Museum Macan: Labokarya

Hilda Raina
8th June 2021
Museum MACAN’s latest initiative LaboKarya is an affirmation of the resilience and inventiveness shown by art institutions and local creatives during these uncertain times, a situation that leaves one wondering how art can be experienced when physical interactions are out of the question. Through this collaboration, the museum gives us a glimpse into the spirit of community in times of disruption.

Beneath ticket sales and immersive exhibitions, at its core, museums are a space of connection. When the pandemic hit and weeks stretched into months of closure, art museums—like many other cultural spaces—were hit hard. The situation pushed museums and other cultural institutions to new boundaries outside typical in-person visits, and the creative industry have displayed commendable grit through it all: seizing the opportunity to pivot to digital platforms and restructure their programmes.

Museum MACAN gives us a glimpse into this. Despite having to keep their doors shut for the most part of the year, they utilised digital platforms to their advantage and emerged with a new series of projects and presentation formats this year, all designed to echo the narratives of their physical exhibitions through online content: storybooks, visual tours, online talks, playlists, to curated home kits and downloadable PDF activities for kids that are accessible through their website.

Their latest initiative LaboKarya threads on the same path. The word itself comes from a play of these words: laboratory, collaboration, and artwork (Laboratorium, Karya, dan Kolaborasi in Indonesian). Set up to be a breeding ground for creation and collaboration, contemporary artists are paired up with local brands to create a series of limited edition art merchandise as well as visual designs. The line-up includes names such as Uglyism x Girls Pay The Bills, The Goods Dept x Mufti Priyanka, and UNKL347 x MAGAFAKA, with promotional visuals by Agan Harahap.

With a diversified range of expertise up their sleeves, the result is a collection of tote bags, t-shirts, and athleisure wear that touches on playful and unique themes bearing distinct marks of each of its creators. To wit, Uglyism’s collection ‘Cunning Linguist’ features athleisure pieces which dance around the subject of women’s pleasure, while an exclusive collaboration between artist Amenk Coy and The Goods Dept offer a punk approach to the phrase ‘Doa Ibu’ (a mother’s prayer), worked into a tote bag with hand-sewn patches and witty remarks printed on both sides. 

Pushing this spirit of collaboration further, the official launch of the exclusive merchandise is unveiled through Elephant Kind’s new music video for their new single, Modern Romance Dreaming (Lonely). The music video, directed by local-based creative production house Maji Piktura, finds members of Elephant Kind freely dancing away with Rad Supersonic, a local community for roller skaters, with the collaboration pieces either worn or propped on display throughout the video.

Even though the museum’s doors are slowly opening, it looks like the hopeful spirit of community is here to stay. Acutely summarised in the words of Amalia Wirjono, Head of Development of Museum MACAN, “The spirit of togetherness is exactly what we need after a year of isolation.”