24 Pieces of Memorandum
Artist: Alit Ambara
Artist Statement: A collection of works depicting political violence, human rights violations, and environmental crises in Indonesia and the world in general. This collection of works was produced from 2014 to 2020. The years 1965 and 1966 are a dark chapter in Indonesian history. It was the time of mass murders of communists and many people accused of communism. The violence spread across Java, Bali, Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia, claiming an estimated two million victims. These mass killings did not only reflect class conflicts or different political ideologies. The violence was also legitimized with the cultural argument that communism shattered social harmony. The posters were created in 2015 to commemorate the victims of the 1965 mass murders.
Row 1: The years 1965 and 1966 are a dark chapter in Indonesian history. It was the time of mass murders of communists, and many people accused of communism. The violence spread across Java, Bali, Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia, claiming an estimated two million victims. These mass killings did not only reflect class conflicts or different political ideologies. The violence was also legitimized with the cultural argument that communism shattered social harmony. The Suharto regime crushed the labour movement by branding it communism. The anti-communist mass murders of 1965 left a deep trauma in Indonesian society. In Indonesia’s history books, the version of the Suharto period is still present. It reads: communists disturb social harmony. Numerous intellectuals were among those murdered and imprisoned: teachers, scientists and artists. Hundreds of thousands of women were victims of murder, rape, torture and continued stigmatization in the course of the persecution of communists. Until now, this horrific act of violence in 1965 has never been ‘resolved’ by the state and has been ignored by the international community.
Authoritarian regimes such as Suharto’s new order banned books with violence and arbitrariness. At the end of 2009 for the first time after the post-Suharto reformation era (1998) in Indonesia, the attorney general’s office (ago) banned several books on the basis that these books might contain allegedly “false information” that would “disrupt public order.” An ago official reportedly claimed that these books were “provocative against the constitution and the Pancasila, and were communist propaganda.” The government’s campaign in the book ban of 2009 resulted in the return of the “1963 law on securing printed materials whose content could disrupt public order,” which gave the ago the power to ban any books they deemed unconstitutional and hence “no longer legally binding.”
Row 2: These selected posters highlight the peasants’ struggle in Indonesia to have land and to protect their lands from land grabbing by large corporations.
Row 3: During 1997-1998, many pro-democracy activists in Indonesia were kidnapped by military units. 13 activists are still missing to this day. The May 1998 riots of Indonesia were incidents of mass violence, demonstrations, and civil unrest of a racial nature that occurred throughout Indonesia. The riots were triggered by economic problems including food shortages and mass unemployment, and eventually led to the resignation of President Suharto and the fall of the New Order regime. The main targets of the violence were ethnically Chinese citizens, however, most of the people who died in the riots were the Javanese Indonesian looters who targeted the Chinese shops, as the looters were burnt to death in a massive fire. It was estimated that more than a thousand people died in the May 1998 riots. At least 168 cases of rape were reported, and material damage was valued at more than Rp 3.1 trillion. As of 2010, legal proceedings regarding the riots have yet to be completed. The families of the victims are still demanding justice for the 1998 violence by holding demonstrations in front of the state palace.
Row 4: What remains of political violence, war, atrocity, austerity.
Artist Biography: Alit Ambara (Indonesia) is a visual and graphic artist and cultural activist who has engaged in various movements for upholding human rights and social justice in Indonesia and Timor Leste since the early 1990s. He received his BA from the Jakarta Institute for the Arts and MA in art history from Savannah College of Art and Design. Since 2009 he has intensively used posters to respond to social-political issues. Under the label Nobody Corp. Internationale Unlimited he regularly disseminates political messages in thousands of images through various social media channels. He believes that with social media channels – which are flexible and open to the public – the artistic possibilities for responding to countless issues of injustices are endless. \n Website link: https://indoartnow.com/artists/alit-ambara.