Arahmaiani's Artist Statement:
To be a feminist means one must face formidable challenges from the conservatives and the fundamentalists. Conflict happens because the religious conservatives and fundamentalists don’t want to loose the legitimacy of their power! And the second challenge is the impact of globalization, where the woman and her body tend to be exploited. Her body may be bought and sold in the cheap labour market. The authorities and the global economic decisions makers often stand on the side of the conservatives and the fundamentalists in their attitude towards those groups who are weak.
Arahmaiani is from Bandung, Indonesia (b.1961). Her work has been exhibited internationally such as at the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia, in 1996; the Bienal de La Habana, Havana, Cuba, in 1997; the Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, France, and Werkleitz Biennale, Germany, in 2000; the Sao Paulo Bienal, Brazil, the Kwangju Biennale, South Korea, in 2002; and the Venice Biennale in 2003 and at the Global Feminisms exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in 2007. She does performance art, painting, drawing, installation, poetry, dance, and music.
From Nafas Art Magazine:
Arahmaiani is a key figure in the current art scene in Indonesia....Her father is an Islamic scholar and her mother is of Javanese Hindu-Buddhist extraction. Already their daughter’s name was a compromise. She readily explains that "Arahma" goes back to the Arabic language meaning „loving“, and „iani“ comes from „human being“ in Hindi. Her upbringing saw the coexistence of both convictions: whereas her father provided a strict Islamic culture and instruction, her mother’s family enabled her to learn Javanese dances, songs, legends, poetry, and custom....Arahmaiani considers that her natural inclination to play the role of a mediator between the worlds is anchored in her origins....
In addition, it is part of Arahmaiani’s ethos as a female artist to use her public presence in order to attract attention to violence against women in general and to female discrimination in Indonesia’s Islamic society in particular. A fundamental aspect of her criticism of the prevailing interpretation of Islam is that men derive their claim to sole authority in decision taking from it. She acts against religion as a rigid set of rules and defends her right to her own interpretation as an individual and as a woman....
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, Arahmaiani felt prompted to combine/complement her critical attitude towards Islam with a fight against its general stigmatization. When she is intent on trying to make people mostly of the Western world understand that the majority of Muslims are just as peace-loving as themselves, she does not consider that she is defending this religion, but simply pure common sense.
Some of her paintings have been of Mickey Mouse and Daffy Duck in commentary about the USA and some it's actions (she was confined in LA while trying to travel to Canada in 2002 - what with being from a Muslim country). She also has done performances where she invites people to write on her. Her more recent landscapes are painterly gray landscapes with words. From a description of a 2005 exhibition at Valentine Willie Fine Art, Bangsar, KL:
The paintings will be supported with photographs of Iani’s body/text works, by Bernice Chauly, and an interactive performance at the opening. The link to the three components of the exhibition is text. In the paintings, Arahmaiani has laid words across the landscapes, discussing cultural and social issues and adding that provocative element which is her benchmark. The issue sitting beneath the work is exploitation of the art market.
Video of Arahmaiani at the Global Feminisms at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in 2007.