Vertical Villages is a collaborative partnership between ruangrupa ArtLab (Indonesia), Keg de Souza (Australia) and 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art (Australia), working with the international student population living in Sydney’s CBD. Throughout July the artists’ were based in 4A’s ground floor gallery, utilising the street-front space as an opportunity to meet and collaborate with international students.

Vertical Villages
articulates how international students engage with urban design and architecture through an amassing of personal experiences and belonging. Through a series of alternative mapping processes, Vertical Villages unpacks the individuals movements both within the city, and more broadly in the region. Personal objects and communication have also been incorporated into the exhibition as a means of highlighting the many voices of international students who participated in the project.

After intensive research, ruangrupa ArtLab and Keg de Souza recognised these students – specifically those living in high-density and multiple occupancy housing – as a group with varied understandings and expressions of domestic and communal spaces. As temporary migrants, this group illustrate the capacity of self-organisation in an unfamiliar situation, whether that may be through improvised and makeshift living situations, or a specific engagement with the urban context.

With over 35,000 international students enrolled in Sydney tertiary institutions annually, international students play an important role in the social and economic dynamic of Sydney, yet their presence within a wider conversation about the cultural and architectural development of the city.

Equally, the structure of residential living in Sydney is about to change dramatically. Developments such as World Tower, Central Park and Green Square are evidence of a shift from low to medium and high-density housing. But is the city of Sydney itself equipped for such a dramatic shift in the scale of personal and public space?

Vertical Villages is the first time that ruangrupa have worked in Sydney and by collaborating with Keg de Souza this project represents a unique, organic and process-driven experiment that will culminate in an exhibition at 4A that will be incorporated as part of the 15th Jakarta Biennale later this year.

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Vertical Villages: Keg de Souza, ruangrupa ArtLab & 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art from 4A on Vimeo.


15th Jakarta Biennale

Parallel research is currently being undertaken in Jakarta by ruangrupa ArtLab and de Souza. In the second phase of Vertical Villages the artists are gathering experiences of migrant workers in Jakarta, as a study of a population who – similarly to students in Sydney – temporarily move to a city, and in doing so impact the design of public domain and the immediate environments they inhabit. The Jakarta Biennale opens on the 9 November 2013.

ruangrupa is a non-profit organisation founded in 2000 by a collective of Jakarta-based artists that focuses on supporting the development of art in contemporary cultural contexts through research, experimentation, collaboration and documentation through its member artists’ exhibitions, artist residency programs, site-specific projects and workshops. ruangrupa work collaboratively with a range of artists, architects, designers, musicians, community members and other creative producers to support and mediate fresh ideas that consider visual art as a cultural practice with a relationship to the social spheres that mediate contemporary living. From June 2008 they have operated the RURU Gallery in Jakarta, providing a space to exhibit works by young artists and curators, as well as presenting ongoing art and visual culture writing and curatorial workshops. ruangrupa also established the Jakarta 32°C, a biennale exhibiting visual artworks by Jakarta students; founded and present the international video festival, OK Video; and publish the regular journal Karbon. As a collective they have worked extensively internationally with projects having been included in the 9th Istanbul Biennial (2005), 6th Liverpool Biennial (2010), and 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane (2012).

ruangrupa Artlab artist members participating in Vertical Villages are Reza Afisina, Iswanto Hartono, Hauritsa and director and founding member Ade Darmawan.

Keg de Souza is a Sydney-based artist who works across disciplines including architecture, screen-printing, installation, cartography, social research and tours. She formally trained as an architect and continues to be influenced by her training, concerned with the spatial politics of the built environment and the changes in relationships between a community and their surroundings. Her work is often ephemeral and reflective of the constant state of flux in which cities and their populations operate. De Souza has previously worked as part of the curatorial and artistic duo You Are Here (with Zanny Begg), that included initiating and presenting the exhibition, residency, discussion and publishing project There Goes the Neighbourhood (2009) at Performance Space that explored the politics of urban space in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Redfern. In addition, De Souza has extensive experience working collaboratively with such groups as SquatSpace Artist Collective, Network of Un-Collectable Artists and The Rizzeria. De Souza has worked extensively in Australia as well as across Asia and North America. Recent group exhibitions include the 5th Auckland Triennial, If you were to live here… (2013); Gonflables et amuses-bouches, Darling Foundry, Montreal (2012); andPrimavera, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (2011). De Souza is the recipient of numerous international residencies, grants and awards including, most recently, a Creative Australia Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts to support the professional development of outstanding Australian artists.


House Party

As part of Vertical Villages, 4A will present a series of events to be hosted by different international students. House Party invites four students to host a party in the Ground Floor of 4A from 6pm til late. Bookings essential.

5 September 6pm – late      Opening of Vertical Villages & House Party
20 September 6pm – late    Chinese hot pot with Jeffry Santony
5 October 6pm – late            hosted by Fuse Worapot and Angelica Casado
25 October 6pm – late          Demolition Party

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The Art Life, 6 September 2013

Concrete Playground

Meld Magazine, 16 September 2013

The Thousands, 5 September 2013

In Profile: Keg de Souza, Realtime, 25 September 2013