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Art as a Medium of Resistance

Book Chronicles / Event

In this article:
This Earth of Mankind
Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Written by Mark Rappolt, originally published in ArtReview

Jan 18, 2024

The tropical ‘attitude’ that brings together two regions in rejection of European colonialism

With over 200 works on display, spanning the course of a stuttering twentieth-century modernity, this is something of a sprawling exhibition. Like its subject: the territories that span the eastern and western extremes of the equator (depending, of course, on where you’re starting out from). Within that ambit are narratives that track resistance to European colonialisms (and a support for its opposite: traditional or indigenous wisdom) and drive towards a form of comparative solidarity that might unite these two seemingly distant regions, an ‘attitude’ that the museum labels ‘tropical’.

One of the three sections of the exhibition, ‘This Earth of Mankind’, takes its heading from the title of the first volume of Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer‘s ‘Buru Quartet’ (1980–88). In the series, which charts Indonesia’s emergence from various colonial occupations, the author discusses the debates about what language the independence movement should adopt (Malay or Javanese), which was the language of the people and which the language of the elites (more closely aligned with the colonisers). Of course, there is the issue that the texts included in the exhibition (many of a decidedly leftist bent, among them Indonesian artist-activist Semsar Siahaan’s 1988 ‘My Art, “Art of Liberation”’ and Mexican David Alfaro Siqueiros’s 1923 ‘Manifesto of the Union of Technical Workers, Painters and Sculptors’) are all presented in English (in the catalogue that accompanies the show they are presented in their original tongues as well), which is in one sense practical and in another sense an indication that all museums are to some extent colonial legacies.

Read the full article here.

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