SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

The Darker Shades of Unity in Diversity: Testing the Limits of Regional Tendencies in Modern and Contemporary Indonesian Art

Vera Mey (PhD Candidate, History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS)

Date: 22 October 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 22 October 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Faber Building, 23/24 Russell Square Room: FG08

Type of Event: Seminar

Many scholars consider the 1955 Bandung (Asian-African) Conference as a catalyst for the global decolonisation movement, which united leaders across political and colour divides through its staunchly anti-imperialist posture. However, despite the significant depictions of racial and ethnic plurality widely celebrated in journalistic accounts of the Conference, visual depictions of this so-called “Bandung Spirit” are rare as explicit citations within Indonesian visual arts. Although the Conference has been historicised by “black and brown scholars” alike as a moment of exceptional international solidarity, its impact on the localised regional context of Southeast Asia demonstrates a less straightforward impact. 

Through focusing on artworks which reference the contested territories of Timor Leste and Irian Jaya (also known as West Papua),  this seminar tests the “Bandung Spirit” and its intersections around conceptions of race and modernity within a regional understanding of Indonesian art. Employing examples of artworks from both the modern and contemporary period, I argue that ideas of regional solidarity within Southeast Asia can offer an inclusive framework for understanding artworks that do not fit neatly into the nationalist canon. Through examining these tensions between the national and differing international frameworks within the context of Southeast Asian regionalism during the Cold War era, we can achieve a nuanced view of how Indonesian art operated within a critical historical moment. 

About the Speaker: 

Vera Mey is a PhD candidate at SOAS University of London. Her research looks at regional tendencies of Southeast Asian art during the Cold War eras in Cambodia, Indonesia and Singapore, paying particular attention to tensions of modernity and tradition, and intersections of racial plurality within regionalism. Before this, she spent several years working as a contemporary art curator at ST PAUL St Gallery, AUT University,New Zealand and the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, among others. More recent independent work includes co-curating SUNSHOWER: Contemporary art from Southeast Asia 1980s to now (2017) at the Mori Art Museum and National Art Centre Tokyo, the largest survey of Southeast Asian artists to date. She is a co-founder of the peer-reviewed journal SOUTHEAST OF NOW: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia (National University of Singapore Press).

Organiser: Pamela Corey

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