Theory — Jun 21, 2018

Students E 10,- (incl. museum entrance) / Regular E 20,- (incl. museum entrance)
Teijin Auditorium, Stedelijk Museum
Jun 21, 2018, 9.30 am until 4.30 pm
Main language

This symposium is conceived in conjunction with the exhibition The Djaya Brothers: Revolusi in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (9 June – 2 September 2018).

Download the program here.


The idea of modern Indonesian art was the subject of debate amongst artists, writers, and politicians from about the 1935s onwards. In Indonesia, ideas about modern art emerged together with anticolonial and independence struggles, as well as with the questioning of commonplaces like ‘East’ and ‘West’. These discussions took place at the various sites of production and circulation of the concept of ‘the modern’ between 1935 and 1950, such as artist studios, printed media, and exhibition venues. This symposium will illuminate the positions of the central figures of this debate, and approach them from contemporary perspectives of international cultural researchers.  

The symposium will particularly focus on the years of the Indonesian National Revolution (1945-49). During this decolonization period artists took on the significant role of visualizing the revolutionary spirit of the time. In the years leading up to the revolution, the development of modern Indonesian art was characterized by a desire to break with the aesthetics of the Dutch colonizers. During the Japanese occupation (1942-45), this development was accelerated because the Japanese government provided artists with material and financial support. In the years before the Japanese occupation, however, the ‘national spirit’ had already inspired the art practices of the members of PERSAGI (1938-1942) as well as the debates about ‘the modern’ led by Indonesian intellectuals in Polemik Kebudajaan, a journal first published in 1935.

Questions the symposium sets out to address include, but are not limited to: Why and by whom were these sites of idea circulation organized? And for what reasons? Who were the people that introduced the concept of modern Indonesian art and culture? What were the artists’ positions regarding the definition of Indonesian modern art? How were ideas about ‘modern art’ and ‘the Indonesian’ visualized and verbalized?

The symposium will mark the starting point of a collaborative research and exhibition project on art and culture in Indonesia during the Indonesian National Revolution developed by the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and various individual and institutional partners in Indonesia.


Among the confirmed speakers are: Antariksa (researcher and co-founder Kunci, Cultural Studies Centre, Yogyakarta), Amir Sidharta (art historian and curator at Museum Universitas Pelita Harapan, Tangeran), Bonnie Triyana (independent historian, chief editor Historia), Kerstin Winking (exhibition curator The Djaya Brothers: Revolusi in the Stedelijk, Amsterdam), Harm Stevens (curator Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Remco Raben (Professor Colonial and Postcolonial History of Culture and Literature, University of Amsterdam) and Mikke Susanto, curator, art critic, lecturer at the Indonesian Institute of Art, Yogyakarta and curatorial consultant of Republic of Indonesia Presidential Palace.

The program can be found here.


Sutan Takdir Alishabana, Mochtar Apin, Baharoedin, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Agus (Agoes) Djaya, Otto Djaya, Keimin Bunka Shidosho, Cas Oorthuys, PERSAGI, Polimik Kebudajaan, Tan Malaka, PUTERA, Jawa Hokokai, S. Sudjojono, Sukarno, Sutan Syahrir.