Artivist — No, I am not an island. I was brainwashed, too.

Over several months in Indonesia from 1965-66, some half a million people were killed and more than one million imprisoned because of their purported ties to communism. Until today, the Indonesian government has remained largely silent on this period of atrocity violence. Elisabeth Ida Mulyani’s work responds to the enduring realities of this violence in Indonesian life.

Photographic and film images were used by the Indonesian New Order regime after the 1965-6 mega pogrom to brainwash and reconstruct important pieces of history. Being a documentary photographer, how do you approach this? (Interview by Laura Lee Bral on Urbanautica)
In this respect, there are two things we can talk about, namely, archives and new photographs. I use both. Apart from photographs, I also make videos. So far I’ve already made documentary photography series, video interviews and other video work, also an installation. I named the project (De/Re)Construction.

Construction, deconstruction and reconstruction all play a significant role in the method in which I create, exhibit and frame the works I have made and am still making. I photographed and interviewed Indonesian exiles living in Western Europe. They are people who were sent out in the sixties to study or work abroad. They were usually assigned by the Indonesian government to partner of befriend other countries. Most went to China and the Soviet Union but East Germany and Cuba were also common destinations. Indonesia, at that time, had the biggest non-ruling communist party in the world. But they were crushed in 1965 and then communism and Marxism were banned up to today. There are many archive images but I don’t really use them as a role. I process them more as data and material. For example, the installation I made is based on a propaganda film, which my generation was obliged to watch once in a year from age 7 to 18. No wonder that these people uniformly consider communism as the most evil of all, and the slaughter of communists was “supposed to happen”.

“Bunuh”/Kill. From (De/Re)Construction