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"It still can be hacked" – of activism, art, and power in contemporary Indonesia

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Institutskolloquium: Lukas Ley (Heidelberg) 15.01.2019, 18:15 - 20:00, Seminarraum des Instituts für Ethnologie, Werthmannstr. 10, 1. OG

In this paper, I discuss preliminary findings from a recently started postdoctoral research project. On the one hand, these findings speak to the ways in which Indonesian artists actively link themselves to social causes and audiences in Semarang and Denpasar. On the other hand, they allow me to ponder the politics of collaborative and engaged research.

By retracing my clumsy first steps on new anthropological terrains – art scenes on Java and the famed island of Bali – I reflect on the networking practices of non-mainstream artists and their diverse strategies (i.e. “hacking”) to convey politically charged messages and “disturb” audiences in order to shake hegemonic systems of meaning. Contrasting the work of the sidelined art collective Grobak Hysteria with that of emerging artists involved in the Bali-based movement Tolak Reklamasi, I show significant differences but also similarities.

Can we locate “hacking” and “disturbing” on a spectrum of a new Indonesian activist art that self-consciously departs from existing aesthetics characteristic of post-Reformasi “artivism”? If these artists are inching closer to the state, according to Lee (2015), how to make sense of Hysteria’s hacking practices and Tolak Reklamasi’s juicy protest art? What is this art’s relationship to power and new surveillance mechanisms?

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