The hybrid discourse of Indonesian Islamic aesthetics, and in particular, a painterly metalanguage that draws from Indonesian, Arabic, English, Dutch, and dozens of regional languages such as Acehnese and Javaneseâ€”fraught with ironies, puns, blasphemies, unruly codeswitchings, and conflicts over standardsâ€”comes down to us through an unsettled history of cultural encounter. I say â€œunsettledâ€ in that the history of cultural and political claims regarding Arab and Qurâ€™anic orthography, language, and philology remains an ongoing and contested resource within Indonesiaâ€™s diverse Muslim community. Anxieties consumed A.D. Pirous and his imagined public on the eve of his major retrospective show at Jakartaâ€™s prestigious Galeri Nasional. They had to do with some â€˜unsure calligraphyâ€™ and culminated in acts of self-censorship, gestures that are necessarily part of the complex cultural politics that shape the confluence of â€˜Islamâ€™, â€˜Indonesiaâ€™, â€˜Acehâ€™, â€˜Arabâ€™ and â€˜artâ€™ in Jakartaâ€™s contemporary Muslim art public. In them we may find lessons not only about the globalized reach of Islamic visual culture and but also about prospects for a multicultural Indonesian state. In particular, Iâ€™ll emphasize some of the constraints religion and nation bring to bear on a multicultural public, and call attention to the cultural politics of ambiguity in a multicultural art public.
|Published - 2004