This article seeks to explore the impact of digital technologies upon the material, conceptual and ideological premises of the colonial archive in the digital era. This analysis is pursued though a discussion of creative work produced during an international, multidisciplinary artist workshop in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, that used digital material from colonial photographic archives in the Netherlands to critically investigate the ways national, transnational and personal (hi)stories in the former colonies in Southeast Asia have been informed and shaped by their colonial past. The analysis focuses on how the artists’ use of digital media contests and reconfigures the use, truth value and power of the colonial archive as an entity and institution. Case studies include: Thai photographer Dow Wasiksiri, who questions the archive's mnemonic function by substituting early twentieth-century handcrafted association techniques with digital manipulation; Malaysian artist Yee I-Lann, who compresses onto the same picture plane different historical moments and colonial narratives; and Indonesian photographer Agan Harahap, who recomposes archival photographs into unlikely juxtapositions disseminated through social media. By repurposing colonial archival material and circulating their work online such a re-imag(in)ing of Southeast Asia not only challenges the notions of originality, authenticity, ownership and control associated with such archives, but also reclaims colonial-era (hi)stories, making them part of a democratic, expanding, postcolonial archive.
Supartono, A., & Moschovi, A. (2020). Contesting colonial (hi)stories: (Post)colonial imaginings of South East Asia. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 51(3), 343-371. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022463420000508