What is your research all about and what is the creative city concept?
Lenny Martini: My research investigates the dynamic interaction between knowledge community and the creative city concept in Bandung, Indonesia. I chose Bandung as the research area to offer empirical insights into a unique juxtaposition between the creative city as an imported top-down development approach and the bottom-up local interpretations of creativity being cultivated by the knowledge communities in Bandung. Theoretically, I see the creative city concept as a global circulating concept that is positioned at the center of three overlapping discourses: creative urban planning; creative economy; and cultural production and policy. Empirically, most of the implementation of the creative city concept is being executed through a top-down approach, enforcing ‘creativity’ in the city through the construction of symbolic artifacts such as city icons, as well as development policies and substantial allocation for the creative economy sectors.
Focusing on the city of Bandung, Indonesia, in which way can someone experience Bandung as a creative city?
Lenny Martini: My findings show that historically, the repertoires of creativity in Bandung are comprised of six prevailing features; namely, an entertainment culture; intellectual inquiry; the struggle of the oppressed, a counterculture, entrepreneurialism, and development. Additionally, the social and discursive construction of the creative city concept in Bandung is mainly influenced by Komunitas, the local form of the knowledge community. Dozens of Komunitas in Bandung organize creative knowledge sharing events that are free and open to the public, for example, seminars, discussions, crafting workshops, movie screenings, music performances, green bazaars and guided walking tours. By joining these events, one can experience creativity in Bandung through various forms beyond the city icons and touristic venues.
What has been the most surprising/ most innovative outcome thus far?
Lenny Martini: For me, the most unpredicted finding is the fact that the creative city concept in Bandung functions as a boundary concept for two contrasting response. Before the research, I assumed that the success of the creative city concept implementation in Bandung was the result of a good collaboration among the four different knowledge elites (the academicians, Bandung municipality, business companies, and the knowledge community). It turns out that the evidence that I compiled reveals real conflicts among and within the actors. On one side, the creative city concept has successfully merged the parties who are using the concept to increase or maintain their power in the society. On the other hand, the creative city concept also unites those who struggle to disrupt existing power relations caused by the implementation of this concept (and other urban development gimmicks) in Bandung. Both parties engaged in discourse wars in the virtual world, but because of the cultural characteristic of the people, are not able to bring the conflict into the bigger arena of real urban life in Bandung.
Which practical use does your work have? Are you able to apply the creative city concept, as realized in Bandung, on other cities?
Lenny Martini: Based on my research findings and the ten principles of creative city declared by the Indonesian Creative City Network in 2015, I developed a set of creative city indicators. I did this by making detailed translations of each of the ten principles categorized by four creative processes: inspiration, creation, appreciation, and conservation. In the indicators, I try to (as much as possible) include not only creative programs from the government but also creative initiatives from the grass-root movements. These indicators have since been published in the form of a White Paper document by the Indonesian Creative City Network in December 2017. And I do hope that would assist cities in Indonesia to articulate their interpretations of the creative city concept and involve as many as possible city components and social actors. In doing so, I wish that Indonesian cities, which are aiming to be creative cities, could minimize the negative consequences of the implementation the concept.
What is your personal recommendation for living sustainably in daily life?
Lenny Martini: I would recommend that we look through our indigenous knowledge and local wisdom and try to apply the sustainable living practices which stem from them, as soon as possible, starting from the easiest ones. In my case, it would be like exploring the use of local herbs and natural ingredients for flavoring food, medicine, perfume, and to be used in coloring; plus responsibly producing and consuming goods and service. It would also be about trying to contribute more than we receive to the society.
The interview was conducted by Dominik Biergans