Engaging with the notion of hyperreality in the digital age, Tromarama explores the interrelationship between the virtual and the physical world. Initiating as a collective in 2006 in Bandung, Indonesia, Febie Babyrose, Ruddy Hatumena and Herbert Hans create works that combine video, installation, computer programming and public participation depicting the influence of digital media on society’s perception of its surroundings. Channelling language, text, wit, sequence as well as interaction through their varied practice, Tromarama reflect on the cornerstones of Indonesia’s political and cultural environment [1], a form of perceptive engagement that applies globally.

The trio met while studying at the Institute Technology of Bandung, which since the 90s and 2000s has been active in the support of video art and the city’s creative currents. Students in respectively graphic design, advertising and printmaking, the triumvirate came together for the creation of ‘Serigala Militia’ (2006) – a stop motion animation film made of hundreds of woodcut plywood boards, flashing in speeding sequence to the beats of Seringai, an Indonesian hard rock band. This initial foray prompted years of creating playful, enigmatic stop motion animations such as ‘ting*’ (2008), ‘Bdg Art Now’ (2009), ‘Wattt?!’ (2010), ‘Pilgrimage’ (2011) and ‘The Lost One’ (2013). Through the presentation of rhythmic formations and ballet-esque movements, Tromarama creates collective journeys using everyday domestic objects, which in turn shed light on the rituals of everyday life.

From the beginning, Tromarama’s body of work has equally extended to video and installation. ‘Borderless’ (2010), as an early example, comprises a video made of embroidery on canvas, addressing the commonplace and domestic. ‘Private Riots’ (2014), reformulated and presented at Art Basel Encounters in 2016, marks a comparatively political leaning and presents playful pop-like extractions of key images from protest banners; time, marching, speeches. Alongside, a post-it board in 2014 invited passers-by to mark and share their own frustrations or commentary. A key turning point, however, was 2015, marked by the solo exhibition ‘Panoramix’ (2015). Over the course of several video works and lenticular prints, Tromarama zoned in on their investigation of the digital world, its impact on our apprehensions of reality, and laid out some of the key cornerstones of their future practice: wit, interaction and language.

Play, in the sense of ‘fresh, intriguing and humorous’ [2] has always been identified as an important aspect of Tromarama’s practice. The evolution to wit, however, is slightly more subtle and explorative of cause and effect. The double-channel film ‘Intercourse’ (2015), for example, presents on one screen a stand-up fan facing a projected series of larger-than-life fluttering objects: bonsai tree, tissue, phone book, etc. The relationship is clear despite the live-time probability being incredulous. Yet, you halt in your step, mentally-respectful of the digitally-created visual cause and effect. Further examples include ‘Quandary’ (2016) depicting an object moving gravitationally between two locations and screens despite these being different; ‘Transitivity’ (2016) showing plant growths and changes ‘overnight’ with every switch of a lightbulb; ‘Propinquity’ (2017) in which various protagonists, as only revealed by their shoes, hop between parallel screens. Throughout there is a push and pull between actual and digital reality, the possibilities of occurence.

Indeed, at the heart of Tromarama’s body of work is interaction: whether between elements in the work itself and/or in relation to the viewer. The running series of lenticular prints, such as ‘Posed’ (2017), ‘Classroom’ (2016) and ‘I Do’ (2015), for example, involve discovery by reading the subtitled ‘screens’ in three parts: as one views the work face on, then from one side and another. The effect is one of individual meaning yet collective communication, a reflection on whether what one sees from a single angle is truly ‘it’. More directly involving human interaction, ‘Circuit’ (2017) is composed of a pulse sensor that engages with visitors and is connected to a video projection. This emphasis on interaction, however, is also within the works themselves. A major example of this is the recent installation ‘Soliloquy’ (2018) commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art & Design (MCAD) in Manila, Philippines in which a collection of lightbulbs light up a room. In clustered arrangements, they flash in ad hoc yet sequential unison. Powered by a software collaboratively created by Tromarama, the work engages the public not only visually but also through the realm of social media, centring on the hashtag of ‘kinship’.

This relationship with language, generally but also specially through the realm of social media, is an important aspect of Tromarama’s recent practice. ‘24 Hours Being Others’ (2017) presents three stacked printers connected by a software that collects tweets associated with each term in the work title and then sends them for print through the machines on take-away A5 pieces of paper. The result is akin to a poem, the font being in Times, the connection to someone unknown yet of this world enigmatically intimate. This textual manner of engaging with the digital realm has been reformulated in later works such as ‘Self Portrait’ (2018), ‘Wave Forecast’ (2018) and ‘Wave Forecast No.2’ (2018) each time highlighting different terms that connect to ourselves and others, whether ‘portrait’, ‘listening’ or ‘privacy’. In an age of digital anonymity and mass interconnectivity, Tromarama create pockets of direct relationship with others using social media and its language as a medium.

At the heart of Tromarama’s practice is the creation of narratives, the ones that can and could exist within our physical and digital worlds, but perhaps more crucially, those that exist when we fuse the two. Their works explore the new cornerstones of social constructs as defined by an evolving age; the spectrums of connectivity and shifting notions of reality. A topic, which ultimately, they tackle with play, warmth and a sense of curious empathy.

Tromarama are widely considered one of Indonesia’s most exciting rising talents and have been exhibited around the world. They have held solo exhibitions at Centre A, Vancouver (2017); Liverpool Biennial Fringe, Liverpool (2016); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2015); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2015); and Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2010) among other locations. Their group exhibitions include the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD) Manila (2018); Singapore Art Museum, Singapore (2017); Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju (2016) ; Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (2015); Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide (2014); and the 7th Asia Pacifc Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane (2012).

[1] Enin Supriyanto, ‘How to Turn Trauma into Video Art: A Brief History of Tromarama’, for “MAM Project 012: TROMARAMA” catalogue, published by Mori Art Museum, (August 1 2010)

[2] Alia Swastika, ‘When Playing Is Not Only a Game’, (2011)