“Now is our time to consolidate imagination and creativity without fear of threats to expressions of art and culture for the sake of humanity’s survival and legacy.”
Dolorosa Sinaga (Artistic Director, Jakarta Biennale 2021)

Stepping into a new decade of this millennium, the currents of change have grown more forcible: from the shifts in the global politics, mass polarization, issues of diversity, digital disruption, climate change, all the way to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

After the 2019 “democracy party”, Jakarta began to hustle with improvements of the city’s infrastructure and openness to a new generation’s culture that enlivens Jakarta’s urban life. We were forced to find solutions to our collective problems while testing our human solidarity. However, the crisis caused by the global pandemic of Covid-19 now presents further challenges, not only for Jakarta and Indonesia, but also for the entire world, of a future where humanity is vulnerable to biological threats, such as viruses and new mutations in the human ecosystems. All of these challenges open a realm of opportunities for the new generation of contemporary art to contribute in connection with the social issues of this second decade of the millennium.

The above problems have raised questions: what is the future of Jakarta, Indonesia, and the world? The future of humans? Through these questions, the Jakarta Biennale as an art platform of the city—in which lies the central decision-makings of the country—endeavors to accommodate current art practices in discussing global issues. This measure is also an attempt to mark the momentum of the development of Indonesian art, setting its course ahead.

For the upcoming 2021, the Jakarta Biennale will carry the theme of “TOMORROW – Building History Together”. With it we would like to scan far ahead while looking at the past and reflecting on the present. We would like to call for exploration of all the complexities of Jakarta’s space and society to imagine our tomorrow together. Whatever happens in the future, Jakarta is Indonesia’s parameter.

To elaborate on this theme, we have invited Dolorosa Sinaga—one of Indonesia’s foremost sculptors, a lecturer at the Jakarta Arts Institute and human rights activist—as Artistic Director of the Jakarta Biennale 2021. “Art is our legacy for tomorrow. The Jakarta Biennale 2021 calls for voices that care about human issues, abuse of power in art and cultural expressions, environmental destruction, deprivation of welfare rights and gender equality,” she emphasizes in her artistic statement.

Dolorosa is laying down the artistic direction and inviting curators, artists, and art collectives to respond to “TOMORROW – Building History Together” while weighing the multiple issues that we must address for a better future. This direction will later be explored through two artistic approaches:

  1. Art in public space: contemporary sculpture, outdoor installation, site-specific performance, and other sundry public art platforms.
  2. Archive as an artistic medium: exploration or rethinking of history and the future through diverse uses/experimentations of archive as a medium of visual art.

This artistic premise then will be realized through programs based on Indonesia’s contribution to the world, freedom of expression, and knowledge production.