Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2003
By: John Weeks
Apotik Komik is a collective of cartoonists and visual artists based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Apotik comes from the term 'apothecary' or 'medicine' - it's a virtual comic pharmacy. The house they operate out of is covered with paintings, collage, drawings - nothing is unscathed by their creative intent.
Prior to ousting of President Suharto, times were difficult for creators in Indonesia, but things are changing. I caught up with Bambang Toko and Samuel Indratma in Spring 2002 as they were working on set designs for a Jean Genet play. My Indonesian language skills are nonexistent but fortunately comics communication goes beyond the spoken word.
John Weeks: Live from Yogyakarta -
Samuel Indratma: Ha ha!
JW: We're here with Samuel...In-at-rama?
JW: And "Bambang Toko".
Bambang Toko: Yeah.
JW: The famous Bambang Toko.
SI: Small press, small Toko! (Laughs) Shop.
JW: 'Shop'. Toko means shop.
BT: Comics shop.
JW: So you're Mr. Comics Shop. Bambang's Shop.
SI: (Laughs) Bambang's shop.
JW: So why do they call you that?
BT: Because I'm a real, uh - (laughs) selling and buying for - everything!
JW: A comics entrepeneur. You've always got a little shop. And you're teaching art now -
BT: In the Indonesian institute of the art. In my school.
JW: Is this graphic design or comics -
BT: Graphic art and graphic design.
JW: Right. So how did Apotik Komik start?
SI: In 1997. In April. We make comic on the wall -
SI: Yes, exhibition.
BT: At Samuel's house, and the wall is 700 meters square.
SI: Thirteen artists. Two women, and the men.
JW: You had the five people who are in Apotik Komik now, and Pensil Terbang (Flying Pencil), some German woman -
SI: Anna Bloom, Bloomer - I don't know the spelling! (laughs)
JW: So was Apotik then these thirteen artists, or was it the exhibition that let to the collective?
SI: Yeah, Apotik Komik, the members, we have four members.
BT: Main members-
JW: Including you two.
BT: Aris [Prabowo], Popok ["Diapers" - (Tri Wahyudi)] - and the other artists are additional players.
JW: Guest stars.
SI: Guest stars! If you want to be a guest star, we accept, uh- (tries to think of word)
SI: Contributions, if you have time.
JW: And these extra players are usually in your exhibitions.
SI: Yes. Not only komik, but making visual art, public art,
SI: But the comic, for make spirit, we think for example. For play, for play project - We think komik, ah.....(laughs)
JW: It's OK. I have plenty of tape.
SI: I think this is a play that looks like komik. Jean Genet makes a description full of - ah, full visual. And then, we are interested.
JW: You getting paid for the set design? There's a long tradition in comics of not being paid.
SI: Yeah. The groups for the play, they pay for make a set design, everything.
JW: So Apotik started with an exhibition in 1997 at your house. Your landlord didn't mind?
SI: Very expensive for me to rent a place -
JW: So you did it at your home.
SI: Yeah. And, we move - (laughter)
JW: Don't rent to Samuel! He'll paint all over your house! He's trouble! Even here, look at the toilet!
JW: So you've had that exhibition. What happens next?
SI: Working to do something with visual and comic, yeah?
JW: So after the first exhibition, what was the next Apotik project?
BT: Public art. We make public art near Maliboro street, we hanging a mural on the wall. Is about height...
SI: Thirty meters.
SI: Is (laughs) illegal action!
JW: The dangerous life of a comic artist. And at that time, all comics had to have the official stamp of approval.
BT: We wear clothes for, fabric -
JW: Oh, jumpsuits! I saw the photos. You wore the orange jumpsuits that say Apotik.
BT: No, no, but it's like a legal, yeah? When we wear jumpsuits -
JW: It looks official!
JW: That was back before the government's new policy of openness. Is it easier to do art, now?
SI: I think when the government changed, yeah? We think very open, but I think not only the open from government, but we think about community. If we make something in the public area, I think not government to push, to restrict, but the community near the location.
JW: They might have some objections?
JW: Ahh. So it's more like social mores, that can be a problem for comic artists.
SI: Because we think when make a project, this is for make a book, we make photo, and collage of ....
JW: Of the action? Oh, right, you record it......So after that mural, what next did Apotik do?
BT: Before AWAS, we make traveling exhibition too, resti opok - the Indonesian language -
SI: "Stir Up"
BT: Singapore and Europe. Singapore Art Museum.
JW: Wow, lots of exhibitions.
BT: For exhibition, AWAS. Exhibition in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in Australia, and finish in 2001.
JW: The AWAS writeup, the book is great. Who in Apotik Komik is in AWAS?
BT: Samuel, Aris and Popok..........Two works. One is Apotik Komik name and two is like a, a-
BT: Right, individual works.
JW: So this house full of art - you don't all live here, do you?
SI: For the project!
BT: Yeah, yeah.
SI: Because Popok, Aris didn't have the, the big room -
JW: A studio. And you seem to have a lot of comics here...
SI: We have a collection, when I move from here? The collection under the box!
BT: Core member of Apotik try to make a big big comic.
JW: I saw Popok's big strip. That was huge.
SI: He start and then another person...didn't start-
JW: Tricky to organize. And in addition to your paintings, what are your own small press efforts?
SI: I make Ckal [?], Cafe Manifesto - I bring for example -
(Samuel goes to grab his comic.)
SI: This is my Manifesto.
JW: People of the world, sit in cafes......... Popok is working on his big print comic; and Aris?
BT: This is work of Aris - like a musician, like pop art.
SI: You see the postcard -
JW: OK. So every person has done their own comic.......What are the future projects for Apotik Komik?
SI: We think about making public art, and put the public art, photography, and then to publish.
JW: Another exhibition, another aksi.
BT: Yeah........I think we must finish the big comic, (laughs) it must be finished! Maybe someday we make an exhibition. Special Apotik Komik exhibition.
JW: And this will include all the members? How many artists are there aside from the four core members of Apotik?
(BT and S talk together briefly).
SI: The four main members?
JW: Um, the un-main members.
SI: Uh, unlimited.
SI: Because if someone interesting with Apotik Komik project -
JW: - then they're a part of it.
SI: They can follow, to make a collaboration.
JW: You hear that, comic artists? Everybody join in.
SI: Come on, come on!
Postscript: Apotik Komik are planning a visit to San Francisco in 2003, for an exchange with the Clarion Alley Mural Project. Stay tuned to Silver Bullet for details!
Apotik Komik "Healthy Comic"
c/o Samuel Indratama
JL Langenarjan LOR No. 2
Order AWAS Exhibition Catalogue