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Bayu Widodo

Currently exhibiting as part of Louis Vuitton's Espace Culturel in Paris, we talk to the Indonesian artist about travelling to Europe for the first time and asking the French about what wine to drink

Indonesian artist Bayu Widodo's is staging his first European show at Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton in Paris. It's a long way from his city of Yogyakarta on the island of Java, an island of 100 million people in a country of 200 million. Indonesia is one of the biggest countries in the world, but very young. The hundreds ethnic groups of this country were united as a nation only after the second world war, there are many different languages, many religions. Diversity is officially recognised, but high density and close contact generates a kind of cultural and urban tension which erupts in different ways, with last year's explosion of the Merapi volcano, as poltical actions, or as Widodo's art, screenprinted on card.

On the streets of Yogjakarta, Widodo has used his art as a form of political action, involved with the Indonesia Street Art Movement response to the burning of a church by Islamic radicals in Temanggung. For the protest called “100 % different and sovereign” Widodo painted a mural of love. To be able to use art as both method and expression is indicative of the versatility of an artist whose work refers to the specific to clarify the universal.

Dazed Digital: How do you feel about coming to Europe?
Bayu Widodo: This my first time trip to Europe. My image of Europe is an image of art, it is very positive. When I was at art school we learnt about Western art history and personal stories of great artists like Leonardo da Vinci, and Vincent Van Gogh cutting off his ears. I feel very privileged to be able to travel to there, to see these antique buildings and paintings, and also an urban art which is made as an expression of today's youth power.

DD: Does your work have an urban theme?
Bayu Widodo:
My works are about how the people live, about the environmental conditions, the problems of city life, but from my point of view and depending on what is happening.

DD: And how does living in Yogyakarta affect you?
Bayu Widodo:
Last year we the volcano Merapi erupted near Yogjakarta, many people were displaced into camps. Of course that event affected me and my work, even if only indirectly. Ideas come to me often when I am restless, not content, I have to feel something. I have made a whole series of artworks with urban and environmental themes called 'you can see but not understand', it is one of the series I will be showing in Paris.

DD: Do you have any questions to ask Europe?
Bayu Widodo:
I want to speak to the artists. I want to ask if it is hard living there with what they make, like life with art? And of course I want them to show me which is the best wine I can drink!

DD: Will you create work while you are in Paris or are you showing a series you have already made?
Bayu Widodo:
The art for this exhibition is already made and the curators found it and choose it for the exhibition. But I definitely want to make art while I am there, wherever I can make it using whatever materials I can find. I have residencies planned in Prague and Amsterdam but I am still hoping that I can meet some artists and share in their projects, to collaborate with them. I don't want to loose time in Europe without making art, I'm so excited.

Text by Philippa Nicole Barr

The exhibition Trans-figurations: Indonesian Mythologies will be open from 24/06/2011 to 23/10/2011 at Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton Paris.