"History also records the darker moments of loss and downfall. Oftentimes, the victims of persecution find it hard to share their pain with descendants, or discuss their history at all. Revealing the truth feels like reopening old wounds. The perpetrators of historical violence have a tendency to edit history; their actions are erased like flaws to be covered over….Acknowledging history, even when it's painful, will help future generations to avoid making the same mistakes; whereas, denying the past will allow history to repeat itself.” –FX Harsono, Indonesian artist and activist
My work invokes my Dutch-Indonesian cultural legacy to address broader themes of cultural hybridity and representations of interpersonal and international power dynamics. Growing up in a diverse community in Southern California as a first-generation American, I adapted with an almost unconscious fluidity to my American identity. My awareness of the grief and dislocation that birthed this new identity was largely ignored as my family assimilated to middle-class American life.
I’ve recently been reviving the memory of my dormant cultural history and aesthetic traditions nearly erased by this assimilation. This exploration of my Indonesian heritage addresses the trauma of the Indo legacy, asking what this particular history means more broadly for contemporary global culture. Over the past seven years, I’ve intermittently lived and worked in Java to research my family history and the traditional crafts of my forebears from local artists. I’ve studied wax-resist batik dyeing techniques, leatherwork, and woodcarving, and have pushed the aesthetics of these crafts beyond their traditional boundaries. I also quote from the vernacular of Java’s built environment of tiled floors, volcanic stones, and bamboo walls. In recent artworks, landscapes and figures are enmeshed within a seemingly endless sea of antique so-called ‘Portuguese Tiles.’ These pressed cement tiles, made from volcanic ash, are actually English in origin, and were introduced to Indonesia by the Dutch to bring hygienic surfaces to the colonies. Featuring imagery and designs from around the globe, they are in fact a sanitized visual index of European colonial projects. I interweave these icons with other cultural signifiers to make paintings and sculptures that become visual puzzles dense with historical technique and personal/political meaning. Through this practice, with its embodied tension between traditional handmade craft and contemporary painterly experimentation, I attempt to perform the dislocation and, perhaps, approach the necessary resolution of my hybrid identity.
Using imagery and painting technique informed by my Californian upbringing and education, I remix Javanese craft traditions, incorporating traditional designs to make hybrid representational forms. My work brings race, gender, and sexuality into conversation because these facets of identity are always refracted through one other. The conflicting aesthetics in these hybrid objects serve as a symbolic gesture toward the historical reality of the post-colonial condition. Rather than calling for a pat resolution, I hope my work encourages sustained engagement with cultural difference and injustice as a decolonial antidote to the racist and xenophobic legacy of imperialism present in America, Indonesia, and Europe alike.
 Sullivan+Strumpf. (2018). FX Harsono. Retrieved from http://sullivanstrumpf.com/exhibitions/fx-harsono/fx/exhibition_catalogue