Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore – FX Harsono

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Published by Sugar & Cream, Thursday 19 July 2018

Text and images courtesy of Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore

Singapore  : 25 August—23 September 2018

Preview : Friday , 24 August 2018, 3.30 – 4 PM
Opening: Saturday 25 August, 5—7pm

History is not always glorious; it does not always narrate victories and acts of nobility.

Sullivan+Strumpf is delighted to present a solo exhibition by seminal Indonesian artist FX Harsono at its Singapore gallery next month. This exhibition presents the artist’s longstanding major project that investigates the genocide and mass graves of ethnic Chinese-Indonesians in Java, Indonesia from 1947 to 1949. Part documentary and part commemoration, the exhibition will see a new series of drawings alongside two major installations that confronts the truth of this history.

FX Harsono

This project takes as its starting point, documentary photographs taken by the artist’s father in the 1950s. Later, he met some of the survivors and also visited the mass graveyard, experiences which precipitated his research into this dark period of Indonesia’s history. The victims and their families commemorate the event every year on the 5th of April, in a commemoration called Ching Ming. Since 2009, Harsono has been actively researching the little-known mass grave sites of ethnic Chinese-Indonesians; giving voice to those who cannot speak.

Episodes of violence and oppression against the country’s ethnic Chinese minority can be traced to even before the birth of Indonesian nationalism in the early 20th Century. Racial violence marked Indonesia’s transition from a Dutch colony to Japanese occupied territory and the subsequent Indonesian Revolution (1945-1949), considered to be one of the most violent eras in modern Indonesian history. To this day, this dark period of Indonesia’s history has remained largely obscured with no official acknowledgement or efforts to initiate reconciliation.

History also records the darker moments of loss and downfall. Oftentimes, the victims of persecution find it hard to share their pain with descendants or discuss their history at all. Revealing the truth feels like reopening old wounds,” says the artist. “The perpetrators of historical violence have a tendency to edit history; their actions are erased like flaws to be covered over. A great nation learns from the past. Acknowledging history, even when it’s painful, will help future generations to avoid making the same mistakes; whereas, denying the past will allow history to repeat itself.”

The Light of Spirit, 2016, functions as a monument of remembrance and pays tribute to the individual tragedies and shared loss of the persecuted, shedding light on a past that had long been kept in the dark. Memorandum of Inhumane Act No. 3, 2017, incorporates images of mass graveyards as well as declarations and protests stated in the book, ‘MEMORANDUM, Outlining Acts of Violence and Humanity Perpetrated by Indonesia Bands on Innocent Chinese Before and After The Dutch Police Action Was Enforced on July 21, 1947. Evidence of a history that cannot be refuted.

In Harsono‘s artist statement, he describes this exhibition in terms of a survivor: I am not angry. It is true that I am not angry… but I want you to know what happened. Nobody should forget, so that these acts are never repeated again. “It has never been my intention to place blame with anyone, rather this is a call to everyone to accept the truth of history, however wretched it is, for a stronger nation.”

Rug House