Off the Back Burner

The past few years, I’ve been pursuing a number of different large, long-term projects.  The past year a half, I’ve really been focusing on my manuscript for Oxford University Press.  This manuscript is finalized, and going into production now.

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With this book approaching resolution, I’ve again begun refocusing on one of my projects in Indonesia.

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Between 2011-2014, working with grants from the Bernstein Funds and the American Institute for Indonesian Studies, I initiated a study of contemporary photography in Java.  As a result of this work, I have several projects in Indonesia still in play.  First up is an exhibition I am organizing at the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University.

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This exhibition – at least to the best of my knowledge – will be the first exhibition devoted to Indonesian photography in the United States.  This show features the work by ten photographers from Central and Western Java.

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The exhibition will also coincide with the 50th anniversary of Claire Holt’s seminal publication on Indonesian art, published by Cornell, Art in Indonesia:  Continuities and Change.

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And so included in the exhibition are some of Holt’s research photographs.  I spent a few days in New York City last week, at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, looking at albums of photographs Holt compiled in the 1930s.

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Art in Indonesia correspondingly reflects an enormous diversity. Both geographical and historical factors have always precluded the development of a homogeneous art with a single line of evolution. Today a multitude of cultural phenomena coexist in the archipelago at quite different stages of their life cycles. Some are ancient but still very vital; others are old but are apparently dying or undergoing radical transformations; still others were born recently and are growing vigorously.

In the continuum of cultural growth, old and new elements overlap, fuse, or exist side by side. Dates are only approximate dividers marking the introduction of new ideas or techniques without necessarily implying the disappearance of preceding beliefs and practices.

Claire Holt, from Art in Indonesia:  Continuities and Change

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It was wonderful to spend a couple of days with all of these photographs, to get such a rich glimpse of traditional Javanese culture organized by someone with such passion for it.

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I’ve deeply admired Claire Holt’s work for years – indeed I think of her as a hero – so I consider it a great honor for Cornell to use my work as a way to commemorate her accomplishments.

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