(Discussion panel) Front of Center

Contemporary Art, the Cold War, and Southeast Asia

Front of Center: Contemporary Art, the Cold War, and Southeast Asia 

Discussion panel with Junni Chen, Fyerool Darma, and Kathleen Ditzig

Tuesday, November 19, 2019, 6:30PM - 8:30PM

Buell 300S, Buell Hall, Columbia University, 515 West 116th Street, New York, NY 10027 

Registration required. RSVP through Eventbrite.

Organized by Columbia University's Reading Group on Southeast Asian Modernities (SEAMs), and promoted by Helwaser Gallery, New York, in conjunction with the exhibitions Boedi Widjaja: Declaration of (Helwaser Gallery, New York), and As the West Slept (curated by Kathleen Ditzig, as part of Performa 19 Consortium Projects, New York). 


About: The de-classification of intelligence files on the Cold War as well as recent geopolitical shifts have created new opportunities to revisit the complicated histories of the Cold War in Southeast Asia. A period defined by a battle for the hearts and minds over the ideologies of modernity and progress, the 1950s -1980s was marked by large scale conflicts, as well as hardening ideological and geographical boundaries against the backdrop of decolonization in Southeast Asia. Particularly within post-colonial Indonesia, the experience of the Cold War intertwined with the country’s “Old Order” (under President Sukarno) and New Order (under President Suharto) politics. This period of historical turmoil continues to resonate within the socio-political structures of the nation, and the parameters of written national histories. Contemporary art has often been a space in which the alienated, unpopular or suppressed histories of this period and their repercussions have been articulated. This sharing session brings together curator Junni Chen, curator Kathleen Ditzig and artist Fyerool Darma to unpack the stakes and complexities of speaking with or speaking to Indonesia’s post-colonial histories through art. They will discuss the projects Boedi Widjaja: Declaration of (Helwaser Gallery, New York), State of Motion: A Fear of Monsters (Asia Film Archive, Singapore) and Ghost of a Thousand Conversations (900mdpl, Kaliurang, Jogjakarta).

Accessibility Information: Buell Hall is located near the Columbia University Visitors Center. Buell 300S is on the third floor of a non-elevator building. Please enter via the North door of the building.


Panel Members:

Junni Chen currently serves as the Director of Exhibitions and Programs at Helwaser Gallery, New York, and curated Boedi Widjaja: Declaration of (September 11 - November 7, 2019) as part of the gallery’s exhibition program. This exhibition is the third in the line-up of projects that examined contemporary practices dealing with the notion of modernity, following Anton Ginzburg: VIEWs, and Christina Kruse: Base and Balance. Alongside the gallery’s program, she maintains an interest in examining the communication of Southeast Asian histories through visual forms. Previously, she served as Curatorial Assistant in the National Gallery Singapore, as part of the curatorial team of Artist and Empire: (En)countering Colonial Legacies (2016). Her writing work primarily centers on contemporary artistic practices in Singapore, having written for multiple exhibition and artist texts/catalogues, as well as for publications such as Art Radar Journal.


Fyerool Darma interrogates and complicates the cultural consumption of history in relation to contemporary markers of identity and class. His artifacts are based on an extensive visual vocabulary drawn from popular culture, literature, archives, the internet, and his own experiences. Recent solo exhibitions include Sunny, your smile ease the pain, Yeo Workshop, Singapore (2019) and the long-term research project After Ballads, NUS Museum, Singapore (2017-18). His work has been presented in group exhibitions such as 900mdpl’s Ghost of a Thousand Conversations in Kaliurang, Jogjakarta (Indonesia, 2019); Asia Film Archive’s State of Motion: A Fear of Monsters (Singapore, 2019); and Lost and found: imagining new worlds, LASALLE’s Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (2019); Fantasy Islands, Objectifs Centre of Photography (Singapore, 2017); and An Atlas of Mirrors, Singapore Biennial (2016).


Kathleen Ditzig is a Singaporean researcher and curator. She has a Masters from CCS Bard and is currently pursuing her Phd at Nanyang Technological University. In her writing, she interrogates and attempts to historically contextualize various contemporary forms and networks of cultural production. Her writing has been published in three different languages and on platforms such as Artforum's Critic’s Picks, Art Agenda and Flash Art. Ditzig's curatorial practice has previously involved the development of artist residencies, publications and exhibitions for museums, as well as independent exhibitions for emerging artists. Her ongoing independent curatorial projects, such as (developed with Robin Lynch and Debbie Ding), have been presented on international platforms including the Berlin Biennale and in books such as Perhaps it is High Time for a Xeno-Architecture to Match (Sternberg, 2018).


Cover image: Boedi Widjaja, detail of 等著你回來 (Waiting for you), 2016. Graphite on paper, 60 5/8 x 57 1/8 in (154 x 145.1 cm). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery. © Boedi Widjaja. Photography: Cher Him Chua.