S 6° 10' 26 E 106° 50' 17
This project revolves around the whereabouts of my Indonesian great grandfather – Oreste Julius Abels – during the Second World War. It is an exploration of the discrepancies between archival narratives and oral histories. Growing up, I was always told by my father, who got the narrative from his mother, that my great-grandfather made a heroic escape from the internment camps, and was later captured again, conceiving my grandmother during this period outside of captivity. The archive tells the story as follows: Oreste Julius Abels was part of the 10th battalion in Jakarta, some 500km from his hometown Semarang, as part of the state-enforced conscription following World War II. He received his Japanese internment camp card on the 16th of October 1943, and was sent to work on the Sumatra railway - ‘the forgotten death railway’ around March/April 1944. The barracks of the 10th battalion were however turned into a one of the largest Japanese internment camps in Indonesia directly after the capitulation of Indonesia in March 1942. The archive does not tell a clear narrative, and has some friction with the oral history. The archive notes two dates of death for Oreste Julius Abels: 18 February 1941, as well as 16 February 1965, the latter being supported by oral history. There is also a period of uncertainty, an archival gap, during the period between March 1942, and October 1943. Did he escape, only to be recaptured a year and a half later? Why did he only receive his internment card on October 1943 while nearly all KNIL soldiers received theirs in March 1942? What happened on the 18th of February 1941 that caused him to be registered as deceased? – did that somehow influence this process? Was October 1943 perhaps the first time he got captured? Oreste Julius Abels was mostly of Indonesian descent, but gained his Dutch name, and thus, Dutch Nationality through a history of colonial marriages and affairs. The Japanese occupiers released most of the native Indonesian soldiers shortly after they were captured in March 1942, was he part of this group that was released? Or was he actually in the camps the entire time? If he escaped, which was nearly impossible, how did he traverse the 500km unseen to get back to his hometown safely? The current dominant narrative within the family is that my great-grandmother had a (forced) relationship with a Japanese soldier, as was extremely common and widespread during the Japanese occupation. This supposed extramarital affair would consequently result in the birth of my grandmother, who was born between the 20th and the 22nd of January 1944. This research project draws on Deleuzian Affect Theory and theories of Critical Fabulation and Postmemory to contemplate tensions and disparity within the archive, as the relationships between the archive and notions of identity.
N 12° 26' 1 W 69° 54' 26
The Netherlands overtook the Island of Aruba from the Spanish regime in 1636, and utilised the island as an area for livestock; letting donkeys, cows, goats and other animals roam freely, this has been referred to as the rancho period, and has been characterised as the Netherlands using the island as one big barn, displacing many of the native Caquetio – whose communities had already been heavily disrupted by the Spanish colonisation. During this period – driven by economic prosperity the Dutch were enjoying as a result of the colonising efforts by the WIC and the VOC – Dutch landscape paintings celebrating the (romanticised) idyllic and quiet nature of the Netherlands were in high demand by the growing affluent upper class, creating a thriving market for these landscape depictions. Influenced by nationalist and capitalist ideology – landscape paintings were quicker to paint than many other genres after all, and thus artists were able to create more of those works for more profit – this resulted in a rise in the number of artists creating these works, many of their works still decorating the walls of museums today. Livestock were a prominent feature of the landscape paintings; a symbol of national identity on one cartographic end of the republic, it was the materialisation of colonialism on the other. In the early 20th century the Dutch administrators started giving street names to the roads of Aruba, in the first settlement of the Island, San Nicolas, they decided to name an area after seventeenth-century Dutch painters. The neighborhood is thus lined with streets named Vermeerstraat, Rembrandtstraat, and Ruysdaelstraat, etc. There were four Ruysdaels active in the 17th century, all painting landscapes: Salomon van Ruysdael, and Isaack van Ruisdael, and their respective sons both named Jacob. This research project links their work to the colonisation of the Island of Aruba to explore the intertwinement between colonialism and capitalism, and the role of visual culture in this mesh, through Marxist economic theory and Decolonial political theory.
N 40° 42' 24 W 74° 0' 36
A series of vignettes exploring the connection between two points in history – Amsterdam as the 17th century center (and inventor of the modern version) of capitalism, and New York City as the contemporary center of global capitalism, and the connections between those two points in the form of the Dutch colonising New Amsterdam (an area on the southern tip of the island, currently part of the financial district) on Manhattan. It explores what lies at the heart of the dominant system we are living in, and how we got here.
As an Artistic Researcher, I work through a methodology that has been defined in a multitude of ways, but escapes a singular definition. One of those descriptions is that Artistic Research is a delta-discipline – art through research and research through art, a reciprocal relationship between the two forms a synergy that allows for outcomes that would not be possible in a singular discipline. I’ve created a multidisciplinary theoretical framework through which I conduct my Artistic Research, the theories in this framework are at the core of my practice, and through this framework I work with several expanding case studies relating to archival material, which are outlined above. Fundamental to my practice is Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas. In the 1920s the German art historian and cultural theorist created an unfinished atlas of art history – consisting of multiple panels, each panel revolving around certain themes. In which, for example, he linked the history of the Hopi in Oraibi, Arizona to the antiquity in Athens, Greece, through the element of the snake. Philosopher Giorgio Agamben described Warburg’s work as merging art history with ‘empathy theory, contemporary anthropological thought, evolutionary theory, the study of mythology, and biological conceptions of memory.’ Thus the Mnemosyne Atlas was an overview of Art History, broken loose from the hierarchical traditional art historic approach defined through styles and periods – a transcendental multidisciplinary idiosyncratic transhistoric way of connecting elements and images that cannot be connected within the framework of traditional art history. A disjointed rhizomatic curated examination of human culture. Not only is Warburg’s methodology closely related to the discipline of Artistic Research as a whole, I draw on Warburg’s practice as well in the way I approach my research topics; in an atlasesque way. I infuse Warburg’s Atlas approach with several other theories to create the methodology through which I work. In my work I recontextualise archival material to create (visual, as well as essayistic) assemblages which are akin to Warburg’s panels. Amsterdam-based collective If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution has published a book titled ‘Rereading Appropriation,’ which is a reconsideration on the topic of appropriation, as it reconsiders the artistic strategy of appropriation through theories of affect. It reconfigures appropriation as an act that is based in connecting and acknowledging. Archival discourse is fundamental in my methodology as well, in which archival material is to be understood as constitutive of hegemonies. Both Derrida and Foucault note that power structures are embedded within the archive, as do many contemporary archival theorists (Ketelaar, Schwartz & Cook), who also note that these embedded power dynamics allow subaltern possibilities as well. Working mostly with Dutch Colonial material, the discourses of Critical Heritage studies and decolonial theory are consequential as well.