Don’t separate your creative practice from your daily life.
André van Rueth, Studio 4oo2 and ruangrupa
March 25, 2021
One cross-continental and multicultural team, separated by two time zones, working on the visual identity of one of the most important contemporary art exhibitions, documenta fifteen – during a pandemic. Sounds as exciting as it is challenging. We asked Louisiana Wattimena, Indra Ameng and our very own André van Rueth: What was it like? And what role did lumbung play in this? Ameng is part of the Indonesian artist collective ruangrupa, which is curating documenta fifteen. Ana belongs to the Indonesian student group Studio 4oo2, who developed the exhibition’s visual identity – just like André who worked closely with Ameng and Ana, as well as Leon Schniewind from documenta fifteen, on this very special project.
lumbung is the Indonesian word for a collectively governed rice-barn, where the gathered harvest is stored for the common good of the community. The Indonesian interdisciplinary collective ruangrupa, curators of the upcoming documenta have built the foundation of documenta fifteen on its core values and ideas.
Let’s talk about how you worked together creatively.
Louisiana: Usually we like to all work together in a shared space, we love to brainstorm with each other. Obviously, that is not possible at the moment. On top of that we were challenged by different time zones, languages and design schools. We all had to adapt, adjust to each other. As students we learned a lot from this collaboration. Just as we professionally adjusted our time schedule, patience, mutual appreciation and an open mind were key. They help just as much as new applications for visual collaboration.
André: We worked with Miro and from week to week we discussed the respective exploration of the visual identity and what we liked about it. It’s an ongoing process of always checking if this is still the direction to follow. Because we at Stan Hema had the role of making the design system by Studio 4oo2 implementable but also having to check what it still needed, what is missing. We defined the core design elements, the colours, the typography together. Throughout the process we found out ways to translate these core elements into a system and a visual language. It is of course challenging to not be in a physical space together during this kind of creative process, but I guess we made the best of everything.
How would you describe the transcontinental teamwork between all of you in three words?
Ana: Fun. Collaborative. And progressive.
Ameng: Collaboration between generations.
André: Vivid, light-hearted and progressive.
lumbung plays a really important role when it comes to your work, Ameng. How do you apply it in your inspirational practice and your artistic concept?
Ameng: It is very important that we don’t separate our creative practice and work from our everyday life. lumbung is a mindset, that helps us build the space for us to support each other and our ecosystem in every aspect of our being. Under the current conditions, the concept of lumbung, and its values of solidarity and collectivity have never been more relevant.
André, how do you benefit from lumbung as a European designer?
André: It’s an ongoing shift between sharing and perceiving. And I really like it. The process in general was new to us at Stan Hema because we continued to work on an existing design by Studio 4oo2. It was challenging to reflect and question the internalised ideas of a design process and the methods of the decision making itself. For example, I remember a situation, Ana, when you asked, why do we use the grid in terms of how we use the colours? Like why do the colours have to stick to the grid? Being educated in European design history makes you take things for granted and you start wondering, do I really need that? And that was really enriching for me: this ongoing questioning of what you have internalised and what do you need to reflect on and get rid of. It helps you change perspective in a way and that’s very interesting.
How do you make a decision when you come to a point where you recognise that your opinions differ?
Louisiana: We negotiated. And sometimes we voted, for example when deciding on a typeface.
André: I think the time schedule always plays a role because at some point there is a meeting and you have to make a decision or a presentation. But the interesting thing working with the Miro board is: we can follow the process and we can use some things for further application in the future, which is a nice idea, as we can use the process as an archive.
Ameng, did you learn anything about your creativity in this process? Something you will maybe take away with you?
Ameng: Yes, this process really has been a tough challenge because of our way of working. We are practicing while working or hanging out while discussing. This really needs a certain amount of untied time. And how to translate this into a digital platform and how to experience the same common hangout, sharing knowledge, sharing exchange time between different parties. It’s not just talking about different generations, collaboration between different minds, contexts, countries. Stan Hema and André are very open, a spirit of experimental art, always open to these new tools.
What is particularly important concerning the visual identity of documenta fifteen?
Ameng: Firstly, it is supposed to be inspired by the lumbung concept. And it is also an interesting open form, so it can have a both strong and fragile identity itself and it can always grow and be exploring, a kind of organic form, that can open up collaboration with other elements. It can always be developed further. This is also important to us. We invited Studio 4oo2 to collaborate with us, and from then on we collaborated with more experienced people like Stan Hema to enrich a design that was still very raw and unfixed. We like this process of exchanging knowledge. It’s kind of learning. The way we develop is important. Working on the visual identity was a practice of collaborating together.
André: What I like is the boldness and the statement of the visual language itself, because it is unseen. I hope we are strengthening the core of documenta fifteen.
Ameng: Despite working visually we need to remind ourselves that the concept does not only rely on the outcome but also on the work system.
Fast forward: Imagine it’s the first day of documenta fifteen. You have done all your work. What are you looking forward to the most?
Louisiana: Of course we are very excited to do this collaborative work together intercontinentally. For some of us as college students it’s a very new thing. It’s very interesting to see ideas coming from everyone, although there has been some miscommunication regarding the language and the time difference. But we managed to collaborate flawlessly. And that is thanks to André from Stan Hema and Leon from documenta fifteen. And during the process of building the visual identity we felt like we were observing the lumbung system work between Germany and Indonesia. We are very excited to see the outcome of the collaborative project for documenta fifteen.
André: I’m looking forward to being surprised by ruangrupa and their concept and curation. I hope to see many people from all over the world. And to see them challenged but interested and hopefully in person. That would be nice.
Ameng: I would be happy to meet everyone in person, too. We hope that this will create an open space full of opportunities and cooperation not only for documenta fifteen but also for the future.
Learn more about the design of documenta fifteen. Click here to watch the video of ruangrupa and Stan Hema.
ruangrupa (whose name roughly translates as ‘a space for art’) was founded in 2000 in Jakarta. They have participated in the 2002 and 2018 editions of the Gwangju Biennale, the 2005 Istanbul Biennale, the 2011 Singapore Biennale, the 2012 Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, the 2014 São Paulo Biennial and the Aichi Triennale in 2016 (in Nagoya). They curated the 2016 edition of Sonsbeek in Arnhem, the Netherlands.
Studio 4002 is a young design collective from Jakarta.
André van Rueth