Exploring Indonesia’s colonial history, Jompet Kuswidananto’s SB14 commission, Keroncong Concordia (2019), examines greed and desire for social control through fragmented memory and residual folk tunes. The work references the Societeit Concordia, the Bandung social club that popularised keroncong, a type of music developed by Indo-Europeans, but rooted in Portuguese fado (brought to Indonesia by 17th-century slaves). Considered lower class during the colonial era, keroncong eventually came to be regarded as an outstanding Dutch contribution to culture.
Historically, Societeit Concordia was segregated by race and class, dividing Dutch, Indonesian, Chinese and mixed communities, even though keroncong owed its legacy to these discriminated groups. This system of privilege and prejudicial practices was the basis for violence that would consume Indonesia in years to come. Despite Indonesia’s independence in 1945, violent conflicts continued between Indonesian nationalists and the Dutch Empire. The conflict was often framed as tanah air [land and water], a profound concept of ‘hometown’ for the mixed-blood community, including Indo-African Dutch Royal Army soldiers (members of the Belanda Hitam—the ‘Black Dutchman’—of the Dutch East Indies), who were forced to flee the archipelago.
The project features a large glass chandelier in the shape of a bird that has crashed to the ground and partially shattered. This scene symbolises the fragmented memories of the Keroncong Concordia community, which are also reflected in the moving images and carpets of this installation, conveying their experiences and opinions as citizens, subjects and Dutch Royal Army soldiers—all evidence of a desire to decolonise attachments to ‘nation’. Although Kuswidananto focuses on a Bandung social club, Keroncong Concordia also speaks to broader experiences of assimilation of ‘intercolonial subjects’.
Another instance of intercolonial community (between Vietnam and Senegal) is explored in the work of Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn.
Sharjah Biennial 14
Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber
As he explores Indonesia’s history and the complexities of contemporary life in a globalised world, Jompet Kuswidananto works across a diverse range of mediums, including installation, video, sound, performance and theatre.