Title: In a Geopolitical Constellation: Asianisms and Modern Art During Decolonization and Cold War in Indonesia
PhD candidate: Kerstin Winking | Leiden University Institute for History | Supervisors: Professor Dr. Marieke Bloembergen and Dr. Sanjukta Sunderason
This study seeks to demonstrate that the unidirectional view that presents the formation of modern art in Indonesia as merely a nationalist matter could be enriched by analyzing the artwork of Indonesian modernists in a broader geopolitical framework. By examining Indonesian modern art practices through the lens of multidirectional memory (Rothberg, 2009), this comparative study focuses on the role of Asianisms in the formation of modern art in Indonesia. Between circa 1920 and the mid-1960s, philosophers and politicians of different nations experimented with Asianisms as banners under which to unite the peoples of Asia. One noteworthy example is the memorable staging of the Asia-Africa conference (Shimazu, 2012), a mass mediated event in the history of decolonization that was reported about worldwide at the time and is still the subject of scholarly research today. This study asks how the artists’ affiliations with Asia affected the production of their artwork and their lives. The historical starting point of this study is in the 1920s, when Asianisms began to be connected to the Indonesian decolonization project. The artists’ experience of Japanese Asianism in the 1940s is considered next, before examining their artistic involvement with Afro-Asianism in the 1950s, and concluding in the period of the Cold War annihilation of leftist Asianism by Suharto’s New Order regime in the mid 1960s.
Image: Rusli, Chinese Tempel, 1966, oil on canvas, OHD Collection, Magelang.