History: The Power of Being Onward

Foto dari 2017 Makassar Biennale
Web: http://makassarbiennale.org

History: The Power of Being Onward

Lin Chen Wei(林正尉)

"All history is contemporary history."

——Benedetto Croce (1866-1952)

Cities are not only spaces for sharing trading goods but memories and stories as well. Once the Italian author Italo Calvino had ever mentioned in his well-known novel “Invisible Cities”: From travelers, roads, camels, sounds in markets and wooden ships, all kinds of memories may come through diverse ways.

Sharing is the essence of a city, while the sea de facto indeed. However, it is the time for us to consider about it. As long as forgetting the essence of the sea yet, our original imaginations will also be hidden and exhausted. The sea and ships are not merely the important tools for economy development, but also for our own stories and origins. The 2nd Makassar Biennale “ Maritim” attempts to tell the various stories to the new generation: According to Michel Foucault in his inspiring paragraph on heterotopias space, that we if are disable to re-imagine about the status of sea, the military detectives and scouts would be instead of the wonderful adventures, meanwhile, so would the modern police gain the power from a nation in order to erase the images of pirates in history.  

From the position of ocean, basically both Indonesia and Taiwan used to face these similar developing problems for (1)large-scale infrastructure some people do embrace; (2)modern industrial developments and non-ecological urban planning projects have been in a great position instead of the abundant cultural creativity and traditions everywhere. They were expected to build up a newly-imagined community, so that no hard for us to think about ourselves: Why are the increasing public transportation systems desired to be with strong eager than before? More concretely, just during in the recent decade of Makassar? The reason is not too difficult for us. In doing so, the moving flow for human beings can merely rely on the skylines and roads, in which provide a certain way for basically one-dimensional capital accumulation in efficient time. Therefore, no more space becomes needed for the importance of the sea in economical perspective. In the long run, the latter would just be traumatized and marginalized again.

    I am truly honored to be the participator from Taipei City during the 2nd Makassar Biennale. It’s quite interesting that of from the curatorial perspective of “city to city” makes it more possibilities equally, for “Taiwan” has been fighting and striving for identity herself nevertheless under the proceeding pressure from the certain country and international society over two decades . However, the common anxiety and crisis in Taiwan also gets rooted in herself in situ. Because of the essence of island-oriented character has being ambiguous, the highly economical development made people in the island had been long time forgetting as being “islanders” , that is, people always think of themselves upon a land in contrast with sensing and discovering themselves relatively on a indefinable location where were used to be filled up with unlimited possibilities, contingencies from migrant adventures. That’s why we can sometimes find common words as well as rituals similarly between in Indonesia and Taiwan.

   Since both Indonesia and the south part of Taiwan had been colonized by Dutch V.O.C Company in the past, from history one may understand that for the viewpoint of Batavia(Jakarta) governors, Formosa(Taiwan) was just used to be a military frontier and trading outpost connecting to China and Japan during the 17th Century. From spices robbery in Laut Maluku to “Banda Massacre” in Indonesia Timur etc., all kinds of situations and policies happened in Indonesia directly and deeply influenced the development of Taiwan definitely.

         My art project in the Biennale is inspired by two Makassarese girls’ Masa Bahagia in Taiwan during the year of 1655-1657. Even today the events of the Makassarese Anna and Julienna’s stories may find some important but remain ignored in both Taiwan and Makassar. No one knows about them still. The only one trial we can point out is from marriage records with Dutch V.O.C soldiers. For us , they were manusia tanpa sejarah who were born without real names, certain ethnicities, no clear figures or even no more impressive memories mentioned above. However, they were truly Christians so were able to migrate out , chasing for their love and life based on the population policies from the Dutch .

             Masa Bahagia II:   Le Retour de Manusia Tanpa   Sejarah/  
           Lin Chen-Wei(2017)

          What are the reasons caused them leave Makassar and head for the distant frontier? I start to spread my method combining art making, researches and imaginations. Thanks to the enlightenments from “new cultural history” genre, I’d re-read one of the most important female historian Natalie Zemon Davis’ The return of Martin Guerre, in this book she mentioned about why/ how one needs to collect historical fragments from diaries, tales, local chants, contracts and visual icons etc. in order to “grow up” an “invisible person” in visible way.

       By reading Anthony Reid’s and others, I have known that a deadly and futureless plague happened in Makassar during the girl’s childhood in the earlier 17th century. Both Anna and Julienna might choose to give up believing in their original religion, for someone was caused to death in family or community. Also at the same time, the Sultanate of Gowa was deeply involved in dilemma: inner situation for lack of food, safety, men and happiness in Makassar, while the Dutch V.O.C became more aggressive, arrogant and ambitious on Gowa’s potential property . They might have made the decision and motif to abroad, even think “how to escape more far away then before.” In brief, my artistic purpose is to re-construct/ create their suffering mentalities and dreams which were already occurred.

                 To sum up, histories from ordinary ones should not be into oblivion while we are standing on the certain point of new century and artistic thinking, we also need to rethink about the equal relationships from the neglected people as well as to our near community. The key image for me is to establish the concept of “being in the relationship from a port to another”, sharing our memories , tales and common maritime heritage to each other instead of erecting rigidly the grand modern political boundaries with co-competition and hierarchy.

        During the recent 20 years, Sulawesi and Taiwan got stuck still in the unsolved dilemma whether if being engaged in plenty of religious, ethnicity, liberty-calling conflicts and social movements, or, like Taiwan, trying to  be itself or fit in different kinds of political definitions under the specific political paradigm (such as establishing its certain name in the international family). How should we pass through of them ? It is necessary to ask more.

         In my final opinion: The ocean always tries to remind of deep meanings in equality, connections and ecology within the“others”; From histories and imaginations, we are inspired to collect and make it with possibilities, for them are not always about the past, instead, they help us the build up the courage and aura to confront the current difficulties. In other words, they both assist us to clear up the dust we may encounter, to throw out the sharp obstacles we may step on our following way.

          Yes, they will accompany us walking onward.

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