The texts and resources on this website are based on some ten years of research for a PhD thesis, titled Powerlines: alternative art and infrastructure in Indonesia in the 1990s, the PhD being obtained in 2008. The title is unwieldy, I know, and 'alternative' has proved to be problematic as there are whole books given over to discussion of the term; but if you are interested, the original thesis can be viewed online and downloaded from the University of New South Wales Library Catalogue by searching under my name, Susan Ingham.

Workplace invasion #1

The thesis was rewritten into a book and the first publisher with whom I had preliminary negotiations required the text to be rewritten after having sent it to reviewers. This was valid as the thesis has a very broad sweep and for purposes of publication, required focus and structure. By the time it was rewritten and updated as Going Global - Indonesian Visual Art in the 1990s, the publishing world was changing under the pressure of the digital age. Publishers were increasingly nervous about a book with so many reproductions on a topic they considered a niche market. I appreciate that reproductions were costly but I was not prepared to publish a book about the visual arts without the visual art. The comment about 'niche market' was annoying as it implied that a book about Indonesian contemporary art would only be of interest in Indonesia. This art is, amongst other things, an insight into the history and culture of an important Asian nation with some major and moving examples of art. This knowledge, I felt, should be in the public domain.

In effect, I am making available through the most public form of communication, the Internet, the information I have gathered. Through this website you may access all the articles I have published and, bit by bit, excerpts from the book. These excerpts will be in a random order as I see fit but, if you are patient, I expect that eventually you would be able to put together my book for free. I would still like the validation that traditional publishing provides, but it is not essential for I have retired from teaching and I do not need to build an academic career. A brief summary and table of contents can be viewed with the Book Excerpt.

One final comment about the images: permission was obtained from the artists for the use of their mages in the book and in many cases they provided better, high resolution versions. But their images on this site are in low resolution so that a quality reproduction cannot be made without obtaining the artist's permission. Artists like their work to be seen of course, but the work remains theirs.

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After a career teaching the history and theory of art to art students and undertaking further qualifications to remain in contact with developments in contemporary art, I began research for a PhD.

In 1996/7 I had been given the opportunity to visit two ground-breaking exhibitions of Asian art in quick succession which radically altered my perceptions and caused me to consider a new direction for future research. The first was the Asia-Pacific Triennial mounted by the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane and the second was the Asia Society of New York's travelling exhibition, Contemporary Art in Asia, Traditions and Tensions, which I encountered in Vancouver. This was global art that emerged from local issues and, with its commitment to content and meaning, it stood in opposition to the now decaying traditions of Euro-American Modernism. Where Australia was concerned, culture was Eurocentric, as was common in the late twentieth century, with the focus on art practice and intellectual developments in Europe and America; but politically and economically Australia was increasingly aware of the importance of Asia.

Workplace invasion 2
Workplace invasion #2

I commenced research in 1999 and in the following years I spent a month each year in Java, mainly in Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta, the main centres of Indonesian modern and contemporary art. I enjoyed every minute of my research and developed a great respect for those working in the visual arts in Indonesia as they are doing so with very little public or commercial support.

In Australia academically I had crossed disciplines between the visual arts and Indonesian Studies. Although this is encouraged, it had attendant problems, some of which have remained unresolved. The visual arts tend to take a global perspective, generalising about Asian art and overlooking local knowledge and variations. On the other hand Indonesianists prioritise local knowledge and treat the arts as anthropological objects, often being unaware of the international debates that have transformed attitudes in contemporary art. A range of theories were mixed into research in both fields stemming from anthropology, sociology, history, politics and economics, and sometimes the work of art was being lost.

As a result I resolved to have more works of art and specific analysis in the thesis.

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PhD: 2008
University of New South Wales College of Fine Arts
Thesis: Powerlines: Alternative art and infrastructure in Indonesia in the 1990s

M.A. Prelim: 1990
University of Sydney, Power Institute, Foundation for Art and Visual Culture
Thesis: Art Commissions in New Parliament House

B.A. (Visual Arts): 1987
City Art Institute (now the University of New South Wales College of Fine Arts)
Majors: painting, printmaking

Diploma of Education: 1965
University of Melbourne

B.A.: 1964
University of Melbourne

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