Arahmaiani is one of Indonesia's most widely traveled and exhibited artist, recognized mainly for her practice in performance and installation art. Born in Bandung in 1961 and educated at the Bandung Institute of Technology in the early 1980s, Arahmaiani's multi-disciplinary practice extends beyond performance and installation to encompass painting, drawing, dance, music and poetry. Opposed to the estrangement of art and life in the academy, her early passage into art practice took place in the streets of Bandung where, together with a group of likeminded friends, she began to make performances with a strong social consciousness-what she termed "easy-art" as opposed to the prevailing academically conservative "difficult-art" that enshrouds the practice of art in difficult theories and methodologies.
One of a small number of Indonesian artists recognized and active in the international contemporary art circuits, Arahmaiani has participated in the Venice, Gwangju and Sao Paulo biennales, the Asia-Pacific Triennial, as well as noted international-scale exhibitions such as Cities on the Move (various locations, beginning 1990) and Global Feminism (Brooklyn Museum, 2007) in the last 12 years. Her recent solo exhibition at the Jogja National Museum in July 2008 is a broad retrospective survey of several key documented performances as well as new paintings that she has completed in 2008.
The present lot, Free Market - Indonesia, can be viewed as a continuation of her wide-ranging interest for issues of global nature ranging from the religious and the political (post 9/11 relations between Islam and the West), including the advent of fundamentalism in religion and politics, the clamorous political and social movements fueling unrest around the world and the globalization of capitalism and neo-liberalism.
The work depicts Daffy Duck, the cartoon character from Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon series, trailing a crowd of figures along a road winding in from the left of the picture surface and exiting on the right. Arahmaiani has adapted and added a couple of elements to add a politicized reading of the work - a chimney representative of the ills of industrialization and global capitalistic production. The sign on the road that reads 'Free Market' draws attention to the seven figures at the right foreground of the painting - each one of them is wearing the colours of flags of the seven G7 nations. Daffy Duck, decked out in the garb of an Indonesian statesman, is blithely bearing the Indonesian flag and marching in trail of the figures ahead of him. Read allegorically, Free Market - Indonesia, refers to Indonesia's increasing participation in the global capitalistic free market, a move that is perceived as an acceptance of all the benefits (as well as all the ills) of Western global capitalism.