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Street artists slam police's mural contest as cynical attempt to win back public trust

CNN Indonesia - September 17, 2021

Jakarta – Street artists have loudly condemned a mural contest festival to be organised by the Indonesian police (Polri) saying that it is a waste of time and absolutely does not show that the government is open to criticism.

A mural artist from the Anti-Tank Project, Andrew, said that he was not interested at all in taking part in the contest because it will not in any way contribute to improving the government.

"[I'm] not [taking part], I think that Polri is one of the worst institutions along with the DPR [House of Representatives], also because the activity will not contribute to improving the institution, so it's a waste of time to take part", Andrew told CNN Indonesia on Thursday September 16.

Andrew said that he does not have a problem if the government through an institution like the police holds a mural contest. It is merely that he thinks that there is an incongruity in organizing a mural contest when there has been widespread criticism against the government for removing murals smacking of criticism.

He also alluded to the possibility that the mural contest is just a way for the government to regain public trust over freedom of expression. But the contest in no way demonstrates that the government has begun to be open to criticism.

"If later this contest only accommodates government interests, then yes, absolutely it will be used to indoctrinate the public through the medium of murals, without providing space for dissenting voices", said the artist from the Central Java city of Yogyakarta.

Another street artist, Anagard, also said that they would not take part in the mural contest organised by the police. According to Anagard, taking part in the contest would go against their artistic principles.

"Obviously I'm not going to take part, its position is different. For me the contest isn't in line with my competency, in the end it would instead bring down my values and standing for the work I've done up until now, it isn't in line with [my] principles', said Anagard.

Anagard also questioned what theme would be chosen for the contest. He also speculated as to whether the police would chose a theme for the mural which is critical so that it could be used as input for the government.

"My suggestion is a theme critical of the government so that it can build a government which is conscious of what it should be doing at the moment", he said.

Earlier, the Indonesian police public relations division announced it would hold a mural contest festival to compete for a prize in the form of a trophy from the Indonesian police. The police however have not yet set a date for the contest.

News of the mural contest came as a number of murals with a critical nuance have been removed by the authorities on the grounds that they disturb public order.

The removal of the murals has been highlighted by the public because it shows that the government is anti-critic. Several murals have been in the spotlight such as one with the message "Jokowi 404: Not Found" and another reading "Forced to be well in a country which is sick". Both were removed by police. (mln/DAL)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Seniman Kritik Lomba Mural Polisi: Akomodasi Pemerintah".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20210916202601-20-695485/seniman-kritik-lomba-mural-polisi-akomodasi-pemerinta