Posted in Bali, Indonesia, Java, Photography with tags , on June 26, 2014 by briancarnold

Still fresh back from seeing the wonderful exhibition curated by Gael Newton at the National Gallery of Australia – Garden of the East:  Photography in Indonesia 19850s-1940s – I spent my morning in one of the Cornell libraries looking at some photographs made by a prolific Japanese photography in Indonesia in the early 1930s, K.T. Satake.


A real workman photographer, Satake photographed extensively across Sumatra, Java, and Bali, and in 1935 released the book Camera-Beelden van Sumatra, Java, and Bali (Camera Pictures from Sumatra, Java, and Bali).  Printed in 1935, jointly published between Surabaya and London, and bilingually produced in Dutch and English, the book offers about 800-900 views made across the three islands.


Most of the photographs are black and white, though there are a few autochromes scattered about the book (with the exception of the picture above, the autochromes are still life photographs of fruits found around the islands).  Printed in halftone, the black and white reproductions aspire for a more painterly palette – something more akin to photogravure or collotype – and are printed in colored inks, pages of photographs alternating between a sepia brown and an olive green.


The book prints have a flat, matte finish, with very compressed tones.  Often, the printing works for the photographs, and successfully emulate a more lavish printing process.


In some ways, the pictures have a simple ethographic quality to them, but if only for the sheer volume, the book does offer a bit more.  Satake did have a great love for Indonesia, even if a romantic vision.


His pictures are at their best when he is looking at deep space, across epic and layered landscapes.  There was also a stretch in the middle of the chapter on Java in which environmental portraits are paired against small grids featuring details from Borobudur, or some of the other major monuments in Central Java, an interesting photographic dialog.


The picture captions or titles often fail the pictures (A Type of Balinese Woman), and sometimes the pictures lapse into a sentimental, pictorialist vision (the soft focus doesn’t translate well into the halftone printing technique used for the book).


Regardless, it is a thorough study of many iconic regions across the three islands.  The photographs do get a bit redundant as you go through the book, and I did appreciate his dramatic vision of the larger, more mythic landscapes.

Garden of the East

Posted in Bali, Indonesia, Java, Photography with tags , , , , , on June 18, 2014 by briancarnold

So I just returned from a week in Canberra, Australia.  I went to see an exhibition currently on view at the National Gallery – Garden of the East:  Photography in Indonesia 1850s-1940s – and to participate in a short conference staged in conjunction with the exhibition.


The exhibition is great, really the first of its kind.


Along with Gael Newton, FX Harsono, and Alex Supartono – as well as a few other assistant curators from the museum – I gave a 45 minute lecture about my work in Indonesia, both past and present.


The presentation and the photographs in the exhibition are wonderful.  It was a great treat to see many photographs I’ve read about in person (a well execute albumen print is a delightful thing to see).


I’d never met either Pak Harsono nor Alex Supartono before, though I’ve heard about them both a great deal over the last year or two.  It was great to make these connections.


There were also lots of interesting ideas and photographs presented and discussed – ideas about photography, colonialism, Indonesian history, the emergence of contemporary photography across Asia, and how photography is part of contemporary identity politics in Indonesia as well as the rest of Asia.


And I hope to have planted some seeds for my coming conference in Bandung.


Regardless, it was great to be apart of all this stuff.  The exhibition is wonderful, and truly the first of its kind.  And delighted for more connections for my ongoing ideas and work in Indonesia.


Posted in Bali, Indonesia, Java, Photography with tags , , , , , , , on May 7, 2014 by briancarnold

I’ve been back from Indonesia for about 3 weeks now, and the momentum of my trip and discoveries seem to be leveling out.


My projects and goals are defined, and now the work to put them all together will just take time, communication, and cooperation.


And the other day, I had a nice opportunity to help conclude my recent work and adventures; I was again invited to join the Cornell Gamelan Ensemble for their spring concert.


It was a new repertoire for the group, highlighting some different vocal works and traditions.  We had some great visitors singing and performing with the group, Peni Candra Rini, Jessika Kenney, and Pak Harjito.

Sarad Offering in Bali

There was one moment in particular during the performance that seems worth mentioning.  It was early in the concert, the whole group was there together, and the groove and energy of the music were all in place.  I was aware of and connected to the spiritual and sublime qualities of playing music together, that meditative and beautiful core of gamelan.  It’s been about a year and a half since I last played gamelan; it was nice to find that feeling again.

It felt like a reminder of what I have going in Indonesia, the personal importance of pursuing this work and these discoveries.


And I took one more step, to fully wrap up my experience, to symbolize its importance in my life.


I got another tattoo.  Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and creativity.  I think of the tattoo as something like a Balinese offering, to acknowledge and help sustain the success of my projects in Indonesia.

And then I’ve been obsessed with this song by the Jogja Hiphop Foundation.


When Two Become One

Posted in Bali, Indonesia, Java, Photography with tags , , , , , , on April 30, 2014 by briancarnold


What you see here is an attempt to reconcile or unify two distinct intellectual and creativity curiosities and pursuits I’ve held close for years.


I first went to Indonesia in the fall of 1992.  My goal was to study Balinese gamelan, though what I found was much bigger and greater than I anticipated.  I did study gamelan, with a young musician (everyone told me he was a prodigy, and his father taught Michael Tenzer), named Dewa Putu Berata.


I returned to home to Colorado, and joined a nonprofit group dedicated to advancing Indonesian art and music, really so I could continue to play gamelan.


Just prior to leaving for Bali, I discovered photography.  Just like gamelan, once I had made my first photographs, I threw myself into a study of the medium whole heartedly.  I spent the summer before my trip to Indonesia working at the Colorado History Museum, printing photographs from the collection.


It was several years later, around 1995, that I began my real pursuit of photography, when I sent up my first studio and started trying to make a profession out of it.  But really, for close to 20 years now, I’ve been playing, studying, and performing gamelan as a way to continue my investigation into Indonesia, while simultaneously pursuing a career as a photographer.


It was about three years ago that I tried to put these two pursuits together.  Often, people would ask me what the two things had a common, but I was often dismissive of the question.  There was something there, but it was more a feeling than a thought.  But three years ago, I worked to make a more clear connection, and instigated a study of Indonesian photography, look at its history and trying to learn more about contemporary pursuits in Java.  I made this blog to document this study.


In the last three years, I’ve traveled to Indonesia twice, and I’ve received a research fellowship from the Cornell Southeast Asia Program/Modern Indonesia Project, and more recently a grant from the American Institute for Indonesian Studies.  And now I feel I stand on the brink of opening up a really big project.


I’ve gathered together 8 artists from Java, and I am working to put together an exhibition of contemporary art photography from the island.  As it stands now, it looks like this show will open in early 2016 in Bandung, at the prestigious Institut Teknologi Bandung.  And it seems like the opening of the exhibition will coincide with a small, international conference about contemporary photographic practice.


There is still more.


The show will also open at the Johnson Museum at Cornell University in late 2016 or early 2017.  This opening will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Claire Holt’s classic publication, Art in Indonesia:  Continuities and Change.


Claire Holt is something of a hero, so this would be a wonderful honor.


There is also a chance for publication from this project, with Red and White Books (an affiliate of Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara in Jakarta), or with the Cornell Modern Indonesia Project.  Much of this is still speculative, and yet if any combinations of these events and possibilities come to be, it seems like a remarkable way to reconcile these two projects, and to both record something of my own history and to offer more about Indonesia to a greater public.


Studio Visit

Posted in Bali, Indonesia, Java, Photography with tags , , on April 24, 2014 by briancarnold


Probably best not to think of it or to call it a studio visit, but before I left Jakarta, I had the chance to meet with photographer Tino Djumini.  We met at Taman Ismail Marzuki, in a small cafe near the Jakarta Art Institute.


We talked over coffee for quite a long time, and our conversation ranged across a lot of subjects, mostly focusing on photography and culture – specifically the characteristics and difference between America and Indonesia.


Tino was born in Indonesia, but raised in The Netherlands.  After completing a degree in Dutch Law and Philosophy, he went on to complete an art degree at the Academy of Fine Arts Arnhem.  He currently lives in Jakarta, working as a photographer, filmmaker, and graphic designer.


Tino is remarkably articulate and philosophical, and had lots to say about photography and Indonesia.  Given his upbringing in The Netherlands, he has obviously thought a great deal about his own cultural identity.  His work strikes me as investigation into his own identity as an Indonesian.


We discussed two of his photographic projects.  First, Relatives/Kerabat, a series of photographs published by KITLV, looks at the remarkable diversity and complexity of Indonesian cultural identity, using the simplest of photographic means.  The second, a work in progress, looks at people of financial affluence living in Jakarta.


In meeting with all these photographers across Java, I hope to organize an exhibition of contemporary Indonesian photography here in the States.  Tino had lots of great and challenging questions about the hows and whys of putting a show like this together.  My current ambition is to stage this exhibition at two venues, first in Bandung (and hoping to organize a conference around the exhibition), and then at the Johnson Museum at Cornell University (Cornell being famous for Indonesian studies).


I met with Tino about two weeks ago, and now wish I wrote down more about conversation immediately; I felt to stimulated and satisfied after we met.  Again, however, I can say I am glad to have made the connection, and I am really eager to see how this show proposal progresses.

Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara

Posted in Bali, Indonesia, Java, Photography with tags , on April 19, 2014 by briancarnold

While visiting Jakarta, I stopped by Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara, the photo journalism gallery in Pasar Baru.


They had just launched a new show, in conjunction with a new book in a series documenting natural disasters in Indonesia.  This exhibition and book document two recent volcanic eruptions in Java and Sumutra – Kelud and Sinabung.


The book and exhibition feature over 60 photographers, including one who died photographing Kelud, the volcano in eastern Java.  The pictures were all printed on a aluminum sheets, and proceeds from both the exhibition and book sale will go to providing funds for recovery from the two eruptions.


The current series includes books documenting the eruption of Mount Merapi outside of Yogyakarta, and the tsunami that struck Aceh.


I went back a couple of days later to meet with Oscar Mutuloh and Goen W, the two directors of the gallery.  We met to talk about photography, and any possible collaborations we can have in the future.


More and more, photography is helping me to gain a greater connection with Indonesia.

Studio Visit

Posted in Bali, Indonesia, Java, Photography with tags , on April 19, 2014 by briancarnold

While still in Bandung, I had the chance to meet with photographer Henrycus Napitsungaro.


I first saw his work at Gallery S.14, at the home of Aminudin Siregar.  I immediately took an interest in his work, and Aminudin set up a meeting for us.


Henrycus showed me two bodies of work, After Image (shown here, a sort of autobiographical piece), and a series of photographs made in Chinatown in Bandung.


I was most interested in After Image, perhaps because of its similarities with my own work.  The pictures explore his family life, with several self-portraits that include his mother.  The photographs are beautifully crafted silver prints, rich and sensitive.


It was a pleasure to connect with Henrycus.  We shared a number of similar interests, and spent quite a while talking about photography.


A real photographer’s photographer, I hope we made a connection that can continue.



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