Woven is: Mashara Wachjudy, Leyla Stevens, Ida Lawrence, Kartika Suharto-Martin, Alfira O’Sullivan, Sofiyah Ruqayah, and Bridie Gillman.
Buah zine spoke with Mashara Wachjudy via email. Below are her responses.
(Photos courtesy of Mashara. In left photo: Pictured are Woven members, left to right, Ida Lawrence, Sofiyah Ruqayah, Kartika Suharto-Martin, Bridie Gillman, and Alfira O’Sullivan. In right photo: Mashara Wachjudy. Not pictured is Leyla Stevens.)
Birthplace: Victoria, Australia (almost Bandung!)
Grew up in: inner Melbourne suburbs, Australia
Currently living in: Melbourne, Victoria; formerly based in Sydney between 2015-2018
Q: Tell me more about the history of Woven Kolektif. How did you meet one another? How did this exhibition, “Looking Here Looking North,” come together?
For the most part, I think we all met through mutual friends or thereabouts, though Ida was really the person that brought us all together. Kartika, Ida and Alfira danced together in Suara Indonesia Dance Group, and we all went to art schools in New South Wales, except Bridie, who we were introduced to through Ida. We all just worked so well together when we first exhibited ‘Woven’ at Verge Gallery in April 2017 and received really great feedback.
‘Looking here looking north’ really began with Ida bringing us all back together, and I invited Sofiyah to join us and that was when we decided to establish ourselves as a collective.
Q: What has the response been so far to the current exhibition?
We have had such amazing feedback surrounding the show and all of our work. I unfortunately wasn’t able to make it to the launch day or the ASYIK cultural day but, from what I hear, they were both so busy. Being offered the exhibition at Casula Powerhouse has been such an incredible opportunity and especially enriching because I think for us, it’s really special and important that we are able to present our work in a space that nurtures cross-cultural arts. Casula Powerhouse is part of a really incredible wider community of Western Sydney and the demographic of people that visit the space is so vast that it really opens up the accessibility of our work, especially to those that it may resonate with more deeply.
Q: Did you grow up within a community of other folks who had Indonesian heritage? Or, was that something you found later on in life?
I spent time with my dad a few days every month (in Australia) and would visit our family every second year. Sometimes, we would go to gatherings and meet his friends and their kids, and so I saw a strong sense of community there but was always a bit removed from it, which I know is definitely different from others in Woven. I think especially Alfira is amazing at creating community and bringing people together. Ida, too. But it is definitely something I have found later in life, especially an Indonesian community.
Q: So, having lived in Australia, in Shepparton, previously, I found it interesting that even with Indonesia’s proximity, there’s a lot of misconceptions or lack of knowledge still. What has your experience been like being someone of Indonesian heritage in Australia? How did you start thinking of yourself as someone with Indonesian heritage?
I think definitely in country spaces like Shepparton, which is not a particularly multicultural place, there is definitely a lack of familiarity with Indonesia. I have absolutely found this though, growing up between small places like the Mornington Peninsula and cities, too. It was hard for me growing up because I didn’t really have any friends that were Indonesian, only one when I was really young. I also didn’t feel like I had a strong connection to my Indonesian heritage, not speaking Bahasa or Sundanese, or knowing much about my family. And so, I think not feeling greatly connected or as though I had anyone that could directly relate to my experiences of feeling somewhat in-between was hard. As I grew older, I began to connect with more people that could relate to having mixed heritage, and it became important for me to talk about it. It wasn’t until I connected with Kartika, her sister Kyati, Sofiyah, Ida, Leyla, Bridie, Alfira and my friend Seala that I found a real grounding in my Indonesian heritage and a way of talking about it through my work that made sense to me.
Q: Tell me more about your own journey into art.
I was always creative when I was younger; then, I got my first digital camera when I was 9 years old, after always using disposables, and then got back into film photography around age 11. I think I’ve just always had an inclination to photography and other creative forms, especially sculpture. I started exhibiting in group shows when I was about 15, then ended up going to art school for a few years.
Q: What drew you into exploring aspects of your heritage through art?
I’ve always made work mostly about place and memory, and so I was sort of making work indirectly about remembering places in Indonesia. It wasn’t until I met Kartika, then we did the first show in 2017, ‘Woven,’ where I felt like I had found a space to really share and talk about cross-cultural experiences and exchanges, because all of us could understand and relate to one another. Then it really became so apparent to me that it is important for me to articulate how my Indonesian heritage continuously shapes my experiences through time and place.
Q: Tell me about the process behind picking out what medium or media you’re going to use for a piece or collection. What draws you into making art that’s textural? Particularly in the works in “Konstruksi,” how did you pick vinyl and digital photography?
I’m really interested in how to embed memory into objects and textures, like rice and sand and palm fronds. Ever since I can remember, I have always collected ephemera, whether it be shells, images, flowers or newspaper clippings, or things I find on the street. There came a point where I realised this was a significant part of my practice and how I think about and articulate memory and experience.
Konstruksi is really a synthesis of a few different ideas I’d been working with over the past two years. Structurally, the work is a larger adaption of the works I made for our first exhibition ‘Woven’, thinking about temporary architecture and construction using bamboo and concrete, which I had seen a lot of when I was last in Indonesia. I referred to a lot of photos I had taken there and thought a lot about how I am continually building upon all of my past recollections of Bandung and Jogja, which lead me to the digital works.
I started using Google StreetView a while ago to revisit and see what my family and Tante Nani’s village looked like now and how it had changed, and then it became a tool that I used to inform my sculptural works, and from there, I began to stitch and layer these images that I would collect. Vinyl banners were a material I naturally progressed to in thinking about textural and object-related memory as I had documented so many vinyl advertising banners when I was younger visiting my family in Bandung. I was so fascinated with how they age and are continually layered over one another, so they are mostly a reference, like the structure, to the urban landscape there.
Q: What has your journey been like learning about your Indonesian heritage? What are some of the conversations you’ve had with other folks of Indonesian heritage?
At times, it’s definitely been confusing but certainly a rewarding experience, and I’m always learning. Family history is something I’d definitely like to know more about, and Sundanese history, traditions and customs, too.
It has been really amazing to connect with everyone in Woven because we all have such different experiences and upbringings, though there is a thread that runs through where we can all relate to one another. Mine and Kartika’s dads are very similar in so many ways and so we can often share amusing stories about our relationships with our dads and also the dynamic of having an Indonesian dad and Australian mum.
Q: What does your Indonesian heritage mean to you?
It’s part of who I am, my family, and my ancestors — their mythologies, traditions, land, and I want to learn more about all of those things so that I can learn more about myself.
Q: Can you share what you or Woven Kolektif have planned in the future?
There are no concrete plans thus far, though we have been discussing the possibility of exhibiting in Indonesia. I think we all have some great ideas, but it’s important to us that whatever project we work on together feels meaningful. ‘Looking here looking north’ was a particularly big show for such a short time frame and has been a really amazing opportunity to discuss different things and really speak about the conversations we are having as a collective, together and with those that engage with us, so I think it will be exciting to see where it takes us next.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add that I didn’t ask about?
I think aside from my own experiences, what and who we are as a collective is so complex and rich, and that’s why it’s so amazing when we work together and give each other space to share and explore our ideas and experiences and open up conversations about being Indonesian or having a strong connection to Indonesia. And that the archipelago is so vast and complex, and we can all learn from each other because our families are all from such different spaces.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.