Unsur[e] Kaligrafi: On Aceh, Islamic Art, and the Terrain of Indonesian Multiculturalism

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    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 Javanese—fraught with ironies, puns, blasphemies, unruly codeswitchings, and conflicts over standards—comes down to us through an unsettled history of cultural encounter. I say “unsettled” in that the history of cultural and political claims regarding Arab and Qur’anic orthography, language, and philology remains an ongoing and contested resource within Indonesia’s diverse Muslim community. Anxieties consumed A.D. Pirous and his imagined public on the eve of his major retrospective show at Jakarta’s prestigious Galeri Nasional. They had to do with some ‘unsure calligraphy’ and culminated in acts of self-censorship, gestures that are necessarily part of the complex cultural politics that shape the confluence of ‘Islam’, ‘Indonesia’, ‘Aceh’, ‘Arab’ and ‘art’ in Jakarta’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, I’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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)15-21
    JournalAntropologi Indonesia
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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