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English ‘Giant Octopus’ Campaigns for Marine Conservation
I Ketut Putrayasa

‘Giant Octopus’ Campaigns for Marine Conservation

Oleh Ayu Sulistyowati
I Ketut Putrayasa

From the end of May to Sunday (9/6/2019), Berawa Beach has inhabited by an “alien creature” – a giant octopus that has attracted many visitors to the beach in Tibubeneng village of North Kuta, Badung, Bali. The octopus’ tentacles are 300 meters long and it stands at a height of 20 meters.

The installation art, titled Octopus Giant by its creator, I Ketut Putrayasa, 38, helps improve pubic awareness about the importance of protecting coastal areas, particularly coastal seas. “If the octopus rises to the surface, it means that the sea has become very polluted, especially by plastic waste,” Putrayasa said on Monday (3/6/2019) at the Gallery Rich Stone Art and Space in Badung.

Putrayasa was upset to see that a lot of marine animals had died because of plastic waste. Born on the Berawa coast, he was disturbed and felt challenged to do something. He chose the octopus as the icon of the marine campaign. “The head of the octopus resembles the human brain. I wanted to improve our awareness on the importance of preserving the marine ecology,” he said.

Putrayasa decided to use bamboo to build the artwork carrying this environmental mission. “I used 30,000 pieces of bamboo that were woven by 200 craftsmen,” said the alumni of the Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) Denpasar.

The installation art was created to coincide with the Berawa Art Festival, initiated by the local villagers.

The village of Tibubeneng, where Putrayasa lives, asked him to create an artwork that could be the icon of the festival. Putrayasa responded to the request by building a giant octopus, which also served as the festival’s main stage. That way, said Putrayasa, the installation art functioned to generate a direct audience response.

Putrayasa created another octopus installation several years ago that served as the entrance gate to the same festival. The bamboo octopus was called Gate of Entrans. Again, the octopus was an iconic structure that channeled its creator’s passion for saving the marine environment.

Manifesto of awareness

Putrayasa’s latest giant octopus follows the theme of the festival, “Deep Blue Spirit”. The giant installation is intended to stand as a “manifesto of awareness” for raising awareness about the sea. The octopus is a visual metaphor of human consciousness in developing the archipelago’s marine narrative.

According to Putrayasa, installation art has too long been restricted to indoor spaces. “I think outdoor installations are being forgotten. In fact, the beautiful Balinese landscape has been neglected as the backdrop for natural art installations. Everything is placed in indoor exhibitions,” he said.

Putrayasa wants to transform the impression of the marine creature. In addition to its head, which resembles the shape of a human brain, the octopus is also known to be intelligent. “The tentacles are also very artistic and follows the shape of ocean waves,” he said. He made the artwork huge to bring out its power. “People feel provoked and remember the big octopus,” said the artist.

He researched various literatures to realize his messages in the form of a giant octopus. He reached several conclusions, including the fact that the maritime issue was a very broad and vital matter in the context of the Indonesian state and civilization.

In Balinese cosmology, he said, segara or the sea occupied a very vital position as a source of culture and spirituality. The sea was an essential part of the Balinese cosmology in maintaining constant harmony in the hita karana relationship between humans and nature. This relationship became a deep spiritual consciousness, giving birth to a local wisdom that is formalized in the dresta desa mawecara, a kind of customary regulation that guides cultural practices.

For Putrayasa, who holds a postgraduate degree from ISI Denpasar, the local wisdom of maritime culture is cultural capital that could be the antidote to social destruction. In fact, environmental cases have caused a variety of social tensions. He said that the situation in Bali was complex, between the daily rituals, natural exploitation and various interests that could potentially cause social disharmony.

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He had thus tried to develop a strong narrative through outdoor installation art and direct engagement with those around him. He imagined building a super giant installation that could be a site of public learning. Only, it was not easy.

“Yes, outdoor installation art that promotes love for the environment, such as the ocean, are still not considered as investments for education. It is no small cost,” said Putrayasa. “So yes, I understood that it would not be easy to realize all these dreams in an instant,” he said.

The Karang Taruna village youth group raised funds for the construction of the giant octopus, realizing that it would be difficult for the giant installation and its messages of conservation to penetrate the bureaucracy and gain funding.

Putrayasa said he would continue to create giant installations with contextual values that raised public awareness and sensitivity about marine issues through a cultural approach. “Because, in fact, the contextual value of a work lies in its power to stimulate positive impacts around it, like social, economic, moral and political impacts. And my journey is not yet over in mutually and wisely learning about our coasts and nature,” he said.


I Ketut Putrayasa

Born: Badung, May 15, 1981

Wife: Christiana Measari

Child: I Gede Narendra Adyaputra

Education: Master, ISI Denpasar; Bachelor, PSSRD Udayana University and ISI Denpasar

Awards: Indonesia Museum of Records (Muri), First Installation Art in Indonesia, Octopus Giant; ISI Denpasar, Best Artwork 2014, Metaphor of Balinese Women in Modern Era

Activity: Owner of Gallery Rich Stone Art and Space, Umualas, Badung

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