Stigma Bali: Art Activism Collective Highlights Significant Social Issues

Stigma Bali: Art Activism Collective Highlights Significant Social Issues

Social issues that impact upon and divide societies continue to receive increasing exposure from a new local contemporary art activism movement. A recent exhibition by the Stigma Bali collective, their third event since April 2023, was themed Discrimination. The exhibition closed at Joshua District, Kediri, Tabanan, on 4  May 2024.

“Stigma is a collective exhibition for artists who have bold and intriguing messages and visuals within their artworks. Our objective is to give a stage and exposure to artists with styles that are ‘hard to love’ while wishing to inform the audience that we can learn to appreciate artwork considered ‘non-commercial’ or visually unpleasing,” said Skinner Ohrami, co-founder of Stigma Bali. “We have a different theme for each exhibition, highlighting the important message of specific issues, spreading awareness, and discussing the stigma surrounding these issues.”

“We invite the artists to exhibit through an Open Call system. Each selected artist is free to express themselves without limits, following a specific theme and offering a message or solution to the issues as the activism component. We prioritised underground and emerging artists with a dark satirical element in their works.”

Stigma Bali was founded late in 2022 by Skinner and Jakarta-born artist and digital designer Geofanny Tambunan. Skinner and Geofanny develop the vision and activism element while focusing on research, exhibition and artist coordination, and observing current social issues. Along the way, other artists and friends help out with the events.

Stigma Collective Exhibition 1:0 debuted on 21 April 2023 at Uma Seminyak, featuring artists ArtGeedArt, Army Rissa, Skinner and Geofanny and was themed ‘Mental Health’. The opening was punctuated by an artist’s discussion explaining the content of their work and thoughts about the exhibition theme. Art workshops were held over four days while the exhibition closing on 7 May presented a series of discussions on art and the stigma concerning mental health, with guest speaker Dr I Putu Belly Sutrista, MBiomed, SpKj, a Psychiatrist from Denpasar Mental Health Center.

Helping to promote the event, Rupa Bali, a new art digital information portal,  featured Stigma 1:0 in a podcast hosted by curator Savitri Sastrawan. The unexpected positive response from the audience and local artists led to the highly anticipated Stigma 2:0,  1-16 September 2023, themed Oppression. This event featured fourteen artists, along with poetry and music performances, engaging community art activities and discussions. 

“Stigma 2:0 was successful, beyond expectations. We hold non-exclusive events, encouraging the community to participate. We are eager to help people appreciate art in a fun way while gaining information about our activism and attracting ‘new fans’ for our underground artists. We gained a lot of support and feedback, which has aided in developing Stigma 3:0,” said Skinner, a self-taught, multi-disciplined artist and designer born in East Java who resides in Canggu, Bali.   

 Stigma 3:0 showcased nine contemporary artists and four poets highlighting the theme of Discrimination. This phenomenon is increasingly prevalent in our modern society. The featured artists were Fajar Suhendra, Lunar Art Project, Acul Gaos, Dindddung, Jonathan Chandra Gede Austana, Skinner Ohrami, Geofanny Tambunan, and Papa Asmodeus, with poets Imam Barker, Christy Mawar, Stefano Hanteno and Bayu Lesmana. Open April 19 at Joshua District; the evening featured an artist talk, poetry, and music performance. Artist workshops were conducted on 20 & 27 April.

Gede Austana, of mixed Balinese and German heritage, has recently returned to Bali after living most of his life in Australia. His vibrant, captivating painting, ‘This Is All I Know’, is an exhibition highlight. His emotional response to racial discrimination inspires its ruptured focal point engulfed in flames. “My experience with discrimination has been different in Bali; while overseas, I was seen as the other and lesser, but here I’m seen as the same as the ones who discriminate against me,” Austana told NOW!Bali Magazine. “Within my painting, I wish to show the ugliness of it all and how ignorance turns into absolute belief and manifests in corruption of the self and destructive results.”

Poet Christy Mawar recited  ‘Lahir’, her potent tale of discrimination during the exhibition opening. “I experience discrimination every day from the people I care about, strangers, mentors, co-workers and even from my partner. As a woman in Indonesia, having a conversation about my rights and values as a person is always neglected,” said the writer from Ende City, Flores, East Indonesia, who has been passionate about poetry and performing from a very young age. Her theme of Feminine Rage, describing women who are raw, fierce and spirited, is the inspiration for her poetry.

Due to the overwhelming response by artists and the public to the collective, Stigma Bali 4:0 , their next art activism event will be scheduled for October – November  2024.

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Richard Horstman

Richard Horstman

NOW! Bali Art Columnist, Richard Horstman. For over fifteen years Richard has been contributing to national and regional newspapers and magazines writing about art and culture. He is passionate about observing and reporting on developments in the local art and creative infrastructure, and the exciting emerging talent that is flourishing in Bali. IG: @lifeasartasia

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