documenta fifteen and lumbung practice

Drawing of a lumbung, a communal rice barn where the surplus harvest is stored for the benefit of the community. The drawing is sketchy, with the bamboo rice barn in the center and black figures representing people below. Around the drawing handwritten text explaining the lumbung.
lumbung drawing, Iswanto Hartono, 2020

lumbung is the Indonesian word for a collectively governed rice-barn, where the gathered harvest is stored for the common good of the community. ruangrupa has built the foundation of documenta fifteen on its core values and ideas. lumbung, as a concept, is the starting point for documenta fifteen. Over the coming years, lumbung will be operational in the lead up to documenta fifteen in 2022, and beyond. At this stage, ruangrupa gives an insight into how they understand and implement lumbung in their curatorial practice. In the spirit of lumbung, ruangrupa has invited the first lumbung members and the Artistic Team to individually introduce themselves by sharing stories of their respective practices and how they connect to the wider project.

ruangrupa on their lumbung concept for documenta fifteen

lumbung as a collectively-governed architecture for the storage of food serves a community’s long-term well-being through communal resources and mutual care, and it is organized around a set of shared values, collective rituals, and organizational principles. ruangrupa translates and continues this tradition of sharing within our own practice.

We do not consider lumbung merely as a chosen “theme” for documenta fifteen. Instead, it is deeply imbued in ruangrupa’s everyday practice and is a summary of our methods and values thus far. As a collective, we share resources, time, energy, funds, ideas, and knowledge among ourselves and others. We first developed the concept of lumbung five years ago, when we formed a collective of collectives with Serrum and Grafis Huru Hara, an initiative that through ongoing trial and error finds its latest iteration in Gudskul, our collective-run space and school in South Jakarta.


lumbung as an artistic and economic model will be practiced alongside its values of collectivity, generosity, humor, trust, independence, curiosity, endurance, regeneration, transparency, sufficiency, and connectivity between a multiplicity of locales, rendering them planetary as a result.

Through the framework of documenta fifteen, the Artistic Team approaches collectives, organizations, and institutions from around the world to gather and develop lumbung together. Each of the lumbung members will contribute to and receive diverse resources, such as time, space, money, knowledge, care, and art. We are extremely eager to work with and learn from other concepts and models of regeneration, education, and economy—other lumbungs practiced in different parts of the world.

lumbung with regard to the current situation

Due to the critical situation that has unfolded over the last few months, we shifted the use of our collective space Gudskul into a mini factory manufacturing much-needed face masks and hazmat suits to be distributed directly to medical workers in hospitals and clinics on different islands in Indonesia. We partnered up with various local initiatives and sourced donations in the process.

Through our collective experience under COVID-19, we reflected again on the value of solidarity. We need to go even further in fostering new networking models and questioning how to make small to medium art’s initiatives models sustainable. Consequently, we need to rethink further what artistic practice and event making is, what they could and should be.

If operating on a large scale means losing relevance in respect to our own practices, should we degrow? What does it mean to be locally and globally rooted today, and what potential does locality currently hold? What does materiality mean in contemporary art today for art and artists? How should we use space to redefine our relationship with the public? In considering regenerative economies, we should examine and develop new strategies, parallel to well-tested practices.

When ruangrupa initially proposed the idea of lumbung as a collectively governed pot of surplus resources, it was speculating artistically on how to build such a common structure over time. Under the current conditions, the concept of lumbung, and its values of solidarity and collectivity, has never been more vital and relevant. In moments when so many are experiencing the inequality and injustice of the current systems, lumbung can act as an effort (alongside so many others) to show that things can be done differently. We are therefore not suspending lumbung, but accelerating it.

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