Gilbert Grace is the artist leading the Hemp Initiative, who first suggested the idea of realising Ian Milliss’ poster artwork “Welcome To Kandos” as a real world enterprise – “making the fantasy a reality”. He recently became acquainted with Singgih Susilo Kartono, an Indonesian Designer who is also using the allure of the bamboo bicycle to drive social justice and sustainability at the village scale.
I had the good fortune to be introduced to Java-based designer Singgih Kartono and his partner Tri Wahyuni through Ali Crosby. Ali is the Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at UTS and founding member of Frontyard Projects, and Indonesian Design Futures. Earlier this year I had a research inaugural residency in ‘Get a Room’ at Frontyard Projects and, in between tidying up my MFA thesis and new research topics, I worked with Ali and Clare Cooper putting together the permaculture garden and pallet garden. We discussed all manner of future projects but especially Cementa 17, and my proposal to realise Ian Milliss’s “Welcome To Kandos” poster from Cementa 13.
Since I proposed realising Milliss’s propositions to Alex Wisser, Co-Director of Cementa, as my project for Cementa 17, the project has developed a life of its own as Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation (KSCA). My initial point of engagement with Ian’s poster was the bicycle, a plywood framed number I recalled seeing in one or other of the online design newsletters I subscribe to.
My research led me to bamboo bikes, which have been around since the late 1800s. The precursor of all modern bicycles is the timber draisienne of the 1820s, the original ‘balance bike’. The frames of modern bamboo bikes are held together by hemp and eco-epoxy (plant based), a design perfected by frame-builder Craig Calfee in the 1990s. It was obvious that the hemp and bamboo combination was a perfect starting point for my residency, KSCA’s first land-based art residency. So we set about obtaining the right to legally grow a hemp crop with a long term aim of “growing-our-own” bicycles.
A few weeks ago I assembled a prototype bamboo/hemp bicycle, using a kit bought online. It attracts a lot of attention and I am constantly engaged in conversation as to its origin and manufacture.
Singgih’s design practice concentrates on heirloom quality, personal items. He sources materials locally, to be sold and/or used locally. Rather than exporting products, Singgih exports his design ethos and skills. He is establishing a network of like-minded individuals to work collectively to establish business ventures that provide local employment and satisfy local consumer needs.
In his own village in Central Java, Singgih has built a live-in design hub, training and employing locals. Now he is spearheading a movement called the International Conference on Village Revitalisation. This model offers real hope of developing skills and resources for sustainable resilience combining retro-innovation and cultural adaptation.
Singgih is in Sydney this week, leading the Bamboo Bike Hack at Makerspace in Marrickville, I will be assisting him and providing my own input. Yesterday (Thursday) Singgih and I did a tour of the Sydney Green Ring. The ring is an ongoing project to promote a network of off-road cycle and walking paths through Sydney’s riparian, green space.
Singgih inspecting bamboo at Callan Park, Rozelle, on the Green Ring circuit.
Another Futureland 2 participant Kirsten Bradley, has experienced Singgih’s hospitality and ingenuity and written about tempe and revitilisation, the food not the place – although the place, on the Cooks River, is also undergoing a revitalisation of its own, as Singgih and I found out on our recent tour.
For more about Singgih Kartono and his various projects please go to:
Spedagi Ato – Yamaguchi, Japan (video)