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The opening of Blixt that I attended last month was more like a gathering of misfits instead of the usual opening night of an exhibition. Yes, it was about the scale; a comparatively tiny one in size that surely was not for the elites. And, definitely yes, it was about the artists; a gang of first year art students with no names, and no portfolio.

I found myself having a conversation with Arris Aprillo in the small patio of his coffee shop where the exhibition was held. “We need to give them space,” he told me when I asked why he accommodated Blixt, even made an effort to personally help the kids in preparing everything prior to the opening night. I love the way he put it. It is not because the students need the space. It is because we – perhaps Arris was referring us as people who have been in the art scene for much longer time – need to give them space.

It is our need to see new talents rising. It is our need to actively participate in nurturing them.

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Works by Stella Randy, Andhie Kusnadi and Ketrin Aster were among the many displayed in Blixt.

Blixt is a group exhibition of photography works initiated by Atreyu Moniaga – an illustrator, a photographer, a seasonal actor, and, most importantly in this case, a lecturer. This is Atreyu Moniaga‘s fourth projects with his first year students. The other two also displayed photography works, and another one was Mixed Feelings 00 – a group exhibition of illustrations.

Just like the rest, and the coming Mixed Feelings 01 to open on April 24 2016, Blixt was not a campus program.

Atreyu Moniaga‘s off-campus projects were started in 2013 when some of his students inquired him on how to make their talents discovered. “Well, you have to build a portfolio,” his simple answer was. The portfolio building project rolled into ST/ART – a group exhibition of photography works by six first year students. Among them were Hendi Thamrin (today an official photographer for Patrick Owen), Sulvia Su (today is having a residency in Museum Nasional), and S. Jane Sukardi (today works for Antara News.)

And, just like the members of ST/ART, Lucid (the second group photography exhibition), and Mixed Feelings 00, the members of Blixt did not have it easy to have their works finally displayed on one side of the walls in That’s Life Coffee.

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The humble display of Atreyu Moniaga’s first year students. And, Atreyu Moniaga himself as he was observing the photo book of Blixt. (Photos by Stella Randy.)

It took them one full year being molded by Atreyu Moniaga with additional help from his friends. “I always started with reading assignments. They have to expand their references first,” Moniaga said. “I evaluated every entry carefully. We worked together until late. Sometimes we even had to stay one or two nights together to work as a team. This is basically a year-long boot camp.”

Now, do you think the parents – the conservative Indonesian parents – of these 18-19 years old art students would easily let their children stay out of their houses like that?

Let me tell you a little more about where did Atreyu Moniaga found the young talents to be introduced in his exhibitions. He lectures in a campus located in far North Jakarta. The University of Bunda Mulia is not the first name you will think about when it comes to art schools in Jakarta, let alone Indonesia. The North Jakarta area itself has always been known as a population of business families – from the billionaires down to the humble tradesmen. Unlike the cool and hip South Jakarta, North Jakarta is not an area you would expect to become home for creative minds.

The students had already had it rough when they told their parents that they wanted to be artists. And, now these late night meetings with a young lecturer? Parents were not seldom questioning hard, even outraged.

“But, remember this. Other friends of yours are probably sneaking out of their houses as well only to go for clubbing. You guys are sneaking out to study. To make an exhibition. To make your mark,” Moniaga encouraged his students.

Adding to the pressure from home, Atreyu Moniaga‘s projects also were under the monitor of a few peers in art scene who did not always approve the idea. The (slightly) more senior artists, curators, or even educators, thought that none of the students were ready, and that their artworks were not presentable to the public, and they made having an exhibition sounds so cheap and easy.

So, can you imagine this: The school itself is already an underdog among the many art schools in the country. That means the students who joined Atreyu Moniaga‘s projects are the nerds in an underdog school. Being bullied is their lunch break.

The opening night of Blixt that I attended must be just like the opening nights of ST/ART, Lucid, and Mixed Feelings 00. This is a group of misfits whose stomachs are filled with a thousand butterflies flapping hard their wings. Are they really worthy? Is their year-long hard work will pay off? What kind of questions they will have to answer in the artists talk? Will there be any big names showing up? And, are their parents coming?

As for that night, Thalia W., Marselgeo, Stella Randy, Ketrin Aster, Andhie Kusnadi, and Ong William Joe had formed a bond unlike anything else. The quarrels they had, the challenges they faced, and the doubts they had to fight together all year long had melted them into one.

And that night they sat together in the artists talk session. They answered questions like inexperienced artists. Yet, they did answer questions. The crowds were not art critics or the elites. They were friends and people who are always eager to welcome new talents in the art scene. They came with a positive mindset that the art scene is always in the need for fresh blood.

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Top Left to Bottom Right: Stella Randy, Ketrin Aster, Ong William Joe, Thalia W., Marselgeo, and Andhie Kusnasi in the artists talk session.

And the parents who came saw their children’s fine works proudly displayed. They saw how people gaze at what their children had been working on all night long, all year long. They saw how their children show responsibility by answering each question from the crowds. And, finally they saw people who are strangers to them clapping hands to salute their children.

That night I saw not only an opening night of an exhibition. That night I witnessed an art education at its purest form. An art education that gives space for the underdogs to express themselves. An art education that touches deep to their homes as fathers and mothers were in tears seeing how their children have grown up to become artists. An art education that changes perception. An art education that is unnoticeable.

Thalia W., Marselgeo, Stella Randy, Ketrin Aster, Andhie Kusnadi, and Ong William Joe had no agenda in Blixt but to see the results of their hard work displayed in a small coffee shop. These are photography works with no ambition, no ego at stake, no grades, and nothing to lose.

And, for me, these are the kinds of works that deserve the highest applause.

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Atreyu Moniaga (top, far right) with his students who participated in Bixt and previous exhibitions.

Blixt had concluded last night, March 20, 2016. Expect to see the next Atreyu Moniaga’s project Mixed Feelings 01 – a group exhibition by his students Agatha Astari Gouw, Dicky “Daesky” Sarbeni, Robby Eduardo Garsia, and Vicky Saputra – to open on April 24, 2016 in That’s Life Coffee.

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Settling down is as idle as fitting in. It is a product of a long period of repression – a series of identity loss, peer pressure, the call for normalcy, the tiring years of rebellion with no clear direction that ends up in the comfort of taking the mainstream track. We think we are tricking it, but later on we realize that it is all a compromise.

The youth was so full of ideas, and brimming with dreams, and passion. We thought we needed some clear direction to make sure that those ideals would somehow land us in a better life. Yet, it is a better life in a universal definition: a property, a family, a long time investment, a cup of coffee every morning, and a good sleep every evening. We started wild, then slowly, and sometimes unconsciously, stripped off all the things that made us exceptional to join the crowds.

For generations the exceptions must follow the rules. For generations the rules have threatened us with the notion that defying them means a life of unhappiness. For generations we have believed, and have tried to convince the next generation, that happiness equals comfort, certainty, and security.

That happiness is a good status quo.

We have denied that evolution is part of human nature. We seem to be receptive to the idea that men should reinvent themselves and welcome changes. But we place all those wisdom inside a huge box of comfort zone. And, to break the boundaries of comfort zone is unwise.

A comfort zone that says that men should marry and settle in a family; men and wives, men and husbands, women and wives. A comfort zone that is principally built by what we should own as basic needs: a roof above our heads no matter how small, two or three meals a day no matter how humble, and people who pay us respect when we rest in peace no matter how few.

And based on those minimum requirements of a happy life we are encouraged and motivated to live happier and happier. To be happier than the person standing next to us. And, that means to have something more than just a proper roof above our heads, better and “healthier” two or three humble meals a day, and more people we call friends and families. These ideas are advertised in all their glory, and mold the basic pride of humanity.

Oh, the pride of being normal. The pride of being the fittest. The pride of settling down in the most comfortable way.

The pride that keeps on minimizing the essence of being evolutionary. Even kills it completely.

When did you first compromise your dreams for a monthly salary to pay for your studio apartment? When did you first see that the idea of being what you have always wanted to be will not end you in a happy life? When did you first push the exceptional you to fit the box that your parents, friends, families, and society design for you?

Thousands of years ago civilization was built on the grounds of savagery. We used to dance with the lions – well or not. And now we turn the mighty king’s head into a logo of a hand soap. We have lost our respect to the wild, and automatically to ourselves as part of it.

We are nothing but tamed beasts. Caged bunnies.

The standards of good and bad are our prison bars that we made ourselves.

It is once again time for us to question normalcy. When in doubt ask differently. Should you really find a good person to settle down with? Should you really secure your future by a piece of property? Is ownership a solid rock to build your life on?

Is good good, is bad bad?

It is once again time for us to reevaluate our daily thinking. Is it natural for men to repress his desire?

Roam wild. Evolve. Stay restless. Or, just rest in their definition of peace.

Something like this:
A Conversation with the Gatekeeper
Conversations with the Gatekeeper
Durhaka
The Rules of the Game

A poor person needs to eat.

The first type of person will be kind enough to catch some fish, and give them to him. That’s compassion. The Saint.

The second type of person will give the bait, and even the fishing tools, and tell the poor to go catch some fish. The Investor.

The third kind of person may not give the poor anything but teach him how to fish. The Coach.

But there is also another kind of person who will say,

“People used to catch fish with their bare hands. Let’s try that together. Let’s find out how does it go. I’m sure we can do it. Then I’ll help you find The Investor and The Coach, and highly recommend them to help you because I’ve witnessed your hard work”

A Conversation with the Gate Keeper
A Simple Life Lesson from Swimming
The Nine Kisses

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taken from postpasarsanta.tumblr.com

Among my favorite tenants in Pasar Santa is POST – a quirky and friendly corner tagged as “books, gatherings & all things creative”. POST is the creative mind of Pasar Santa. The clean cut space makes it versatile for new ideas. It is magical how the boxy POST can generate out of the box thinking.

POST displays neatly curated books by independent publishers. POST has been a space to launch new ideas; from a new discourse on feminism, to a showcase of musical talents, and from sketches of Jakarta’s transportation system, to visual documentation of the city’s awkward personalities. And, last night, POST transformed itself to become a writing corner.

taken from postpasarsanta.tumblr.com

taken from postpasarsanta.tumblr.com

I decided to join a gang of writers sitting together. There were eight of us, working on different things. We were given a challenge to finish our projects – whatever they were – in four hours. Project proposal, novel, short story, feature article, and – for me – treatment for a movie script.

The idea of this writing challenge might sound simple. Yet, when it was happening, and I became a part of it, there was this huge magical sense that I never thought I would experience.

From the inside, the communal writing activity with a clear goal boosted our focus and courage to achieve our objective. We wrote almost with no break. We were not even bothered by the noise coming from the people and other activities happening around us. And, yes, there were no walls to protect us from those noise.

From the outside, the view of a small, independent book shop transformed into a display of how “books” were done – the process of writing. It was a sight that you wouldn’t normally see every day.

taken from postpasarsanta.tumblr.com

taken from postpasarsanta.tumblr.com

Every writer that was involved in this writing challenge were occupied and busy with their own world. There were worlds gathering inside POST that night, making the place felt like a borderless universe.

When one of us declared the task was completed we cheered and clapped together, making a genuine celebration of success. There were many small, genuince celebrations that night, creating a joyful spark inside the traditional market. And, yes, I also accomplished my goal, and finished drafting the treatment of my new movie script.

Thank you very much, Maesy, Teddy and Steve from POST for arranging and initiating this writing challenge! It was an experience I will never forget!

Follow POST on: Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr!

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I have been trying to keep this a secret for quite some time, but now the word is out already. I am talking about a coffee place unlike any others in Jakarta, or the whole Indonesia in this case.

What is ABCD? How would I define this small kiosk further than “A Bunch of Caffeine Dealers”? For sure this is not a cafe. But, yes, you can order espresso, cappuccino, latte, piccolo, or filtered coffee processed through different manual brew methods – using V60, Clever Dripper, AeroPress, or Kalita Wave. There is no set price, but there is the tall, red tip jar with a rather demanding text saying “as generous as you can be”. With a smiley.

Occasionally there is food, but it’s mostly brought by the regular patrons who love to share their favorite snacks. There is AC inside, but outside can be quite warm. There is music usually coming from the store next door that sells vintage vinyls. There is a few, uncomfortable seats and coffee tables, but most of the time people are enjoying their coffee standing. To know when ABCD will pop-up as a coffee bar (or, open for public), follow their Instagram account: @abcd_coffee.

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Hendri Kurniawan has been studying coffee since early 2000, and is among the first experts who introduced third-wave coffee movement to Indonesia. He is known as a trainer, a consultant, a certified World Barista Championship judge for technical, sensory and visual (latte arts), and a heartbroken man. When one wants to open a coffee shop in Jakarta, Hendri Kurniawan is the first go-to guy for some advice. He has helped setting up a lot of successful coffee shops in Jakarta, Bandung, Malang, Bali and other cities.

Since most of the top baristas know Hendri Kurniawan personally, ABCD then has become a playground for them. Champion baristas from posh and stylish cafes in Jakarta usually hang out in ABCD, and some of them are more than happy to brew coffee for other guests. During the Indonesia Barista Championship 2014, many competing baristas use ABCD as the training place. For home baristas and brewers, ABCD is where they dig more knowledge and practical skills. Hendri Kurniawan also uses the tiny space to give private course for those who really, really want to learn to be a barista.

Pictured below is Josh Estey (right) from Bear & Co. Pop-Up Coffee Bike asking some advice from Hendri Kurniawan (left) himself.

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The coffee served in ABCD is varied, from Matt Perger’s championship beans, Panama’s geisha beans for the coffee snobs, carefully selected local coffee, to Hendri Kurniawan’s own blend lovingly named Phat Uncle. Every visit to ABCD will give you a different coffee experience, and surely will gain you more coffee knowledge and buddies.

ABCD is located in a traditional Pasar Santa market, on the second floor, practically right above Dapoer Kopi. It is far different from the usual stylish coffee places, but the beans and the baristas are top notch. ABCD is definitely a playground, and a hub for those who are really passionate over coffee. And this highly caffeinated bunch of people is jumpy enough to welcome strangers as new buddies.

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Additional Notes:

The official hashtag for ABCD on Instagram is #ngopidipasar – “Ngopi” is a slang for “having coffee”, and “di pasar” means “at the market”. Whatever you do, please don’t take pictures of your coffee here along with Monocle or Kinsfolk magazines. They are more into Calvin & Hobbes comic books.

RELATED: Notes from Indonesia Championship Barista 2014
RELATED: Why Dapoer Kopi is The Perfect Indonesian Style Coffee Shop
RELATED: Bear & Co. – Jakarta’s Pop-Up Coffee Bike
RELATED: Jakarta’s Best Coffee Shops
RELATED: The Ten Commandments of a Coffee Connoiseur

“Help! Somebody please help me. I’m down here in the hole. Help! Anybody? I’m down here in the hole. Somebody please, please, please help me.”

“Hi there. Are you alright? Are you hurt?”

“Oh, glad that you hear me. I’m not hurt. I’m just here in this stupid hole.”

“Can you climb?”

“It’s about ten meters deep. I don’t think I’m strong enough to climb.”

“Okay. Here’s a rope.”

“Oh, good. Thanks.”

“Hold it, and I’ll pull you up.”

“I’m holding it.”

“Can you help me, and crawl a bit using your legs? I’m just alone, and it’s too heavy for me to pull you up.”

“I’m too weak. I’m down here in this stupid hole. Can you help me?”

“I know you’re down there, and I am helping you. But you have to help me help you.”

“Oh, can you really, really help me?”

“Oh geez. Okay. Here’s a ladder.”

“Help!”

“What do you mean? I’ve given you a ladder.”

“But I’m down here. In this stupid hole.”

“You can just climb the ladder!”

“Can you really, really help me? Come down here, and help me climb the ladder?”

 

“Hello?”

 

 

 

“Are you still there?”

 

 

 

 

“Hello?”

 

 

 

 

“Help! Somebody please help me. I’m down here in the hole. Help! Anybody? I’m down here in the hole. Somebody please, please, please help me.”

 

1. Saya tidak bisa menulis.

Tapi, Anda bisa bercerita, bukan? Setidaknya, Anda bisa bercerita secara verbal. Tuangkan saja dulu bahasa verbal Anda ke dalam tulisan. Tuangkan semuanya tanpa peduli apakah tulisan Anda jadinya bagus, kacau, atau buruk sama sekali. Lalu, baru rapikan perlahan-lahan. (Betapa mudahnya merapikan tulisan di jaman komputer ini. Bandingkan dengan dua puluh tahun lalu di mana jari-jari penulis harus tersiksa di atas mesin tik saat harus revisi.)

Jangan ragu minta masukan baik dari teman-teman yang sudah biasa menulis atau yang senang membaca. Cukup rapikan tulisan hingga menjadi bacaan yang teratur dan kalimat-kalimatnya baku. Setelah itu, jangan ragu untuk mengirimkannya ke media. Ingatlah bahwa setiap media punya editor yang bertugas membantu penulis. Dan, jangan salah! Penulis yang paling berpengalaman pun masih butuh bantuan editor. Jadi, jangan rendah diri dan takut dulu. Coba saja. Anda tidak akan rugi.

2. Tujuan wisata saya tidak spesial.

Yang penting bukan tujuan wisatanya (saja) tapi sudut pandang dan pengalaman pribadi Anda (juga). Contoh: Singapura. Negara yang lebih kecil dari Jakarta itu sampai sekarang masih saja diliput oleh berbagai media massa. Mungkin sudah ada ratusan artikel tentang Singapura sebagai surga belanja, atau tempat menikmati konser-konser berkualitas, atau pengalaman nonton F1. Namun, katakanlah Anda sangat doyan nasi ayam Singapura. Nah, judul artikel “10 Tempat Nasi Ayam Terenak di Singapura” masih sangat menarik untuk banyak media massa.

3. Foto-foto saya tidak istimewa.

Beberapa media punya bagian atau jabatan yang namanya Photo Editor, yang fungsinya memilih dan menyesuaikan foto-foto yang akan dimuat. Selama foto Anda masih fokus dan tidak buram, maka masih ada harapan! Tata letak (layout) di media juga bisa berperan dalam menyembunyikan kekurangan foto dan menajamkan kekuatannya. Media juga menyadari bahwa tidak semua penulis kisah perjalanan bisa mengambil foto sebaik seorang fotografer profesional. Banyak trik yang bisa media lakukan untuk mengatasi hal ini. Mereka berpengalaman. Selama tulisan Anda unik dan baik, masalah foto bisa diatur. Tulisan saya pernah diterbitkan di sebuah majalah dengan foto yang mereka beli dari Getty Images.

4. Saya belum pernah menulis di media manapun.

Seringnya, hal ini malah membuat media yang Anda tuju bersemangat. Media juga bosan membaca nama penulis kisah perjalanan yang itu-itu juga di mana-mana. Nama penulis baru tetap disambut, bahkan dicari.

Baca juga: Jalan-Jalan Sendirian
Related: Being a Ghost Writer – Why Not?

5. Saya tidak punya kenalan di media.

Tepatnya: Anda belum ditemukan oleh media manapun. Bukan Anda yang tidak punya kenalan di media, tapi media yang belum berhasil kenalan dengan Anda. Anda harus ditemukan. Kisah perjalanan Anda yang unik itu harus ditemukan dan diterbitkan. Dan, memang harus Anda yang berinisiatif memperkenalkan diri. Jadi, bukalah halaman-halaman depan dan situs-situs semua media yang Anda ingin tuju, dan dapatkan alamat email serta nomor telepon redaksinya.

Dua hal berikut ini mungkin bukan alasan, tapi sering ditanyakan dan jadi pemikiran banyak penulis pemula:

6. Berapa honor menulis di media?

Serial Sex & The City itu berdusta. Anda tidak akan jadi kaya hanya dengan menulis satu kolom saja di majalah bulanan. Honor menulis di media hanya cukup untuk mengganti jam kerja Anda, dan mungkin ditambah makan-makan enak. Honor memang tidak boleh tidak dipikirkan. Tulisan Anda harus dihargai. Sampai sekarang masih ada media yang membayar satu tulisan di bawah angka Rp500.000,-, namun ada juga yang berani bayar tiga atau empat kali lipat. Di saat Anda harus menelan bulat-bulat honor yang terlalu minim, ingat bahwa masih banyak keuntungan lain yang bisa Anda dapatkan.

7. Keuntungan lain yang bisa saya dapatkan?

Ya, gratis menginap di hotel mewah, makan enak, bahkan tiket pesawat ke Eropa, memang merupakan keuntungan yang sangat menyenangkan. Tapi, jangan jadikan berbagai “gratisan” itu sebagai motivasi utama. Yang paling penting adalah “memasang nama” di media.

“Memasang nama” Anda di media cetak merupakan modal awal untuk menulis lebih banyak lagi dengan rasa percaya diri yang lebih tinggi.  Bangun arsip dan portfolio tulisan Anda dengan baik. Miliki file dalam format .pdf dari tulisan pertama (dan selanjutnya) Anda. Sertakan saat mengajukan ide-ide tulisan lain ke medai-media cetak lain lewat email. Targetkan tulisan kisah perjalanan Anda ke berbagai macam media – mulai dari majalah perjalanan, majalah gaya hidup, majalah teknologi, majalah pria, majalah wanita, koran nasional, koran daerah, online magazine, majalah perusahaan, majalah dalam pesawat terbang, dan sebagainya. Belum punya blog? Bangunlah blog atau situs pribadi, dan sertakan portfolio Anda di dalamnya. Tanpa Anda disadari, tahu-tahu Anda sudah tampil sebagai penulis profesional.

Ketika nama dan reputasi Anda sebagai penulis kisah perjalanan sudah cukup kuat, keuntungan lain dengan sendirinya menyusul. Mulai dari tawaran menulis buku, membantu proyek dokumentasi di tempat-tempat unik yang pernah Anda datangi, menjadi pembicara, menjadi travel consultant, dan seterusnya. Kemungkinannya tidak ada habisnya. Dan, semua hanya berawal dari berani mencoba mengirim tulisan pertama Anda ke sebuah media.