Who doesn’t like a plate of Indomie goreng? Whether for breakfast, lunch, dinner or mere midnight snack; prepared as instruction with a sunny-side-up, or concocted into a dish of noodle pizza, the genericized instant noodle has always been every Indonesian’s favorite. But for Bali based artist Alam Taslim, Indomie goreng is more than just a meal, it was a muse for his artistic creation, the monster “Igor”, a portmanteau of Indomie goreng.
“I used to eat instant mie goreng (fried noodle) so much until I became ill,” recalled Alam.
Back then, he was toiling at an advertising agency and didn’t have much time to look after himself. After 10 years, he quit his job as an art director to become a full time artist. It was then that he gave birth to his creation and became the “Papa of Igor”, as he calls himself.
“Initially, I was doodling some illustrations of Igor, then I posted it on my Instagram account. Turned out many people gave positive feedbacks, they even asked for Igor to be made into T-shirts. I finally produced the t-shirts and in just one month, I sold dozens and dozens of Igor t-shirts,” he said.
“After that, I went to explore more of Igor illustrations. Igor was born and raised in a digital and instant world. His existence represents what’s in the real world,” he added.In the past two years, Igor has taken on a life of its own, appearing in exhibitions in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bali, and Singapore. In addition to t-shirts, Igor’s face now also graces bags and accessories. During my interview with him, Alam was wearing a red Igor tees and carrying a matching black Igor tote bag.
“When people see me, they see Indomie goreng. They see Igor. It’s a character that has stuck with me. Igor is my alter ego.”
Alam’s recent exhibition in late August to early September was entitled “Igor: Nyamm!!” Held at Paviliun 28 in South Jakarta, the more than 20 paintings, and illustration and installation arts, it takes a poke at the “instant” culture of today.
In his 2016’s “ArchIGORpelago Exhibition” at Galeri Indonesia Kaya in Jakarta, Igor appeared in six characters to represent the six main regions in Indonesia: Sumatera, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Java, Bali, and Papua. It was a way to show his appreciation of Indonesian diversity, Alam said.
Despite the oppressive climate of conservatism, Alam said he has never been afraid to address progressive issues in his artworks, including the LGBT issues, though he doesn’t want to be pinned down into any categories. Before Igor was born, in 2009, Alam was invited to participate in an LGBT art project, the Fetish: Q! Art Exhibition, along with some other artists from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Each artist had to pick a specific topic related to fetish and Alam chose to focus his work on “pogonophilia”, the love of, or attraction to beards and/or fur. He showcased his series of wallpaper designs titled “Bear With The Gloves.”
Indonesia’s Art Scene
Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
To this day aspiring artists still face the stigma of uncertain future. In many cases, they are encouraged to pursue more stable careers. But in Alam’s opinion, this perception about artists is outdated. The arts world of today is so diverse, and one can explore various aspects of the fine arts, from digital, mural and installation arts to films, he said.
“From what I can see, the term ‘struggling artist” has changed. Many people I know who are majoring in arts have decent jobs in the arts field,” said Alam.
Also, the emergence of art markets and affordable arts has become a portal for aspiring artists to dabble in the art scene, he said. Digital art platforms like Senimart, an online-based tool that is designated as a home for artist, also encourage and support aspiring artists.
“Personally, as cheesy as it sounds, just do what you love. If you’re really passionate about something, just go for it,” he said.
Currently he is having fun working with a mural community in Bali while managing a gallery there. The public arts scene in Indonesia is comparable to that in the international sphere, he said, citing the annual Tropica Festival in Canggu, Bali, which gathers artists from around the world to create murals in a huge outdoor warehouse, as an example.
“ARTOTEL is one hell of a proof,” he said, referring to the hotel chain’s presence in Indonesia. “In every ARTOTEL, the murals are created by talented Indonesian emerging artists. Each floor has a different concept, style, and design.”
As we were leaving Suwe Ora Djamu, the café where I interviewed Alam, the smell of Indomie goreng wafted as if on cue.
“Do you smell it? Oh my God, how cruel!” Alam pulled a long face as we walked out the door.
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