a thriving youth ‘movement’ compelled by a strong sense of personal and collective enquiry. One of the trailblazers is the multi-talented Balinese activist Putu Marmar Herayukti.

Marmar began campaigning in 2014 at a popular Denpasar ogoh-ogoh competition. Frightening, demonic statues, the ogoh-ogoh are created for the Ngrupuk ceremony, held on the eve of Nyepi day in Bali. The dramatic, often chaotic parade is essential to purifying villages and the natural environment of spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings (especially humans), before welcoming in the Balinese new year.

Marmar exhibited his 2019 artwork, ‘Pejuang Adat’ in Bali’s largest contemporary art exhibition held within the past two years. Displayed alongside work by thirty-two of the finest Indonesian and foreign artists working in the country, ‘Perjuang Adat’ was a highlight of ART • BALI 2019: “SPECULATIVE MEMORIES” held in Nusa Dua from October 2019 to January 2020.

The imposing 600 by 400 by 250 cm wood and papier-mâché sculpture had an important, timely message. Made from sustainable items with traditional Balinese techniques that pushed the levels of materiality, ‘Pejuang Adat’ (Indigenous Warriors), was the artist’s bold call to his people. A traditional sailing vessel perched dangerously upon the crest of a wave and destined for disaster, ‘Pejuang Adat’ is a metaphor for the current plight of the Balinese society, that according to the artist, lacks in leadership and is without a strong vision for the future.

Marmar’s most recent work went on display late October 2020 at Wishingwell, an exciting new venue located near the famous surfing destination of Uluwatu. A unique art and cultural landmark for the Bukit peninsula of southern Bali, the project’s visionary is Rizal Tandjung, Indonesia’s most renowned international surfer. 

A fine art gallery and two-story community space for the display of two and three-dimensional artworks along with live performances, music, workshops, discussions and cultural presentations, Wishingwell combines a bar and restaurant with an ice cream parlour. The structure fuses random architectural styles with an eclectic array of recycled building materials. It is completed by vibrantly coloured murals and large-scale installations. “I have commissioned Balinese, Indonesian and international artists to make specific artworks that transform the venue into a unique aesthetic and ambient experience,” Rizal explained. At a glance, Wishingwell appears like a spaced-out, extroverted artist’s studio – a factory for mayhem and spontaneity.

‘Waruna’ Marmar’s recycled paper, rattan and bamboo installation is suspended from the ceiling on the second level of Wishingwell. It features the mythical guardian of the ocean surfing a wave. Part human part beast, the fantastic creature has a powerful upper torso and elongated octopus tentacles for legs. 

Marmar recycles traditional fishing nets hung from the walls and ceilings to create the form of a wave, while also reinforcing the artwork’s theme. Discarded fishing nets, he told me, are a severe ocean environmental concern. One of the nets was given to him by a fisherman who said that three generations of his family had used it. In the past nets were often repaired and remained in continual use. Nowadays, however, a damaged net is replaced by inexpensive new synthetic nets.

A landmark in Balinese contemporary art practices, Marmar’s installation is a representation of nature’s powerful cycles. ‘Waruna’ presides over the laws of karma and reminds us that what we give out, we will eventually receive.”

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