FX HARSONO: GAZING ON IDENTITY
29 October - 17 December 2016
Opening | Friday | 28 October, 6 - 9 pm | ARNDT Fine Art at Gillman Barracks (Block 47, #01-25)
"‘Man as an individual has the freedom to decide their own will’ is a meaningless quote. When one is declared to be valid as a citizen the freedom changed.
For the Chinese, although they were born in Indonesia, they are still considered as migrant. Apart from Indonesian Citizenship certificate, they must also have other documents, where this regulation is not applied to ‘real’ Indonesians.
The dichotomy of real-migrant, free-bonded, is presented in this work. The facial expressions, poses, interaction in the family that seems to be free and happy on one side; and on the other side facing legal-formal issues that specifically only applies to them. The point is, the law becomes discriminative if it applies only to suppress a community group."
From time to time, the slip of paper featuring passport photos and personal details, usually referred to as an ‘identity card’ (kartu identitas), becomes a subject of national debate in Indonesia. During the New Order (1966-1998), citizenship cards belonging to former political prisoners were stampled with a special ‘KTP’ (kartu tanda penduduk) code, as were those belonging to ethnic Chinese. As the regime changed and a new era began, special codes were dropped in favour of the electronic KTP - plastic cards that were programmed by the Department of Internal Affairs at the beginning of the 2010s. This attracted no less controversy, beginning with the prohibition of photocopying the cards, the erasure of the ‘religion’ column, claims of interference from foreign intelligence agencies, and an overall lack of transparency in the tender process. Blitar-born artist FX Harsono has not been left behind in these controversies over the Indonesian identity card, particularly in relation to his Chinese Indonesian identity.
'Undisclosed Identity' presents monochrome photos of Indonesians of Chinese descent in light boxes on a table and attached to a wall. The central piece of this exhibition seeks to challenge racist and discriminatory rules as a legacy of colonialism that remains in effect up to the present. The installation is placed in a dim room, seemingly intended to affirm the gloomy condition of Indonesians of Chinese ancestry today. Harsono’s oeuvre can be seen as a constant questioning and reflection of his position as an artist within society. He deconstructs the concept of the self portrait, interrogating conventions of portraiture by deliberately obscuring one of the major components of a portrait, the face.
FX Harsono is a seminal figure in the Indonesian contemporary art scene. Since his student days he has been an active critic of Indonesian politics, society and culture, always updating his artistic language to the current new social and cultural contexts. Harsono’s own biography and family history are often the basis of his art, pointing at the disconcerting situation of minorities, the socially underprivileged against the backdrop of Indonesia’s own history and political development.