By trying to “meme” academic writing and to “academise” memes, we hope to highlight the surface-level performativity found in artspeak, encourage play in research processes, and dig deeper into understanding various layers of colloquial humour. 

Background

The global contemporary art scene relies on an abundance of western references, theories, and writings. There is a constant desire for art writings to be legitimate —these attempts to be validated often cause an over-westernising, neglecting the vernacular context. 

As language continuously evolves, the limitation of an art world’s institutional mode of communication has been challenged with alternative formats that are gaining traction by the day. The White Pube popularly opt to write generously in internet vocabulary, cultural workers would source unfiltered news through the Twitter accounts of Kelly Crow (WSJ),  JJ Charlesworth (ArtReview), Hrag Vartanian (Hyperallergic), Alice Procter, Siddharta Mitter, etc., and Jerry Gogosian’s Instagram page has been increasingly validated by key art media across the world. 

The fluidity of human expression versus the stubbornness of institutional texts inspired us to mediate the two nodes with a universal medium, and memes became an obvious choice due to its shareability and digitally viral nature. The humorous nature of a meme is classified by its rapid understandability to a group of people, making it highly effective as a joke, immensely relatable to each of our lives, while retaining layers of an unspoken nuance. However, a niche meme created for a targeted group of various segmentation would render it unreadable by an outsider; an engineer looking at a finance meme would understand the superficial premise of the joke, but not much of its original context and references. This “outside-looking-in” phenomenon is constantly experienced by diasporas, who would juggle two cultures in the locale where they live and the virtual arenas tying back to their hometowns.  

As diasporic Indonesians who have lived/is living in Singapore, we’ve always assumed that Indonesian humour is insular and hardly translatable due to colloquial and linguistic puns, layered references taken from local pop culture, socio-political current issues, as well as ethical and moral values of various demographics spanning across the nation. Surprisingly, however, the Indonesian meme accounts @indoartno and @antikolektifkolektifklub has crossed the territorial border and found followers in neighbouring countries; showing a shared understanding despite the niche of the contemporary art scene.

Launched in end-2018, the account harbours 8,400+ followers, with its demographics highly concentrated with key Indonesian artists, curators, collectors, grassroots collectives, and major stakeholders. Its 9.22% engagement rate is over 4x of @jerrygogosian’s (2.65%) and higher than @freeze_magazine’s (7.38%), with an average of 700+ engagement per post.  

Another meme account also created in 2018, @antikolektifkolektifklub more recently rose to fame for its relevance to Twitter memes and its cynicism on collectivism in the Indonesian contemporary art scene. While its audience is much smaller, at 1,314 followers, their engagement rate is a whopping 16%, close to twice of @indoartno’s and indicating a high volume of discourse on their page. The diverse range of content being discussed, from specifically niche Indonesian art market issues to globally discussed matters, shows itself to be an exciting virtual residency space brimming with opportunities.
 
Memes are a powerful entry point for a wider audience to learn more about various issues, and/or how said issue affects a particular group; with that, we’d like to include vernacular expression and locally shared sentiments as pivotal elements of research. By trying to “meme” academic writing and to “academise” memes, we hope to highlight the surface-level performativity found in artspeak, encourage play in research processes, and dig deeper into understanding various layers of colloquial humour.

Premise

Academic Fantasy Indonesia is an online residency in partnership with the Indonesian art meme accounts @indoartno and @antikolektifkolektifklub. 8 non-Indonesian writers are invited to look at memes sourced from both accounts and researching its significance – concerning the art scene, pop culture, linguistics, and history, and the reason why it’s funny. The resulting research, having taken place in August – October 2020, is presented in the form of an academic essay or proposal.

Being physically immobile this year, we looked deeper into the meaning of an artist residency — an exchange of lived experiences by immersing oneself in a locality. With that in mind, we developed a residency format where, instead of physically living in a set locality, participants are limited to explore the contents of @indoartno and @antikolektifkolektifklub. The exchange element is furthered with intensively learning through the first-person narrative of the meme account admins, along with the organisers' ready assistance in translating and elaborating the context of local humour. The format thus converts the conventional residency space into the digital realm, while simultaneously retaining the learning process through the locals’ lived experiences.  

The title refers to a singing competition franchise in Southeast Asia, “Akademi Fantasi Indosiar”, a very vernacular and nostalgic memory to many Indonesians and other Southeast asian individuals alike. With its tacky, early 2000s visual, the programme often became the source of many memes.

Project Flow

1. The project takes its form by partnering with Indonesian meme accounts @indoartno and @antikolektifkolektifklub, along with an invited roster of ten Singaporean participants who are practicing artists, writers, curators, and activists. 



2. All residency participants are selected by invitation only. The participants are required to select a meme from both meme accounts’ Instagram pages, preferably those that they are unfamiliar with or would like to learn more from. Organisers and partners assist in selecting an optimal meme that takes rich references from local culture, history, colloquialism, and socio-political relations.



3. The partners, @indoartno and @antikolektifkolektifklub, provide insight and suggest two or more supporting memes to support the dissertation.



4. Participants begin research for 8 weeks, assisted by organisers and partners. This paper would highlight the performativity of research; playful citation and literature reviews are allowed and recommended. The writers are encouraged to be as creative as possible in their writings. The paper can take form in multiple languages, styles, form, formats, and so on.



Participants’ responsibilities


* Commit to the stipulated project timeline
* Deliver the essay/proposal by the stipulated deadline  
* Respect the local culture without uninformed or condescending assumptions
* Carry out research with integrity 



Partners’ responsibilities


* Allow participants to quote captions or refer to memes on their page
* Recommend two or more accompanying memes with their selected choice
* Guide participants on the cultural and social context of the memes
* Be contactable and to respond to any project queries within 24 hrs working day 
* Meticulously and objectively read the essays given by the participants and suggest necessary changes
* Cross-post and promote the essay and this initiative on their Instagram page, including reposting old memes that are being referred to 



Project organisers’ responsibilities


* Provide a group chat for each participant to ease telecommunication
* Be contactable and to respond to any project queries within 24 hours
* Ensure all participants are comfortable and on track with the stipulated timeline
* Provide cultural context to the memes, translate materials and conversations
* Provide the participants with relevant reading and research materials (can be alternative: infotainment show/soap opera episode) 
* Support participants’ research by connecting participants with various artists, writers, and curators
* Post and advertise the programme
* Assist communication between @indoartno, @antikolektifkolektifklub and participants
* Meticulously and objectively read the essays given by the participants and suggest necessary changes
* Build and maintain the website
* Be available when required for text/call consultations

About

The Organisers

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ANATHAPINDIKA DAI

Jakarta | Singapore

(b. Jakarta, 1997) Experienced in digital integrated marketing and advertising with a demonstrated history of working in the fine art industry, Dika is an exhibition manager focused in Singaporean and Indonesian contemporary art. She has managed exhibitions and projects for Chan + Hori Contemporary, Singapore Art Week 2018, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, One East Asia Gallery, Hotel G Singapore, and Raffles Hotel at Meradhoo, Maldives. In the past 3 years, she led the digital portfolio of Singapore Tyler Print Institute (2018-2021) and S.E.A. Focus (2020-2021), and was part of National Gallery Singapore’s Partnership Development team (2021) developing an engaging membership journey for over 80,000 members.

With STPI Gallery, she has worked with artists, curators and gallerists in the region and on world-class art fairs across the world, including solo exhibitions of Genevieve Chua, Melati Suryodarmo, Takashi Murakami, Pinaree Sanpitak, Aaron Curry, Jason Martin, and Manuel Ocampo. Key art fair participations include Art Basel (Hong Kong, Miami and Basel), Frieze (London) and The Armory Show (New York). With S.E.A. Focus, she liaised closely with appointed PR agencies to develop a sound media plan, led the digital communications plan, and moderated talks with Korakrit Arunanondchai, Museum MACAN Jakarta, and MCAD Manila.

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LIZA (LIJA) MARKUS

Jakarta

(b. Jakarta, 1995) Lija trained as a sculptor in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, expresses her ideas about shared human emotions through objects, drawings, sculptures, installations, writings and exhibitions she curated. In recent years, she has been exploring a more managerial and curatorial role in the exhibition-making process. Her current interest lies in the phenomena of religious masochism, and traces of postcolonial hybrid cultures in Southeast Asian Christian and Catholic rituals.

 

Her recent projects include organising artistic exchange between ArcoLabs curators and Singaporean artists while organising an artist-in-residency programme with Studio Batur Bandung in 2019 — 2020. She published ORTHODOX Art Book at Singapore Art Book Fair 2019, co-curated and exhibited in ORTHODOX by therightbelief for Singapore Art Week 2019. In 2018, she curated and managed ‘Conversations on Lack and Excess’, featuring artists from Singapore and Bandung at Gajah Gallery Yogyakarta.

@indoartno

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@indoartno

Instagram account @indoartno is a leading internet meme account in Indonesia, focused in facets of humour found in the contemporary art scene. The account, a wordplay based on Indonesia’s pioneering art media INDO/ART/NOW, was launched in 2018 and now harbours over 8,500 followers. Their audience group is astoundingly concentrated with key Indonesian artists, curators, collectors, grassroots collectives, and major contemporary art stakeholders. More recently, @indoartno has gained attention across Southeast Asia and have found followers in neighbouring countries; showing a shared understanding despite the niche of the contemporary art scene.

@antikolektifkolektifklub

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@antikolektifkolektifklub

@antikolektifkolektifklub is an art Instagram meme account that focuses on covering the marginalised opinions and scattered talks about the local art world — from studio artists to artists collectives, from homemade and stolen meme to screen-grabbed tweets. The account evokes a way to make the audience become well-informed about what the heck is happening with the so-called art world and art careerism through satire and sense of humour. The username was taken based on the highly trendy “artist collective” idea, which became derivative in recent years. @antikolektifkolektifklub has been actively posting memes since 2018.