Archives, Memory and New Strategies of Impact in Recent Contemporary Art of Indonesia and Timor Leste

8 December 2021, 5:00:00 am

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Session Convenors

Dr Elly Kent, The Australian National University

Session Moderators

Dr Chaitanya Sambrani, ANU

Session Speakers

Dr Wulan Dirgantoro, School of Culture and Communication, the University of Melbourne
Dr Elly Kent, The Australian National University

Socially engaged art has been theorised as preoccupied with being socially useful. However, how artists strategise this utility is rarelt discussed. This panel will examine recent projects of artists working with socio-political issues in Indonesia and Timor Leste. Although art practice in this region has a long history of social-engagement, during the autocratic regime of the New Order in Indonesia (1966-1998) secrecy, impunity and ‘depoliticisation’ of public space followed human rights atrocities and illegal occupations/annexations in the region, limiting artists’ political engagement. After the fall of the New Order, some artists once again turned to overtly political positions and socially engaged practices. More recently, contemporary artists and curators have turned to historical and archival research, to examine not only past injustices, but also the complicated mechanisms of power, privilege and secrecy. With the declassification of intelligence records related to historical atrocities, and the digitization of colonial records, artists and other scholars now have much greater scope to work with the past and its relationship with the present and the future. In this panel we will examine a number of case studies, which demonstrate artistic and curatorial responses that employ interpretive and creative strategies to create affective works for diverse audiences.

PAPER #1
Eight Degrees Latitude of South: Timor-Leste in Southeast Asian Biennales

PRESENTER
Dr Wulan Dirgantoro, School of Culture and Communication, the University of Melbourne

Artistic and curatorial practices can be seen as testimonies of transformative movements – on the one hand, situated in specific site and region, and on the other crossing disciplines. This presentation will discuss recent curatorial strategies of Timor-Leste contemporary art outside its national boundaries. Timor-Leste achieved its formal independence in 2002 after two decades of Indonesian occupation (1976-1999). Alongside other nation-building efforts, artists and cultural activists have strived to rebuild their cultural identity in the aftermath of colonialism and violent occupation. The first case study, the Timor-Leste pavilion at the Yogyakarta Biennale XV (2019) will examine how a young generation of artists seek to create future memory through an engagement with cultural tradition in their aesthetic practices. The second case studies, the CAMSTL’s (Centro Audiovisual Max Stahl Timor-Leste) inclusion at the Singapore Biennale 2019 will discuss the ways archives are being utilised to examine the past injustices through artistic and curatorial lens. The comparison highlights the tension between ‘constructive forgetting’ and situated knowledges in the aesthetic practices from Timor-Leste. Furthermore, the presentation also addresses the complexities of power relations and equal networking in the international exchanges from two of the region’s most prominent biennales.

PAPER #2
Colonial subjects—archives, memory and history in contemporary Indonesian art

PRESENTER
Dr Elly Kent, The Australian National University

In post-colonial and colonised societies, art is often utilised as a tool to reveal the ongoing impacts of historical injustice on our present-day experiences and societies – whether as survivors or as beneficiaries. In Indonesia, many contemporary artists have embraced primary research and the archival records of their former colonists to produce works that engage audiences and participants with the ways that colonial practices continue to impact on everyday life in the 21st century. I will present case studies from across generations of Indonesian artists, looking at the work of Elia Nurvista, I Made Bayak and FX Harsono. These three artists – each emerging from distinct positions of ethnicity and experience within Indonesia – have turned to history in search of the roots of present day conditions in Indonesia. Utilising participatory methodologies such as delegated performance, social research and alimentary invitations, these artists have created the kinds of works that Indonesian critic Sanento Yuliman, in his 1976 essay titled ‘New Indonesian Painting’, described as ‘anti-lyricist: “not a slice of the imaginary world contemplated at a distance, but rather the concrete object which physically involves (melibatkan) the viewer.”

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Biographies

Dr Elly Kent, The Australian National University

Dr Elly Kent is the editor of New Mandala and a Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at the Australian National University. She has worked as a researcher, writer, translator, artist, teacher and intercultural professional over 20 years in academia and the arts in Indonesia and Australia. Elly received a PhD in Visual Arts (theory and practice) from the Australian National University. She received a Prime-Minister's Australia-Asia Postgraduate Award in 2013. Her book Art and the People: Artistic Ideologies in Indonesia will be published by NUS Press in 2022.


Dr Wulan Dirgantoro, School of Culture and Communication, the University of Melbourne

Dr Wulan Dirgantoro is a researcher of modern and contemporary Indonesian art. Her research focus looks at the intersection between feminism, trauma, memory and artmaking in Indonesia and Timor Leste. She is the author of “Feminisms and Indonesian Contemporary Art: Defining Experiences” (2017). She was part of “Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art”, a research program funded through the Getty Foundation’s Connecting Art Histories initiative. Wulan has also taught at MA Asian Art Histories program at Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore and until recently, a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Melbourne.


Dr Chaitanya Sambrani, ANU

Chaitanya Sambrani is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at the School of Art and Design, ANU where he teaches courses on modernism and contemporary art in India, Indonesia, China and Japan, and on art, design and urbanity. His major curatorial projects include Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India (Australia, USA, Mexico and India, 2004-07); Place.Time.Play: Contemporary Art from the West Heavens to the Middle Kingdom (Shanghai, 2010); To Let the World In: narrative and beyond in contemporary Indian art (Art Chennai Festival of Art, 2012) and All that Arises, a mid-career survey of the work of Lao-Australian artist Savanhdary Vongpoothorn (Canberra, 2019).