Toilet Tissue and Other Formless Organisational Matters

An edited excerpt from Curating Organisations (Without) Form: A public conversation between Antariksa (KUNCI), Binna Choi (Casco), Syafiatudina (KUNCI), Emily Pethick (The Showroom), and Ferdiansyah Thajib (KUNCI) on how commons-orientated organisations work in the field of art, culture and social practices, across Indonesia, the Netherlands and UK. Held on 31st January 2015 at KUNCI Cultural Studies Center, Yogyakarta. Transcription by Edwinna Brennan.


Syafiatudina (Dina): In Indonesia OTB, Organisasi Tanpa Bentuk, or organisations without a form, was a term used by the Government during the Suharto regime as a name for a group of people who were conducting illegal or illicit activities related to Communism or other forbidden ideologies. These were unregistered so they didn’t have a legal status.

In the late 1990s to 2000s many art and other organisations started registering themselves as legal organisations and started to adapt formal structures, such as with a director, a manager, an accountant, a board as required by the government. We have been talking about how these positions or these job titles affect how these collectives or groups of people operate––that’s also how we decided to name this conversation. Before it was quite horizontal, everyone chips in, in a way that they believe in, and contribute however they can. But after the legalisation what happened, or changed, what didn’t change and what is still happening?

For example, Antariksa mentioned the expression hanya di atas kertas, or “only on paper.” On paper there is a Director, there is a Manager, but in the reality of daily practice, they are still collective and fluid. But is this really fluid? There is a tension between structure and non-structure in organisations.

Emily: I started working at The Showroom in 2008 and before that I was at Casco from 2005-2008. In both cases I arrived at a point when the organisations needed some restructuring and rebuilding. I had to move both to new spaces, which also involved developing their programmes, audiences and also their economies and building networks for them in order to strengthen them. Both organisations felt quite vulnerable, and perhaps still are. This got me interested in how as a director your perspective is on the organisation as a whole, which means thinking about the structure in relation to what you’re producing, and how the projects and ideas become quite embedded in how you work.

I’ve not been working on this alone as when I moved to The Showroom and Binna took over my position at Casco, we decided that we would continue to work together. Over the last five years we have collaborated on two programmes­––Circular Facts and Cluster––which were funded by the European Union. Through this, there has been a loose ongoing exchange between our organisations over a period of six years, which has not only been about producing projects, but about how we produce and the structures that are needed in order to do this.

Binna: Over last week, we have visited and been having conversations at various organisations, including Forum Lenteng and ruangrupa in Jakarta, and Lifepatch and, Teater Garasi in Yogyakrta, and KUNCI of course. The focus of our conversations was “how” they are organising in terms of their organisational structure, physical space, finance and process of working, while they are programming, whereas the usual approach to an organisation is just to hear about the program, the visible result.

We aimed to gain insight into shifting organisational structures, the economy and relations and also probably conflicts within these and then how this interacts with their programmes. I think this interest comes from various experiences and one, which Emily mentioned, is the Cluster network which is a network of eight organisations ranging from a museum just outside of Madrid, to spaces like us and Tensta Konsthall (Sweden), and the Israeli Centre for Digital Arts in Holon. We all operate quite differently from any other museum practices and most of us are located in residential areas and on the “periphery,” so we started asking how we are different, what actually we are doing differently from others, and what our values are.

Emily: One of the things we as Cluster did was to visit each other to get to know each other’s work, which included walking around each other’s neighbourhoods as well as what was inside the organisations, and looking at how each is constituted through the relations with our environments and what this can produce in terms of an organisational environment […]


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Curating Organisations (Without) Form: Toilet Tissue and Other Formless Organisational Matters