Boedi Widjaja, Waiting for you, 2016. Graphite on paper, 154 x 145.1 cm. Commissioned for the Yinchuan Biennale, 2016. Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery. © Boedi Widjaja. Photo: Cher Him Chua.

Boedi Widjaja
Declaration of

Helwaser Gallery, New York

September 11–November 7, 2019
September 9, 2019

Performance & conversation: September 14, 2–4pm, with poet Jee Leong Koh and Boon Hui Tan, Director, Asia Society Museum
Opening: September 11, 6–9pm
Literary reading: September 16, 7–9pm, Boedi Widjaja with authors Claudia Serea, Donald Breckinridge, and Celina Su

Helwaser Gallery
833 Madison Avenue, 3rd Floor
10021 New York, NY
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Helwaser Gallery is pleased to present Declaration of, the first solo presentation in New York of works by artist Boedi Widjaja (b. 1975, Java, Indonesia). The exhibition presents recent and latest works from the artist’s Imaginary Homeland series (2015–ongoing) encompassing drawings, photography, and installation. For this exhibition, Widjaja focuses on press photographs taken during the Cold War of Indonesia’s founding figures, Sukarno and Suharto. Having left Indonesia at a young age, the artist’s perception of his former country is constructed mostly through images and the imagined. Widjaja’s works re-examine these images, connecting them with ideas of embodiment, gaze and memory. Declaration of will be accompanied by a catalogue, with an essay by Shona Mei Findlay, who currently serves as curator for Asia Programs at KADIST, and an interview with Annie Jael Kwan, an independent curator and researcher based in London.

A highlight of the exhibition is the newly commissioned work, Nine Hundred and Ninety-Nine Roses (2019), an installation comprising nine small-scale pinhole photos, alongside nine pecis* mounted onto a tripod stand. This series of pinhole photos captured then-President Sukarno’s meetings with leaders of the three power blocs—Russia, China, and the US—at the time of the Cold War. Using the methods of the camera obscura, these images were created by exposing photo-sensitive paper to light passing through a small hole made on the top of each peci.

The exhibition also presents two large-scale negative drawings. Waiting for you (2016) references a photograph taken during a meeting between Sukarno and the People’s Republic of China’s first Premier and Foreign Minister, Zhou Enlai in 1965. Fly me to the moon (2019) alludes to a different image depicting Sukarno sitting alongside the 35th US president, John F. Kennedy. Collectively, these drawings reflect on the legacy of Sukarno and his role in veering a newly-independent nation through the fraught geo-political terrain of the time. During his presidency, Sukarno had attempted to balance the sympathies of opposing factions that aligned themselves with the two power blocs, China and the US. This ultimately led to his own removal from power in 1967 by Major General Suharto. For these negative drawings, the viewer is invited to view the works through the camera of a mobile device, with the classic invert settings turned on, revealing the positive images of the work.

This exhibition will include an outdoor installation of 10 flags on the gallery terrace. Titled Art is only a continuation of war by other means (flags) (2019), the work is the artist’s latest iteration of his outdoor photographic installation, Art is only a continuation of war by other means (2016) that was presented at the 1st Yinchuan Biennale. On each flag is a distinct composition of red and blue graphics which represent an encoding of words. Together, the flags read “Art is only a continuation of war by other means,” a reference to “Diplomacy is only a continuation of war by other means”—a play on the famous Clausewitzian quote credited to Premier Zhou, as reported by American journalist Edgar Snow in 1954. The artist transposed the short and long clicks of the Morse Code into abstract compositions of red and blue. This formulation of a visual language echoes the artist’s childhood of imagining his national identity through mediated images.

*A peci is a popular and widely-worn type of headgear in Indonesia, Malaysia and broader Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, it has been adopted as a symbol of solidarity with nationalist aspirations cultivated by Sukarno.

About the artist
Boedi Widjaja (b. 1975, Java, Indonesia) currently lives and works in Singapore. He has shown in numerous exhibitions internationally, including: Asia Pacific Triennial 9 (2018); MAP1: Waterways (2017); Diaspora Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale; Yinchuan Biennale (2016), China; and From East to the Barbican (2015), Barbican, London. The artist’s solo exhibitions include: Black—Hut (2016), Singapore Biennale Affiliate Project, Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore; Path. 6, Unpacking my Library (2014), Esplanade, Singapore; and Sungai, Sejarah (2012), Singapore. Recent accolades include: Top 10 Winner, FID Prize (2017); Finalist, Sovereign Asian Art Prize (2015); ArtReview Asia FutureGreats (2014); Grand Prize (Sound Arts; with David Letellier), Bains Numeriques, France (2012); and First Prize, Land Transport Authority Beauty World Station (2012).