[Sorotan Pustaka] Journal Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia

by: Angela Wittwer (Peserta Magang IVAA)

Discomfort in the framework of regionalism forms the theme of the first volume of “Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia”, a scholarly journal on art and visual culture. “What comfort might there be in discomfort? Might the sensations of being at ease and ill at ease—for the scholar, the artist, the curator, the reader—be as inextricable as is history from historiography, as the “southeast” from the “north” and the “west”, as the “now” from the past, and the yet to be?,” the editorial collective asks in the editorial. Addressing these questions, the publication offers a range of perspectives informed by recent discourses of the art of the region referred to as Southeast Asia. Its contributing writers and researchers engage a particular focus on a regional context or artist/s, their analysis informed by a historical approach.

The topics discussed in the issue include a queer and postnational “Thainess” in contemporary Thai art (Brian Curtin), the notion of a “third avant-garde” in Southeast Asia that unshackles the Euro-American concept of “avant-garde” (Leonor Veiga), or artistic responses to recent street protests in Kuala Lumpur (Fiona Lee), among others. Two authors focus on the context of Indonesian Modern Art:

Brigitta Isabella from KUNCI Cultural Studies Center and member of the journal’s editorial collective provides a translation of the text “Kami Tahu Kemana Seni Lukis Indonesia Akan Kami Bawa” (“We Know Where We Will Be Taking Indonesian Art”) by Indonesian artist, writer and activist S. Sudjojono. The text dated from 1946 marks a crucial moment in the self-definition of Indonesian Modern Art during Indonesia’s struggle for independence. “About the future of Indonesian art, we as Indonesians are quite capable of deciding for ourselves. […] If the Dutch writer […] wishes to interfere with this matter, we do not need them to meddle in our affairs. They have never really proven to be competent in this matter for the past 350 years,” Sudjojono flamingly writes.

Australian scholar and curator Matt Cox contributes an article on “The Painting of Prostitutes in Indonesian Modern Art”, focusing on works by S. Sudjojono, Otto Djaya and Mohammed Hadi. Cox describes their paintings depicturing so-called “base” women, as a site of self-primitivising. His captivating observation: Even though these paintings disrupt both elite Javanese and Dutch bourgeois sensibilities, they reinforce the myth of the heroic and authentic anti-colonial modern artist. As such, the paintings stand both for discomfort and the search for an alternative male subjectivity, as well as for the re-assuring desire for the untamed other.

In the journal, Matt Cox also provides a translation of the “Untitled Letter to Editor”, another resonating text for today’s artistic practice by S. Sudjojono, written in fragmentary manner in 1942. The contributions by Cox and Isabella can be seen as inquiries into anxieties und potentials regarding societal change in Indonesia observed in reference to key figures in Indonesian Modern Art. They also open a broader reception and discussion: Both texts authored by S. Sudjojono were previously unavailable in English.

((Additional detail))

The journal “Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia” is published online and in print twice yearly. The published articles are selected on the basis of a call for papers on a different theme for each issue.

Issue: Volume 1, Number 2, October 2017
Title : Into the un/comfort zone
Editorial Collective: Isabel Ching, Brigitta Isabella, Yvonne Low, Roger Nelson, Vuth Lyno, Thanavi Chotpradit, Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez, Vera Mey, Simon Soon
Authors: Yin Ker, Matt Cox, Fiona Lee, Leonor Veiga, Brian Curtin, S. Sudjojono, Brigitta Isabella, Clare Veal, Fiona Amundsen
Publisher: NUS Press Pte Ltd, Singapore
Language: English
ISSN: 2424-9947
E-ISSN: 2425-0147

Download free digital issue: https://muse.jhu.edu/issue/37275

Artikel ini merupakan bagian dari Rubrik Sorotan Pustaka dalam Buletin IVAA Dwi Bulanan edisi Januari-Februari 2018.