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Indonesian Art & Political Transition


Companionable Objects, Companionable Conscience:  Indonesian Art & the Crises of Political Transition

Ken George Image

Tokioka Room, Moore Hall 319
Tuesday, December 9, 2014 from 12:00 – 1:30pm

Although this is increasingly a time of transnational solidarities, a preoccupation with the nation has been a longstanding and unwavering force in the shaping of art works, art writing, and artistic subjectivity in Indonesia—a force that has done much to etch the sensibilities, aspirations, and vulnerabilities of that country’s artists. This talk explores the summons of the nation in the making of “companionable objects” and a “companionable conscience” in Indonesia’s artworld.  I focus in particular on an installation presented by the acclaimed Indonesian artist, Sunaryo, a 1998 work called Titik Nadir (“The Low Point”), put together as Soeharto’s regime fell apart that year.  The evocative objects, materials, and iconoclastic gestures that made up Titik Nadir in some ways subverted or exceeded the “conscionable” and oblige us to reflect on what may be spent or lost in in the ethical venture of aligning one’s heart and art with the nation and a national art public.

Speaker Bio

Ken-GeorgeProfessor Kenneth George joined the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific in 2013 as Professor of Anthropology and Director of the School of Culture, History and Language, having served previously at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Harvard University and the University of Oregon.  He is a specialist on Southeast Asia and a Past Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies (2005-2008).  His ethnographic research in Indonesia has focused on the cultural politics of minority ancestral religions (1982-1992), and more recently (1994-2008), on a long-term collaboration with painter A. D. Pirous, exploring the aesthetic, ethical, and political ambitions shaping Islamic art and art publics in that country.  Professor George has been the recipient of major postdoctoral fieldwork fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.  His fellowships for writing and study include awards from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.   His current research projects are two:  The first looks at the production of “companionable objects and “companionable conscience” in an effort to link artworks to ethics, affect, language, and public culture.  Another involves a comparative look at early postcolonial artists in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and India, and aims at theoretical and disciplinary issues surrounding public culture and the anthropology of art and visual culture.

Image: Tiki Nadir, Sunaryo Soetono, Indonesia, 1998