Toko Buku Liong
a web-hosted art project
Agustus 4th – September 4th, 2020
Toko Buku Liong (‘Liong Bookstore’) is a collaborative art project between curator Adelina Luft (Romania/Indonesia) and artist Daniel Lie (Brazil/Indonesia) web-hosted by Cemeti Institute for Art and Society running from August 4th to September 4th, 2020.
Due to the pandemic, Toko Buku Liong was built in an online format, as a way to experiment with the hybridizing forms of visual expression (as an exhibition, publication, and artwork) and to create transnational and multilingual accessibility.
The art project presentation can be found at https://tokobukuliong.com/
The project is a joint effort to recollect the biographical fragments of the Lie family and the comics they produced and published at Liong Bookstore in the 1950s by creating an affective archive situated at the intersection with identity politics, power structures, and cultural agency in the post-independence of Indonesia. Through four sequential volumes presents artwork, essays, and archival materials, this project proposes an alternative route to mainstream history and hopes to generate further conversations on authorship subjectivities and the role of Indonesian comics in the construction of cultural identity.
Each volume addresses an aspect of the research while also building up a weekly sequential reading through the lens of the previous volume(s) and the discussion program. The first volume (launched on August 4th, 2020) covers Semarang city research in the 1950s through the bookstore’s former physical space. The second volume (launched on August 11th, 2020) introduces the founders and producers of Toko Buku Liong, who migrated to Brazil in 1958 due to the Indonesia socio-political situation. The third volume (will be launched on August 18th, 2020) looks into the independent comic production house and its search for cultural identity. The last volume (will be launched on August 25th, 2020) focuses on a critical reading of Wiro, Anak Rimba Indonesia, one of the most popular Indonesian comic books produced by Liong Bookstore 1950-s, and its relation with the Indonesia cultural identity.
The first volume begins with a contextual and introspective reflection of the physical site where Toko Buku Liong was active in Kota Lama Semarang, Indonesia, during the 1950s. Our search to recuperate the history of the space prior to its owners’ migration to Brazil in 1958 was complicated by the space’s unknown recent and past history, presently a half-done illegal steel structure built in the heritage-protected old town of Semarang. A “modern” construction hanging through time as a marker of an aggressive act of erasure, or perhaps a a token of our failure to remember?
Through the analogy of the escombros —an imperfect translation of the Portuguese word for ruins or debris — left by the space and the immaterial debris of the disjointed memories passed down by the family who inhabited it, we begin our search to assemble the personal and historical fragments of a little-known creative power house.
How can we untangle an inevitable process of forgetting complicated by layers of marginalization and erasure?
The second volume looks into the multi-layered and heterogeneous identity of Lie Djoen Liem and Ong King Nio (the founders of Toko Buku Liong), a Java-born Indonesian family of Chinese descent living in Semarang until 1958. Through personal archives, distant memories and fragmented stories handed-down over three generations (from Lie and Ong, their children, and grandchildren), we situate an intimate family narrative within the dominant national power structures of the time as a way to speculate on their ‘estrangement’ and unexpected decision to emigrate to Brazil.
Through this synergy of the personal and the political, we look at how subjectivities were both shaped and negotiated within the circumstances of the time, to also counter popular views of this ethnic minority as a homogeneous and exclusive group. In examining the family documents and stories, we encountered both a critical and affective practice in the construction of memory. There are intimate relations inherent in finding, remembering (and imagining), as well as in creating an archive. Yet what are the possibilities of archiving feelings or emotions? And most importantly, can these affective archives produce knowledge as alternatives to writing the history of marginalized groups?
The third volume offers two perspectives in looking at the comic publications of Toko Buku Liong through the lens of the previous volumes—related to the entanglements of power structures in the ‘50s and identity politics. One positions the comic books within the search for an identity in the wider cultural sphere and the comic productions of the time, while the other offers a subjective lens of these entanglements by creating a new body of work. Through a presentation of comic fragments and a new installation work by Daniel Lie at Cemeti gallery space, we make visible the heterogeneous and multifarious body (of work) imagined and produced by Toko Buku Liong.
Gaung/Reverb/Reverberação is Daniel’s installation work created as a result of the research process related with the enmeshments of the family’s identity, memories, and records that here reverberate as an aesthetic proposition to navigate these feelings.
Volume IV – Wiro Anak Rimba Indonesia
It will be published on Tuesday, Agustus 25th, 2020
It will focus on a critical reading of Wiro, Anak Rimba Indonesia, one of the most popular Indonesian comic books produced by Liong Bookstore 1950-s, and its relation with the Indonesia cultural identity.
ADELINA LUFT is a curator and researcher with focus on Indonesian art and history. She holds a BA in Public Relations from the National University of Political Studies in Bucharest (2012) and a MA in Visual Art Studies from Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta (2017). Her master thesis and collaboration with Jogja Biennale Equator expanded her interest in post-colonial studies, horizontal South dialogues, and transnational perspectives. Her hyphenated position and identity in the double post (post-colonial and post-communist) has been a source to artistically reflect transnational histories and seek to reconstruct marginalised narratives within the politics of (re)presentation . She has been based in Yogyakarta for the past six years where she experiments with collective-based lifestyles and collaborative processes of working with artists and curators, allowing the shaping of new subjectivities and non-hierarchical environments.
In DANIEL LIE’s practice time is the central pillar of the reflection. Since the oldest and affective memory – bringing family and personal stories – until the time of things in the world; the period of a lifetime, and the duration of the states of the elements. Through installations, objects and hybridization of languages of art – using the things as they are – the work creates bridges with performance art concepts such as an art based on time, ephemerality and presence. To highlight these three instances, elements that have the time contained in itself are set in the space, as installations, such as decaying matter, growth of plants, fungi and the body. In the work research, the look is facing tensions and breaking a binary thought between science and religion, ancestry and present, life and death.