Jakarta International Photo Summit 2010

The 2nd Jakarta International Photo Summit took place from 16 to 26 December 2010 at the National Gallery Indonesia. I was invited to present the works of five artists from Southeast Asia.

Excerpts from the catalogue (in Bahasa Indonesia):

City and Interaction: A Photographic Exhibition of Five Artists from Southeast Asia

“Every artist has his own city. Mine is Singapore,” states photographer Tay Kay Chin emphatically.[1] Indeed, every once in awhile, we will come across someone enduring enough to dedicate much of one’s life documenting her or his city-of-choice—like what Erik Prasetya or Daido Moriyama has done in Jakarta or Tokyo respectively.

Thankfully, unlike what Susan Sontag had suggested, photographers in Southeast Asia do not always see the city as an “urban inferno” of “voluptuous extremes”.[2] Instead, there is a lingering sense of heroism involved in the works of Tan Chee Hon (Kuala Lumpur), Nguyễn Tường Linh (Saigon) and Lâm Hiếu Thuận (Saigon)—the idea of the lonesome photographer, roaming the city in search of her “unofficial reality”.[3] Working independently, away from the constraints of “journalism” and propaganda, what these photographers see in their viewfinders are often framed by their personal lives and how they respond to facets of the cities they call home.

In recent years, digital technology has expanded the scope and accessibility of photographic arts. While Aye Ko (Yangon) and Charles Lim (Singapore) may not roam the cities in search of the decisive moment, their projects zoom in on the individual and speak of the anxieties of residing in their respective cities. Presented in the form of a performance or with the help of Photoshop, their sense of place can only be acquired much like the ways in which Tan, Nguyễn or Lâm would experience their cities. I’m inclined to believe that these artists are our filters to the region.

[1] Tay Kay Chin, Unphotographable, ext. cat. (Singapore: Tay Kay Chin, 2006), unpaginated.

[2] Susan Sontag, On Photography (London: Penguin, 2002), 55.

[3] Sontag, On Photography, 56.