If you live in or around Jakarta, no doubt you’ve seen examples of street art like this pictured above. With bold and striking features, most often painted in monochrome and regularly featuring the iconic circular Squid Monster (*Cumi-Cumi) symbol, the artwork of Jakarta- based street artist, Darbotz is some of this city’s most recognisable urban art.
Beginning his artistic ‘career’ in the mid 1990’s and accompanied by his school gang, Darbotz graffitied walls, buses and even enemy school areas. However Darbotz’ career took a more formal path during the period of 2000-2004 when he developed his trademark style and his Squid Monster was born. Today Darbotz is one of Indonesia’s most famous graffiti and street artists who, like British artist, filmmaker and provocateur Banksy, prefers to remain anonymous.
Today we introduce you to Darbotz (well, we share his interview anyway!) To compile this interview, we have enjoyed many virtual conversations with the Man- but to date, have not met Darbotz in person. Of course, we look forward to making his formal acquaintance in the near future, but in the meantime, it has been fascinating getting to know the person behind some of Jakarta’s most celebrated street art. We hope you enjoy the experience as much as we have.
A Journey Bespoke: Greetings and salutations Darbotz. First question – Where are you originally from?
Darbotz: I’m from Jakarta, born and raised.
AJB: What is your official job title?
AJB: As I’m not too familiar with the terminology, could you please clarify – Is it correct to call your art, “graffiti”?
D: You can call it Urban Art, Street Art, Graffiti, anything!
AJB: How did you start?
D: I started when I was in High School, tagging my school gang around the streets of Jakarta.
AJB: Who taught you to draw?
D: My school Art teacher.
AJB: Why do you go by the name, Darbotz?
D: This has been my nickname since Junior High School.
AJB: Why predominantly black and white?
D: There are already too many colours on the street, I need something to neutralise all this colour. In the streets of Jakarta, there’s lots of colour with billboards, neon signs and advertising materials. Lately though, I have introduced some colour into my art, but monochrome remains my signature.
AJB: Why the *Cumi-Cumi as your ‘trademark’ symbol?
D: It’s the early form of my Monster symbol. I developed this symbol to represent me. I liked the idea of using a squid as it is like a small monster – it has many tentacles like the streets of Jakarta.
AJB: Are there consistent message/s in your work?
D: The Squid Monster is almost always in my work. It is my alter ego and it symbolises me. I am the Monster – this city makes me a monster. Sometimes I love it – sometimes it makes me feel crazy.
AJB: Do you have to work under the cover of darkness when working on your street art?
D: At first yeah, but now I can paint in day light. Although street art is illegal, the Police often leave my work as it is increasingly being recognised as genuine artwork.
AJB: What’s your favourite Darbotz artwork so far…
D: Definitely the work I did at the Artotel in Jakarta’s CBD area.
AJB: How far afield can your work be found?
D: Mostly in the south of Jakarta but also throughout other parts of Indonesia, as well as Malaysia, Australia, France and I’m currently working on a project in Hong Kong.
AJB: Why do you choose to keep your identity a mystery?
D: A few reasons but mainly because I’d rather people see my work than my face. It’s fun to make people curious! As my work is highly recognisable, people recognise the art – they don’t need to be distracted by me.
AJB: What’s the Jakarta graffiti scene like?
D: It’s getting big, and kids nowadays are more into vandalism.
AJB: Any current major works you’re undertaking?
D: I have a current collaboration with G-Shock (a line of outdoor- oriented watches manufactured by Casio) and just this week I am in Hong Kong working on the project, Hong Kong Walls
AJB: I remember in 2016 Liz and I both visited your “Monster In Disguise” Solo Exhibition at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Jakarta’s South Central Business District (SCBD). It was amazing! Do you have any current or upcoming exhibitions/projects where our Followers can check out your work?
D: Hmm at this stage, not this year – but keep an eye on my Instagram for any developments.
AJB: Who/what inspires you?
D: Big city life including my home city of Jakarta.
AJB: Can you tell us something about you that we may find surprising?
D: I collect Hot Wheels cars.
AJB: 3 words to describe ‘Your Jakarta’
D: Chaos, Love, Jungle.
AJB: Where are the best places to eat in Jakarta?
D: I have three suggestions: Ketoprak Ciragil in the Senopati area, Siomay Theresia in the Menteng area and in the Melawai area of Kebayoran Baru I recommend Nasi Goreng Kebuli Apjay
AJB: Where do you go to relax & unwind?
D: My home, or Bali.
AJB: Can you please share your best places in Jakarta for Art
D: There are many, but my Top 3 would be:
1. Gudang Sarinah – Gudang Sarinah is an art and cultural platform founded in 2015 by communities in Jakarta. It is located at the Gudang Sarinah Warehouse in South Jakarta.
2. Garduhouse – Gardu House is an Art Space, Creative Lab, Graffiti Store & Supply located in South Jakarta ..
.. and the third suggestion is the streets of Jakarta.
AJB: And finally, how can our Readers follow your work and/or contact you?
D: Definitely through my Instagram account: Darbotz Instagram
Did You Know? Darbotz is one of the founders of Tembok bomber, one of the biggest street art and graffiti communities in Indonesia.
Our DARBOTZ CHALLENGE For You!
It’s school holiday season and if you’re around Jakarta (or elsewhere in Indonesia for that matter), keep an eye out for examples of Darbotz’ art! Take a photo and post it on Instagram and then tag us as well! We’d love to know how far afield we can trace Darbotz’ foot print! Of course if you’d prefer, just let us know where you found his work in the Comments section below.
Thanks for joining us with today’s AJB blog post. We hope you enjoyed it! If you’re keen to read more stories relating to Indonesian artists, here are a few we’re sure you’ll like. Happy reading 🙂
An afternoon with Jakarta-based artist Ruth Marbun
Meet Bregas Harrimardoyo of Pekunden Pottery
Introducing local artist Dewi Tobing
*Kenalkan – Let me introduce
*Cumi-cumi – squid
Words: Jo Stevens Photography: Darbotz and a Journey Bespoke