The Labyrinth of Ika Vantiani’s Journey into Art
Ika Vantiani is a woman of many talents: after obtaining her formal education at a Public Relations school and a 13-year career in the advertising industry, she eventually decided to fully focus on her work as an artist – and has never looked back. Ika spoke to NOW! Jakarta about her life in the creative industry, her view on feminism and the projects she is currently working on.
What is your favourite childhood memory?
One of the best memories from my childhood is that I was the “handkerchief lady”. I still remember how my mother used to put a handkerchief with a safety pin on my right chest every time I went to school. Some of them were lacy and had my initials on it, others a cartoon character. This has resulted in my habit to use handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues. In fact, I love using handkerchiefs so much that I have used them for several artworks and also carry them in my bag until today.
You call yourself a creative worker, a term I think fits perfectly, especially because your work touches so many different fields. How did you first become interested in art, and when did you realise that you had some creative talent?
I was called “creative” during my advertising years, so I thought it’s automatically a part of my job to be creative. At the same time, art was also a part of my job since I had to deal a lot with design, copy, animation, etc. I never saw these two separately until I quit agency life. Since then I realised that the words “creative” and “art” had nothing to do with the job and it’s merely something that I like to do daily. It was in 2009 when I embarked on my first art project. One thing led to another, and eventually I had enough courage to organise my first collage exhibition and workshop with two friends – after that, there was no turning back. Today, I juggle being an artist, crafter, curator, workshop tutor and organiser, as well as a freelance communications consultant for art, culture, social and environmental projects in Indonesia. That’s why I define myself as a creative worker.
Did you ever regret taking the plunge into the world of art?
Not at all. As a matter of fact, I am truly grateful to have had more than 13 years experience in advertising, where I could nurture my creativity in a context that has been really useful to me as an artist. Working in advertising provided me with discipline and different views of seeing myself as an artist, including the way I see my artworks.
The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear your name are your beautiful collages – how did you get involved in collage art, and what do you like most about it?
I started using collages when I made my first zine 18 years ago. At that time, I had no computer design skills but I still wanted to make a zine. So I used manual collage instead. But it was not until 2008 when I started blog-hopping and saw collage and mix media works of international artists that reminded me of this particular art form. Afterwards, I made collages every single day before opening my online art shop in Etsy and organising my first collage exhibition and workshop.
Collage art is engaging yet simple in term of its tools – we all have paper, scissors and glue lying around at home – and still, the end result can be surprisingly awesome. Collage as an art making technique is not as intimidating as other techniques such as painting, sculpting and even drawing. For someone who has never made art before, it’s really empowering to see what our fingers, glue, paper and scissors can do for the first time.
One of your collage projects “Words for Women” aims to document the vocabulary used to describe everyday women. When we look at the Indonesian media, what kind of image of women do they convey?
I believe there has been a big change over the last five years concerning the portrayal of women in Indonesian media, although it depends on the format of the media itself. The conversation about strong and independent women is something that we can see and hear in the mainstream media now, but the expectation of being strong means that she must also be able to juggle being a successful career woman, mother and wife – not to mention the other expectations of being a woman, such as maintaining one’s physical appearance, keep smiling and showing obedience. It requires one hell of a strong woman to be able to do all of that – it’s actually impossible, yet this is the conception of a woman that I keep hearing and seeing in the media today.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
No, I actually never have. The first time I heard the label “feminist” was when I published my zine in 2000, and I always wondered why a woman who is concerned about women’s issues is immediately given that particular label. I think that my works revolving around women started because I am a woman myself, and I felt that it’s the right thing to do. I did join a feminist collective since I believe that there is no way I can work towards this goal – to fight discrimination, injustice etc. – by myself. I do what I do not because I am a feminist but because I believe that this is what has to be done. If people want to put a label on it, then so be it. In the end, people will remember your work and actions more than whatever label they have put on you, right?
You also work as a curator. What kind of exhibitions have you curated so far?
Being a self-taught curator, I have been pretty fortunate that I have been trusted to curate a variety of exhibitions and projects that I never thought I would be able to experience it when I started out in 2009. I mostly curated group shows with a various artists, from up and coming talents to established ones, commercial and non-commercial, big and small, but not only in art but also other mediums such as fashion. One of my favorites was IKAT/eCut, where I had the chance to curate a number of fringe events based on fast and slow fashion, both globally and in Indonesia. It was a truly spectacular experience.
What you are currently working on?
I am continuously working on two big projects that I have started a couple of years ago, and I recently launched a research-based work on the definition of the word “women” in Indonesian dictionaries – and found that the definition of the word sees women based on a sexual context only. I have exhibited this work in Jakarta in August and in Ubud, Bali in October and November. I plan to continue with my research and finding the teams behind those dictionaries so they can answer my question: Why? I’m also curating a fashion-based event next February as part of The Creative Freedom Festival while preparing a commissioned work for a commercial establishment that I can hopefully complete in January.
You are very good at multitasking and working on different projects at the same time. Are you ever concerned that you'll grow too tired or that you will run out of creative ideas?
The thought of growing too tired both mentally and physically scares me more than running out of creative ideas. Most of the time I feel like having way too many ideas and too little time. Due to my tendency to get bored easily, I choose to do several things in one day and write down my ideas in case I might need them in the future.
To end the interview on a completely different note, how would your perfect day look like?
Sometimes, I wish I could just sit down and make collages all day long while listening to some of my favorite podcasts and drinking a big glass of iced coffee. Oh, and there should be a walk in the park in between. There, that would definitely be a perfect day to me!
This article was first published in the December issue of NOW! Jakarta magazine.