Together with Indonesian artist Iswanto Hartono, the Oude Kerk presents an exhibition in the context of the Europalia Indonesia. From 29 September to 15 November 2017, Iswanto Hartono connects the history of the Oude Kerk with Indonesia’s colonial past, from an anthropological and archaeological perspective.

Hartono is creating site-specific work for the Oude Kerk. Within this monumental building he will reflect upon the topic of colonization, a matter strongly related to the Oude Kerk. The many decorated graves of former acclaimed heroes, men who sailed out to colonize the world, bear witness to this. It was these men who became national heroes, and who have come to symbolize the ethnocentrism – experiencing and judging ‘others’ based on one’s own cultural perspective – that has characterized Europe since the 17th century. Hartono questions the Oude Kerk’s monuments by comparing them with the uprooted monuments in Banda (Maluku Islands), Batavia and Sumatra (in the former Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia), which were established by the Dutch to remember and commemorate outside the context of the colonized cultures. We now wonder what exactly they commemorate. The horrendous annexation, slavery and oppression? Or the mere presence of the ruler? Within this context the artist creates new work that makes us aware of a colonial history that is now so often consciously forgotten. The work will vanish over the course of the exhibition, just like the disappearance of certain cultures and traditions in Indonesia caused by the Dutch and the dismissal of this past in the present day.

Iswanto Hartono’s interdisciplinary practice focuses on the issues of history, time, space and urbanity. Trained as an architect, Iswanto is interested in exploring structure and form, and in researching the alternative uses of a space. Hartono’s work aims to provoke a critical awareness of space. The artist questions what space actually is or how it has been perceived as a matter of course. Hartono is particularly interested in Indonesian traditions and parts of that country’s history that have consciously been forgotten. Previous projects revolved around colonization and the battle of identity in contemporary Indonesia.

The exhibition by Iswanto Hartono is being organized by the Oude Kerk in the context of the Europalia Indonesia in Brussels. Every two years Europalia invites the audience to discover the art and cultures of a guest country, which is Indonesia during the current edition. Because of its strong historical connections to Indonesia and the colonial history of the Netherlands, the Oude Kerk is organizing an exhibition that exposes this darker past during the Europalia Arts festival.