Arts and Culture
This panel focuses on representations of landscapes in Southeast Asian visual art, including photography. We approach the landscape not as a neutral representation of the natural environment, but as a dynamic site of discursive struggles over nature, culture, society, politics, history and art history and their mutual interactions across Southeast Asia. We will critically re-examine generally accepted concepts in art history, such as the ‘Beautiful Indies’ style in the context of the Dutch East Indies. We will also explore the professionalisation of photography and the move from colonial to domestic, nationalist and postcolonial representations of socio-natural spaces. This includes an examination of changing notions of the pictorial and the picturesque in the various paths to modernity in the Dutch East Indies and Singapore. We will compare these historical struggles and dynamics with contemporary visual art documenting, expressing or shaping natural and socio-political changes. Examples are photographers and art collectives in Cambodia and Vietnam engaging with urban development and the experiences of migrants and refugees in the region. The historical and contemporary examples are meant to show that visual art genres not only function as media of representation, but also as tools for the production, distribution and consumption of socio-political ideas, practices and spaces and the networking between societies both within and beyond the region. This encompasses recent forms of urban-rural creative collaboration using modern media such as the Internet and drones to re-interpret rural culture, wisdom and creative traditions in the context of some of the most urgent issues of our age, such as anthropogenic disaster and environmental sustainability.