• © Octora
  • Tom Nicholson, I was born in Indonesia © Christian Capurro Courtesy of the artist and Milani gallery
  • S. Sudjojono, Cap Go Meh, 1940 © Galeri Nasional Indonesia
  • Roy Villevoye, Preparations © Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden
  • Nicolaas Pieneman - The arrest of Diepo Negoro © Rijks Museum
  • ©NIOD

Power and other things Indonesia & Art (1835-now)



18 10 '17 > 21 01 '18

More info


Centre for Fine Arts
Rue Ravenstein 23
B-1000 Brussels

Opening hours

Monday - Sunday 
10:00 - 18:00 

10:00 - 21:00

Closed on Monday


T +32 (0)2 507 82 00



Audio guide included

15,00 €

Groups (min. 10 people)
Seniors 65+

13,00 €

Youth 12-25 year
8,00 € (Wednesday 4,00 €)

Children 6-12 year
4,00 €

Children -6 year
Entrée libre

School groups 
1,00 €

Combitickets with 'Ancestors & Rituals'
26,00 €

Train + exhibition tickets
On sale in Belgian stations

Guided tours

Max. 15 people
Duration 1h30

97,00 € > 77,00 €

T +32 (0)2 507 83 36


EUROPALIA INTERNATIONAL, Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia

How to get there?

Centre for Fine Arts

Curators Riksa Afiaty & Charles Esche

Power and other things explores the recent and often turbulent history of Indonesia, seen through the works of 21 Indonesian and Western artists. The Dutch colonialist period and Japanese occupation, the status of women and immigration are among the themes this exhibition tackles in order to understand contemporary Indonesia. Curators Riksa Afiaty and Charles Esche explain the concept.

What does the title Power and other things refer to?

RIKSA AFIATY – The title is part of the declaration of Indonesian independence, signed in 1945 by the first president Sukarno. In it, he demands from the Dutch government that ‘the transfer of power and other things will be executed by careful means in the shortest possible time’. 

CHARLES ESCHE – I like this idea of ‘and other things’, as if all life could be squeezed into it. A simple demand like this has had huge consequences for the future. The exhibition talks about how these ‘other things’ were twisted by the colonial power, and what happened to them in the last 72 years. 

Why does an exhibition on contemporary art start with the 19th century?

CE – Many exhibitions on Indonesian art start in 1945 with the country’s independence, but it is better to see the story in a longer trajectory. That’s why we start the exhibition with three painters from the 19th century. Raden Saleh was the first artist to leave Indonesia and receive a European education in the Netherlands and, importantly, to return to his country in order to understand his dual identity. The Indonesian-born Jan Toorop moved to the Netherlands permanently, but continued relating strongly to Indonesia. Aside from a short stay in Brussels, Emiria Sunassa spent her entire life in Indonesia, dreaming of a more advanced education in the Netherlands. In different ways, these artists lived in a kind of colonial tension, neither here nor there. 

The recent history of Indonesia is characterised by constant changes. How is this reflected in the exhibition?

RA – In Power and other things, artists reflect on how colonial thinking has shaped modern and post-modern Indonesia, up to the present day. By broaching an array of different subjects like the influence of the imperial Dutch colony and the Japanese occupation, or the relationship between the Arab, Chinese and Indonesian communities, they try to find other ways, besides  the postcolonial one, to understand the present. 

CE – The focus of the exhibition is on how particular changes – like the position of women – affect the way the country can be understood today, both internally and externally. The exhibition is a broad and fascinating portrait of the way Indonesian and other artists deal with this heritage; how colonial legacies and postcolonial oppressions keep bubbling up in their work.

Besides Indonesians, you also invited many European and Australian artists. What were your selection criteria?

CE – I believe that all places in the world are connected to each other, especially today. The selected artists are all in their own way concerned with the relationship between then and now, between history and the present. In their work, they have used the country’s heritage, history, and past events to talk about the present, instead of just focusing on what’s happening today. I think that is one of the things art can do: tell stories about today through the prism of the past, allowing us to forge new links that help us to grasp where we are now.

RA – For me, it is interesting to see that my generation is starting to realise the consequences of colonialism. All the artists we selected work with ideas of colonialism and show how its brutal truths still affect the present.

Most Europeans are not very familiar with Indonesian history. What do you think they will learn by visiting the exhibition?

RA – I believe history is created by autocratic systems in order to legitimise power as the source of colonialism. 

Through this exhibition, we can examine the role of memory, other narratives behind conflicts, and the construction of history by the ‘legitimate’ and ‘institutional’ power. The exhibition is not only about the big narrative, but also about the fragmented histories of Indonesia that we may have forgotten. From these fragments, as approached by the artists, we are able to discuss colonialism, the constant struggles for different forms of independence or equal treatment by the Javanese and other Indonesian cultures. 

CE – Indonesia is one of the largest countries in the world, and also the country with the largest Muslim population. Europe and the United States are particularly focused on the question of religious division between Christians and Muslims, and in this sense, the idea of learning from Indonesia may be more urgent and relevant than ever before. It is surprising to me that Indonesia is not as well known as India or China, but I think it is a country that will become more and more important in world history in the next 20 to 40 years. When you come to see this exhibition, you get a sense of anticipation of what Indonesia might become if it learns to master its potential. 

Interview of Lauren Grusenmeyer (graphic designer of the catalog and of the exhibition) : here

With works by

Octora Chan
FX Harsono
Saleh Husein 
Mella Jaarsma
Agung Kurniawan
Timoteus Anggawan Kusno

Tom Nicholson, with Grace Samboh 
Nicolaas Pieneman
Raden Saleh 
Emiria Sunassa 
Jan Toorop
Ana Torfs
Wendelien van Oldenborgh 
Lidwien van de Ven
Roy Villevoye 
Dea Widya

With the support of

  • Mondriaan Fund
  • Museum OHD
  • S. Sudjojono Centre
  • Nasirun - Emiria Sunassa