Identity Crisis

Reflections on Public and Private Life in Contemporary Javanese Photography

Exhibition Website

Jan 14 2017 - Jun 11 2017

Organized by the Johnson Museum, this exhibition is the first in the United States to focus on the recent emergence of photography as an art form in Java, Indonesia. Guest curated by photographer Brian Arnold, Identity Crisis is the culmination of years of research and consultation with artists, curators, publishers, and educators in Java. The ten artists included pursue investigations of personal or cultural identity, and use photography to probe, obscure, or heighten questions and curiosities about being Javanese or Indonesian today.

Whether looking at their personal histories, cultural or institutional histories, or documenting broader social diversity, each artist attempts to bring greater clarity to fundamental issues. Krisna Murti’s Video Hijab shows twelve Indonesian women wearing twelve different forms of Islamic clothing that signal the freedom of expression allowed to each wearer. Photographs by Wimo Ambala Bayang and Jim Allen Abel depict a cross section of Javanese society in playful and critical ways that obscure their individual identities to comment on social structures in contemporary Indonesia. Angki Purbandono spent a year photographing the homeless and mentally ill people living on the streets of Yogyakarta to create his book, Beyond Versace, that profoundly remarks on urban power and privilege while giving voice to people typically neglected in popular consciousness. Arum Tresnaningtyas Dayaputri’s photographs and zines delve into the nuances of social interactions through documentation of the popular music known as dangdut.

Dito Yuwono’s self-portraits call attention to the many medical troubles he has experienced to reveal a very intimate form of identity, while Deden Hendan Durahman’s digitally manipulated photographs probe and question the relationship between identity and the body. Henrycus Napit Sunargo’s photographic-based installation depicts his family compound to locate himself within the generations of his family in ways that mirror the broader evolution of Indonesian society. Tino Djumini’s classic-style portraits of fifteen families provide a window into the rich, dynamic, and complicated diversity of modern Indonesia. Amran Malik Hakim’s sensitive and unflinching portraits of his autistic students call on the viewer to, in the artist’s words, “consider the meaning of life, the meaning of responsibility, caring and excellence.”

A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, copublished by the Johnson Museum and Afterhours Books, Jakarta (available February 2017).

This exhibition was curated by Brian Arnold, a research associate in Cornell’s Southeast Asia Program, with Ellen Avril, chief curator and curator of Asian art at the Johnson Museum. The project was made possible by support from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, the Jarett F. and Younghee Kim Wait Fund for Contemporary Islamic and Middle Eastern Arts at the Johnson Museum, the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County, and the American Institute for Indonesian Studies.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.

  • Photography
  • Asian
  • 20th Century
  • Various artists

Exhibition Venues & Dates