As an art event with local and international relevance, a biennale functions as a dialogue between those two perspectives. The relentless search for the origin of Indonesian art, in the face of the fraught colonial legacy, forms the essential inspiration for Jakarta Biennale 2017.

Jiwa is a force enclosing and separating entities necessary in life. As the underlying theme of the Jakarta Biennale 2017, Jiwa appears in various guises. Motivating imagination and creation in space and time, Jiwa can be understood as the agency embodied in art’s practice and in its appearances.

One of the ways to evaluate the complexity of identity is to re-think history. Jakarta Biennale 2017 aims to provide opportunities to experience the jiwa of art, by attempting to venture into the lives and stories of seminal figures of the recent history of Indonesian art. Familiarity with the history of art, is essential to trace jiwa in art practice today.

As a belief system, jiwa animates life and the body, thought and feeling, and relates to the care for the spirits of the living and non-living. The necessary condition guiding every facet of life is the second meaning of jiwa, Jakarta Biennale 2017 aims to bring forth. In the past, every aspect of life was based on a belief system, or understood as part of the circle of life. Jiwa comes out of such belief systems. It includes the forces of creation, and nothing escapes it’s embrace.

The demise of ancient belief systems left jiwa withering away. This condition can be seen in every part of the world. The return to original traditions is most often used as a political vehicle in populist movements, which often creates a negative association for indigenous traditions, which complexity and agency the exhibition tries to revive.

On the other hand, a specific belief system, complete with its apparatus and customs is frequently associated with the repression of freedom. Taking in account that Jakarta Biennale 2017 is an art event, the freedom in question would relate to the freedom of expression or artistic freedom. Beyond there is only uncharted territory, outside the scope of human mind. Hence, freedom is the ability to move within limits, be it tradition, rules, norms, culture, custom or even artistic convention.

The presence of jiwa, appearing in various forms, provides reflections on unexpected spaces challenging the limits of the viewers’ perspectives. The long journey one has to undergo to seek the path of her jiwa through the works she creates, through exploration, experimentation, and the ebb and flow of her conscience, either direct of indirect, provides an answer to the initial questions.

The relation between the first and second meaning of jiwa can be seen as an interdependence of  macro and micro universes. Micro universe in Jakarta Biennale 2017 is jiwa as the trait of local art. Whereas, the macro universe is jiwa in its second meaning, that is, jiwa as the drive behind universal belief system. Macro universe consists of a set of micro universes negotiating between each other; micro universes is composed of various entitites, one of which is the tradition of local art.