Thursday, October 05, 2006

Culture Vultures, Old Europe and the Big Durian

Jakarta's foreign cultural centres are a great asset to the city's cultural life. They are a haven for those arty aspirants who are looking for something slightly more intellectually stimulating than concerts by Seventies, prog.rock, B-list failures Air Supply (they're on this month pop pickers) or the stilted dialogue of Star Wars: Revenge of the Shit down at the local studio 21.

Germany, Holland, Italy and, above all, France all have cultural centres in town which schedule regular performances and festivals of classical and jazz music, art house and experimental cinema, drama and various other cross-cultural endeavours. As a British expat. I have to say that the vitality in range of events on offer from these centres puts the British Council's efforts to shame. Evidently Tony Blair's vision of promoting "Cool Britannia" around the globe stops well short of spending any actual money. But I digress. The EU constitution may have been slapped down recently but the various countries' centres in Jakarta seem to be united in a cultural consensus that reflects their passion for quality art. It's a love that runs deep through the history of what arch hawk Donald Rumsfeld glibly dismissed as "Old Europe".

The French Cultural Centre (CCF) has branches in Salemba and also near Blok M in South Jakarta. At the moment the centre is running its superb Le Printemps Francais (French Springtime) festival which encompasses art, photography, concerts and film. Many of the events are being held at Jakarta's very own cultural centre - namely TIM (Taman Ismail Marzuki) on Jl. Cikini Raya in Central Jakarta, a bohemian complex of theatres and cafes. The CCF doesn't just stick to artists from the motherland however, and last month I attended a superb jazz concert by a quartet featuring American pianist Eric Watson and German saxophonist Christof Lauer who exemplified the enormous wealth of avant-garde musical talent that has been working in Germany for the last 30 years or so since the country managed to reassert a cultural identity beyond the post-World War II, Marshall plan, US rock-and-roll imposed upon it. Lauer and Watson thus represented a cultural d├ętente of sorts. Still to come in the French spring festival is an unusual theatre piece entitled L'homme D'Hus which is apparently an exploration of, "Mime, gesture, objects and disequilibrium" and is playing at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta on June 24th (Tel: 380 8283).

The Dutch Erasmus Huis cultural centre is also highly active and can be found on Jl. Rasuna Said. This month's classical and chamber music events have already finished but there is still a screening of the feted Dutch movie Verborgen Gebreken to come on the 18th of June (Tel: 524 1069).

The Italian Cultural Institute is located on Jl. HOS Cokroaminoto in Menteng and is screening classic Italian movies, including works by Franco Zeffirelli, at 7 PM every Wednesday this month. Also to come is a concert by classical guitarist Stefarno Cardi on the 25th of this month - Jakarta festival time! (Tel: 392 7531 / 392 7532).

The Goethe Institute (German Cultural Centre) is also worth checking out and can also be found in the Menteng area.

So put your cultural trousers on, comb that beard and get moving.

Simon Pitchforth