When Two Become One
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.