Vincent Rumahloine
Rakarsa Collective

The Song of the Wind residency has become a valuable reflection to Rakarsa as an art collective and facilitator to artistic practices. In our proposal, we sought an opportunity to extend our previous collaborative project with Sedekah Benih and the ladies of Masagi community in our hometown, ‘The Power of Emak-Emak’ (the power of the mothers). This project addresses the role of women in society as transformative agents. Exploring South Korean coastal areas, we discovered that women engage in farming—an idea that sparked the potential for a cross-cultural exchange between women in Indonesia and South Korea. However, when our team member Vincent Rumahloine arrived and experienced the environment firsthand, it became apparent that the situation had much to teach us about the subtle sharing of tacit knowledge, as seen through the tradition of seaweed farming in Wando.

Seaweed farming is a demanding task, not just as a collective but also for individuals. It is physically demanding, fast-paced, and requires strong teamwork. We particularly aimed to understand the significant role of a flexible hierarchy and command roles in seaweed farming. During fieldwork, Vincent observed the bosses directly involving themselves, setting examples, managing the work tension by boosting morale through on-field management, and working alongside others. This experience made us rethink the role of a wise leader. Furthermore, we observed different roles at various times and in diverse contexts, all within the framework of leadership. They can position themselves as exemplary workers in the field and be friendly companions during rest times. To us, this was one of the most effective ways of transferring tacit knowledge to others.

However, the reality in the field proves that the tacit knowledge of seaweed farming is likely to be difficult to pass on to the next generation. Vincent found that he rarely encountered young South Koreans working as seaweed farmers. The presence of young people has eventually been replaced by the skills of immigrants. While immigrants can learn to work effectively, it is debatable whether the success of intergenerational knowledge sharing requires emotional ownership. This way, the skill of seaweed farming, or basically any traditional and tacit knowledge, holds more value than just economic and transactional aspects. We understood that this is not just a specific case in Wando, but also in many places across the world where modernization and urbanization attract young people to leave their place of origin. This could be another worth exploring subject matter to discuss about the future of traditional occupations.  

As a residency participant, it is also important to mention of the model of the residency. The first one is about thelanguage barrier. We were aware when we applied that there would be a language barrier. We thought we could depend on smartphone applications to converse with the local people, but it could only serve us through simple conversations. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get to gain a deeper understanding of the local people’s articulation of their daily activities. While several artists and researchers can work viscerally through senses, for some conversations could be the only way to move their investigation further. We consider the role of translator extremely significant in helping the work of foreign artists, most importantly when meeting the locals.

The second one is the residency space. While our collective is accustomed to collaborative work and shared spaces, we recognize that cohabiting in the same space could present both advantages and challenges. Rather than categorizing this dynamic as strictly positive or negative, we view it as an opportunity for participants to engage in reflective moments, reimagining the role of space in artistic practices. However, we also acknowledge that certain artistic disciplines might require personal and isolated environments. As we participate in this international program, the balance between personal and collective space emerges as a delicate consideration for our future programs.
We have been fortunate to join this residency. Being in Wando, engaging with the locals, cohabiting with other artists and researchers, physical labors in the coastal area, having multiple discussions through Zoom calls, led us to conclude this experience as an open question to tacit knowledge. How can artistic practices and initiatives play a role in sustaining a tacit knowledge? Alongside artists, researchers, who else needs to be involved? How can we collaborate? What forms are possible for all to understand?

Departure: Jakarta, May 1st, 2023.
Soekarno Hatta International Airport

I encountered a group of young men sporting yellow jackets emblazoned with the phrase "GTOG KOREA" on the same flight I took to Korea. To keep it brief, his name is Hutomo, and he is originally from Bojonegoro, Indonesia.  At 32, Hutomo is a proud father of two daughters. He is on a two-year journey to work on a fishing boat in Korea.

According to Hutomo, the "GTOG KOREA" program is highly regarded, especially in comparison to previous similar programs. Unlike previous programs, this one operates without intermediaries, requiring individuals to handle all the necessary arrangements personally with the assistance of the Indonesian government. The preparation and travel expenses to Korea amount to approximately 18 million rupiahs. Presently, numerous Indonesian migrant workers are opting for Korea as their preferred work destination due to this program, primarily because of the attractive salary packages offered, which surpass those of other countries.

According to Hutomo, this year witnessed 43,000 applicants for work in Korea. Out of this number, approximately 30,000 successfully passed the administrative requirements, but only 10,000 individuals were selected for the first batch. The primary criterion for acceptance into this program is the ability to speak Korean. For those without prior experience, the starting salary in Korea is approximately 2.5 million won.

Throughout my residency program, I had the invaluable opportunity to delve into the intricacies of various employment pathways available in Korea. As I immersed myself in the local culture and engaged with fellow participants, I discovered that two primary routes have emerged as popular options for individuals seeking work in the country. These routes include the GTOG program, organized jointly by the Indonesian and Korean governments, and the BTOB program, facilitated by private entities in Indonesia and Korea.

The GTOG program, an acronym for "Government-to-Government," represents a collaborative effort between the Indonesian and Korean governments to streamline the overseas employment process. This program has gained considerable traction due to its structured approach, ensuring transparency and reliability throughout employment. Under the GTOG program, strict regulations and guidelines are put in place to safeguard the rights and well-being of Indonesian workers while simultaneously meeting the labor demands of various sectors in Korea.

On the other hand, the BTOB program, which stands for "Business-to-Business," operates through the involvement of private parties in both Indonesia and Korea. Unlike the GTOG program, the BTOB program is not directly governed by the respective governments but relies on private entities' partnerships and cooperation. As a result, the BTOB program offers a slightly different set of advantages and considerations.

During conversations with an Indonesian worker I met in the picturesque Wando area, I gained valuable insights into the differences between the two programs. According to this worker, who had first-hand experience in the Korean employment sector, the BTOB program is known for its expedited process, enabling individuals to secure employment opportunities more quickly than through the GTOG program. However, it is important to note that the convenience of a faster process comes at a higher cost, as private entities often charge additional fees for their services. Despite the higher financial investment required, many individuals find the accelerated timeline offered by the BTOB program highly appealing, especially those who are eager to start working in Korea as soon as possible.

Moreover, it became evident during our conversation that many Indonesian workers pursuing employment opportunities in Korea, regardless of the program chosen, tend to gravitate towards the fisheries sector. With its vast coastlines and rich marine resources, Korea presents abundant opportunities in the fishing industry. Many Indonesian workers find employment aboard fishing vessels, where they contribute their skills and expertise to support the country's thriving fishing sector. This emphasis on the fisheries sector within the Indonesian workforce can be attributed to various factors, including the geographical proximity of the two countries and the demand for skilled labor in this particular domain.

In conclusion, my residency program in Korea provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the two primary routes available for employment: the GTOG program established by the Indonesian and Korean governments and the BTOB program facilitated by private entities. While the GTOG program ensures a structured and regulated process, the BTOB program offers a faster timeline, albeit at a higher cost. Regardless of the chosen program, it is noteworthy that many Indonesian workers find rewarding opportunities within the fisheries sector, actively contributing to the growth and development of the industry in Korea.

Figure 1. GTOG Korea, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Living in Yaksan

Jeollanam-do refers to Jeollanam Province.
Wando-eup refers to the City of Wando.
Wando-gun refers to Wando County.
Yaksan-myeon refers to Yaksan village

Yaksan, located in the southern region of South Korea, is approximately a six-hour car ride from Seoul. The picturesque journey allows travelers to witness diverse landscapes, transitioning from urban areas to charming countryside vistas. The nearest city to Yaksan is Wando, around 40 minutes away, providing convenient access to amenities and services. Rest stops allow stretching, exploring attractions, and sampling local delicacies. Despite the duration, the captivating natural beauty of Yaksan and tranquil ambiance make the journey worthwhile.

The Yaksan-myeon, one of the seaweed-producing areas, serves as the location for the Social Collaborative Art Program - Song of the Wind residency program. This region in Korea has gained recognition as a significant producer of seaweed, accounting for approximately 70 percent of the national demand. Seaweed holds great importance as a key ingredient in Korean cuisine.

The majority of Yaksan-myeon residents are engaged in seaweed farming. Despite having a small population of approximately 2,246 people, the atmosphere in the village is serene and tranquil. The village's buildings and facilities show that it does not conform to the typical image of a fishing or farming village in Indonesia.

Figure 2. Yaksan #1, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Figure 3. Yaksan #2, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Figure 4. Yaksan #3, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Upon my arrival on May 2nd, along with other artists and researchers, we were accommodated in a converted community center serving as a residency space. The kelp harvest season in this area begins on May 15th and lasts two months. As we explore the surroundings of Yaksan village, we notice numerous expansive fields adorned with green nets. These fields are designated for drying seaweed, locally known as kelp.

Figure 5. Window of Residency’s House. 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Figure 6. Christine’s working spot, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Figure 7. Everywhere Kelp, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Our first interaction with the local community at our residency home was heart-warming. We were warmly welcomed by two women who kindly prepared delightful sashimi from flat fish and kimchi pancakes. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with the locals and experience their hospitality firsthand. During the residency program, an intriguing discovery unfolded during my experiences. I learned that two remarkable women I had the pleasure of meeting were affiliated with the esteemed Haeum group. This distinguished collective actively promotes the arts and education within its community. It was particularly fascinating to discover that both women hailed from the enchanting village of Gogeum. Their involvement in the Haeum group highlighted the village's rich cultural heritage and commitment to nurturing creativity and learning. Interacting with these individuals offered unique insights into the vibrant arts scene and educational initiatives flourishing within Gogeum, further enriching my residency experience.

Figure 8. Dinner with Mothers #1, 2023. Vincent Rumahloine

Figure 9. Dinner with Mothers #2, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Figure 10. Flat Fish, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Video 1. Flat Fish Sashimi Prep, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

A few days later, during a leisurely stroll, I had the delightful opportunity to meet Mrs. Kim. She graciously invited me to join her for a cup of coffee. Mrs. Kim introduced me to Maxim Coffee, a well-liked brand of instant coffee favored by many mothers in the region. Despite the language barrier, our coffee session was a heartwarming experience, as we shared a connection that transcended words. It was a special moment of connection and camaraderie, even without fluent communication.

Figure 11. Maxim Ajumma. 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

During my residency program, I witnessed a captivating incident involving Christine Mackey, a participant from Ireland. Fascinated by the opportunity to connect with the local community, Christine engaged with the women in our neighborhood. She brought potato seeds from Ireland and began planting them with the women before our house. Despite potential communication barriers, their shared enthusiasm allowed them to collaborate harmoniously.

Figure 12. Local Mothers, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

It was remarkable to observe how this simple act of planting potatoes transcended language barriers, fostering a sense of unity and cooperation. As time passed, I observed the potato plants flourishing and growing into healthy, robust specimens. When I bid farewell to the residency, the potatoes seemed ready for a bountiful harvest in a month or two.

This incident demonstrated the universal language of agriculture and the joy of communal work and highlighted the power of shared experiences and connections. Christine's initiative brought a piece of her Irish heritage to our residency and created a beautiful bond between herself and the local women, leaving a lasting impression on all who witnessed this collaborative effort.

As part of the residency program, artists are required to participate in the kelp harvest season. While awaiting the start of the harvest, we decided to explore the Yaksan area, searching for the nearest shopping location and a place with reliable Wi-Fi since our residency was experiencing connectivity issues. Our quest led us to a café near Dangmok ferry port called Fishermen's Room, which was overseen by a young man named Hojin, who also happened to be the café's owner.

Fishermen's Room offered a variety of beverages, including coffee, tea, snacks, homemade processed seaweed, and delectable ice cream. The café boasted a picturesque view of the ocean. Hojin informed us that the kelp season typically begins in May and lasts until July, when all the kelp farmers, known as Eobu, dedicate their efforts to the harvest. He shared that he starts working as early as three in the morning, then takes care of the café from 9 a.m. until the afternoon. Despite his busy schedule, Hojin took great pride in running the café and providing a serene oasis for visitors.

Figure 13. Fishermenroom Café, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

The initially tranquil ambiance of Yaksan village underwent a gradual transformation as the streets became increasingly vibrant. On May 14, an energetic buzz emanated from the neighboring residence, indicating the arrival of migrant workers who would assist the local seaweed farmers during the upcoming harvest season, spanning the next two months. The streets became adorned with numerous foreigners preparing themselves for the season, creating a lively atmosphere throughout the village.

In Yaksan, obtaining daily necessities is convenient, with three viable options available. Firstly, residents can visit the supermarket in the heart of Yaksan, which is a mere 10-minute bus ride away. Secondly, a larger supermarket in Gogeum is accessible within approximately 20 minutes by bus. Lastly, individuals can venture to the supermarket in Wando town, a slightly longer journey of around 40 minutes by bus.

A daily bus service operates from Yaksan to Gogeum to facilitate transportation between these destinations and continues to Wando. The bus service commences around 5:30, ensuring early access for those requiring essential items. Regular bus services are available throughout the day until the final one at approximately 18:30, accommodating residents' various schedules. One notable aspect of utilizing the bus service is the flat fare system, which offers an economical solution for commuters. Regardless of the distance traveled, the fare remains a reasonable 1000 won, allowing residents to make frequent trips without significant financial strain.

This well-established bus service ensures that individuals residing in Yaksan have convenient access to different supermarkets, catering to their diverse shopping preferences. Whether it's the local supermarket within the town, the larger supermarket in Gogeum, or the bustling market in Wando, residents can rely on the efficient bus system to facilitate their daily needs.

Video 2. Shopping, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Farming Experience

Each artist participating in the residency program has been assigned a location to engage in the seaweed harvest actively. This allocation allows artists to immerse themselves in the local community and gain firsthand experience in the traditional practices and techniques of seaweed harvesting. By participating in the harvest at their designated locations, artists can develop a deeper understanding of the local culture and contribute to the collaborative spirit of the program.

Figure 14. Migrant Worker’s Room, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

The location where I am assigned to work is approximately a 10-minute drive from our residency. Harvesting activities are typically not carried out during cloudy or rainy weather conditions. Initially, my work was scheduled to commence on May 18th, but it was postponed to May 20th due to rainfall. I decided to relocate from the residency and move in with the seaweed farmer who employs me to be closer to the seaweed farming activities. I arrived at the seaweed farmer's house on the evening of May 18th, and I now reside next door to the farmer, who will guide and oversee my work during the harvest season.

I began my work on May 19th, preparing the land for drying the harvested seaweed. My initial task involved cleaning the warehouse, which will serve as the storage facility for the sun-dried seaweed. Afterward, I prepared the fields and set up nets to create designated drying areas for the seaweed. Additionally, I assisted in preparing the boats that would be utilized for the harvest.

Figure 15. The Field #1, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Figure 16. The Field #2, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

Figure 17. The Field #3, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

As the day progressed, we concluded our work by carefully lowering the first batch of harvested seaweed onto the drying areas, ready to be exposed to the sun. It was a rewarding and fulfilling day, marking the beginning of the seaweed harvest process. On the same day, two Vietnamese workers arrived to work alongside me. However, to our surprise, after just a few hours, they abruptly decided to leave and relocate to another location. The exact reason behind their sudden departure remains unknown to me.

On May 20th, my workday began bright and early at 4:30 am. My assigned task was to transport kelp and deliver it to the women responsible for its drying. Kelp is collected from the sea by both male and female supervisors who then transport it to the designated drying area. Alongside four other women, I was stationed at this drying area to receive and process the kelp.

Unloading kelp from the pickup truck proved challenging, requiring specific skills to handle the slippery and heavy load safely. Once unloaded, we were responsible for ensuring the kelp was properly delivered to the designated workers in charge of drying it. Interestingly, within my work environment, I was the only migrant worker, as the majority of the workforce consisted of local residents. This language barrier occasionally posed challenges, leading to confusion during work.

This experience was intriguing and physically demanding, as I was not accustomed to such strenuous labor. After approximately four hours of work, I decided to stop due to the increasing pain in my back. Recognizing the potential for injury if I continued, I prioritized my well-being and returned to the residency.

Once back home, I dedicated four days to rest, allowing my waist to recover from the strain. I actively try to avoid physical injuries sustained during work, which motivated my decision to prioritize self-care. Although the physical demands of the work proved challenging for me personally, the experience provided valuable insights. It allowed me to appreciate the hard work undertaken by those involved daily in this line of work.

Based on my experience working with Korean individuals at the kelp farm, I noticed distinct characteristics in the behavior of Korean bosses. Korean male bosses tend to exude a strong and firm demeanor, sometimes appearing rude, yet they also take the time to correct and guide us when they perceive mistakes or inappropriate actions. On the other hand, Korean female bosses exhibit a calmer approach at work. They focus on the harvesting tasks and take on the responsibility of cooking meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This creates a friendly and warm atmosphere during meal times or coffee breaks.

Figure 18. Lady Boss, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

I found this experience excellent for those seeking to work and prioritize making a livelihood, as my boss effectively teaches in a firm manner, allowing us to maintain focus and learn quickly. What's particularly noteworthy is that my boss is not simply someone who issues orders; instead, they actively work alongside us, demonstrating how tasks should be done before assigning them to us. This hands-on approach fosters a sense of teamwork and a better understanding of the work at hand.

Video 3. Collecting Dry Kelp, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine


Video 4. Yaksan Rain, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

The Yaksan region and several other locations become abuzz with the kelp harvest from May to June. All kelp farmers dedicate their time from 4:30 am to 6:00 pm to harvesting and drying kelp. The sun plays a vital role in this process, providing the natural heat required for efficient drying. The scorching heat and long daylight hours of the sun are of utmost importance during the harvest season.

Farmers can complete up to two rounds of drying on a sunny day. Kelp that has been drying under the morning sun is collected around noon, after a break for lunch, and replaced with freshly harvested, moist kelp. However, farmers have an alternative option in unfavorable weather conditions: a large electric dryer. Immediate drying is crucial for freshly harvested kelp to prevent excess moisture or prolonged drying time, as this can lead to the development of unsightly white spots that may negatively impact the selling price. An optimal kelp is perfectly dry, devoid of any white stains.

The farmers' commitment to timely and effective drying techniques underscores their dedication to preserving the quality of the kelp harvest. They rely on the power of nature, harnessing the sun's energy and carefully monitoring the drying process to ensure a desirable end product. The ability to adapt to weather conditions and employ appropriate drying methods showcases their expertise and understanding of kelp cultivation.

On sunny days, the atmosphere in Yaksan becomes vibrant and lively as numerous activities revolve around the kelp harvest. However, the mood can drastically change with the arrival of rain. When rain occurs, the harvesting process is practically halted, and many farmers shift their focus to work in the warehouses. Some farmers even give their workers the day off in anticipation of rainy weather. Throughout my stay in Yaksan, there were approximately three or four instances of rain. It is important to note that the rainfall in this region differs from that in Indonesia, as it can persist for two to three consecutive days. This prolonged rain duration contributes to a significant shift in the village's atmosphere.

Another intriguing aspect is the occasional inaccuracy of weather forecasts. Initially, the weather forecast seemed reasonably reliable upon our arrival. However, as time went on, the accuracy of the forecasts diminished. This inconsistency can confuse some farmers, as I observed variations in kelp sunbathing practices. While some fields adhered to the forecast and refrained from drying the kelp, others continued with the process despite the forecast predicting rainfall. This disparity adds an element of uncertainty to the kelp harvest.

According to Gatari Surya Kusuma, our fellow resident, she said the price of kelp this year is not favorable. This aligns with the news I read in the newspaper, highlighting the higher-than-usual and faster rainfall this year, indicating its potential impact on the kelp harvest. These factors, including unpredictable weather patterns and their repercussions on crop yield and market prices, pose challenges for farmers navigating the kelp industry.


Video 5. Thai Truck, 2023, Vincent Rumahloine

In the Yaksan area, many migrant workers are originally from Thailand. This piqued my curiosity about their activities outside of working with the kelp farmers. Through observation and conversations with Gatari, I discovered that some of these workers reside in their employers' houses while others choose to live in the city. Those living in Gogeum or Wando rely on a convenient shuttle bus service to commute to Yaksan in the mornings and return in the afternoons. These workers gather daily at a designated pick-up point near the pier, approximately 200 meters from our location.

As I continued to observe the daily routines of these Thai migrant workers, I was introduced to an intriguing phenomenon known as the "Thai Truck." These trucks serve as mobile shops, offering a variety of essential goods, including clothing, electronics, medicines, and, most importantly, food. Approximately 80 percent of the goods sold on these trucks are imported from Thailand. Several times a week, usually between 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, these Thai Trucks make their way to Yaksan and park near the pick-up points frequented by the migrant workers.

The presence of Thai Trucks provides a convenient and accessible means for the migrant workers to access daily necessities, reminding them of home with the availability of Thai-imported goods. This initiative ensures that these workers can conveniently procure essential items without traveling to distant locations or relying solely on local markets. The Thai Trucks serve as a cultural bridge, connecting the Thai migrant workers to familiar products and tastes and creating a sense of comfort and familiarity in their daily lives.

This unique integration of Thai culture and commerce not only meets the needs of the migrant workers but also enriches the local community by diversifying the available goods and introducing new experiences. The Thai Trucks' regular visits to the pick-up points have become an anticipated event, fostering a sense of community and shared cultural experiences among the migrant workers and the residents of Yaksan alike.

The significant presence of workers from Thailand has given rise to a fascinating phenomenon known as the "third space" This space serves as a meeting point and a venue for interactions among the workers, providing a means to alleviate homesickness through the availability of food ingredients originating from Thailand. The Thai truck plays a pivotal role in this phenomenon, representing an innovative endeavor to cater to the needs of the Thai workers in the Yaksan area. The proprietor of the Thai truck I encountered was a Korean individual who had married a Thai woman. Together, they established this business venture, traveling to trade and serve the Thai community.

This phenomenon creates a distinct atmosphere, different from the work environment. In the vicinity of the Thai truck, we all become consumers, engaging in shopping activities. It is intriguing to observe the varied facial expressions displayed by the workers as they shop. Personally, I find the presence of the Thai truck immensely helpful, as it allows me to access familiar cooking spices used in Indonesian cuisine. The Thai truck represents an essential and clever solution, fostering harmony among the Thai migrant workers in the Yaksan area.

The Thai truck serves as more than just a place to purchase goods; it acts as a connection to the workers' cultural roots, offering a taste of home and providing a sense of comfort and familiarity. By catering to their specific needs and preferences, the Thai truck becomes a valuable resource in maintaining the well-being and sense of community among the Thai workers. This innovative approach demonstrates the adaptability and creativity of individuals in responding to the presence of a diverse migrant workforce, ultimately enhancing the overall harmony and integration within the Yaksan community.

Rakarsa Collective/Foundation is an arts & culture non-profit organization founded in Bandung, Indonesia in 2018. Rakarsa aims to broaden artistic practices’ possibilities, potentials, and roles in distributing knowledge to the broader public. We host and foster knowledge-sharing networks oriented to informal art education, cultural exchange, and multi/transdisciplinary practices through exhibitions, public events, and educational initiatives.

Vincent Rumahloine (1984~ ), a member of the Rakarsa Collective, is a contemporary artist in Bandung. His work mainly revolves around people: from social issues, traditional values, human relations, and collective memories to build a connection between art, science, and communities. For his artistic practice, he works closely with different groups within the community, such as mothers and children, to address critical issues and collaborate to solve their problems. His work bridges societal gaps by adding a twist of uncanniness and using artistic strategies to get closer to the experiences and lives of (non-art-minded) others.