Unearthing the past and re-imagining the present: Indonesian contemporary performance art and Muslim politics in a post-9/11 world
After 9/11 popular and academic discourses have often constructed a vision of Islamic communities as hostile to visual culture. Today in Indonesia both Muslim and non-Muslim artists however show how visual culture is a site of (Muslim) politics, creativity and contestation, a site where issues associated with Islam are mobilised to come to terms with the present state of the world.
Through conducting a visual analysis of the mobile art performance ‘Membuat Obama dan Perdamaian yang dibuat-buat’ (2009) by Wilman Syanur, this paper scrutinises the intertwinement of aesthetics and politics. Syanur created the work for the 10th editition of the Jogja Biennale, which was titled ‘Jogja Jamming’.
The curatorial concept of jamming stimulated 200 artists to ‘jam’ the streets of Yogyakarta with their artworks. I suggest that while jamming the streets, Membuat Obama dan Perdamaian yang dibuat-buat displays a Benjaminian socio-historical politics.
The work evokes fragments from the past to question the construct of the present and to challenge global (dominant) narratives that are antithetical to Muslims. I propose that these aesthetic strategies form the base of a (Muslim) politics that give way to the imagining of a particular critical history.