Mella Jaarsma's work comments on social and political issues within Indonesian society, mainly: discrimination, racialism, minorities and identity. Her most well known work are body-covering shelters made out of unexpected materials. Jaarsma grew up in the Netherlands and studied visual art at Groningen in her early years, before leaving for Jakarta to attend the Art Institute and later the Indonesia Institute of the Arts in Yogyakarta. Below are some of her works:
This land is Ours, 2007
These costumes (between costumes / shelters / tents / flags) are made out of digital photographs of the earthquake rubble or spots with left over of former households. Everything was destroyed except some concrete constructions, a few cupboards still standing here and there, etc. With everything destroyed how do we build again? Do we replace the old or do we want to improve? Do we have the ability to improve?
I made these shelters out of digital prints of the empty land near my house in southern Yogyakarta , Indonesia . Houses use to stand on this land but they were completely destroyed by the earthquake in May 2006. The shelters are actually satirical comments about the ironic relationship among the NGOs and the community they are trying to ‘save'. These organizations would come and take over areas where common people used to live before the disaster. Different NGOs, divided by religion, country and vision, would make their claim over these areas for recovery projects. They place their flags, fence up their land and start their field work and write proposals with their specific NGO jargon.
Asal: Floating Images, 2005
The word ‘Asal' is originally from the Arabic language and has traveled to Indonesia , where it is part of our daily vocabulary. “Asal dari mana? ”, “Where are you from?”. This a common question asked, not only to me as a Dutch person living in Indonesia , but is often used as an opening phrase in a conversation. “Asal” means 'authentic', and is used to question origin.
‘Asal' is about the possibilities of mobility and shifting, like words traveling the globe, or like the images of clouds and water I found in Persian paintings from the Timurid, (Safavid period, 14 – 18 th century AD). This cloud shape has developed similarly in Chinese paintings and ceramics of the same era, as well as the Mega Mendung motif, a batik motif developed in the sultanate of Cirebon ( Northern Java ) that is still in production today. Through mysticism, common belief, and trade ruling the seas, those cloud images were easily exchanged and cannot be claimed to have ‘origininated' in any one nation.