Indonesian artist Suwage takes on porn law, censorship

Mon Sep 28, 2009 11:49pm EDT
 
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By Sunanda Creagh

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Indonesian artist Agus Suwage knows what it is like to run up against the religious conservatives. Four years ago, he was hauled into parliament, where lawmakers accused him of blasphemy and of producing pornography dressed up as art.

Today, facing an even more restrictive climate in Indonesia, Suwage refuses to be silenced and has made those restrictions the focus of his art.

His latest exhibition, which opened at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute this month, highlights what he sees as a growing conservatism in majority Muslim but officially secular Indonesia.

Many of the works probably could not be shown at a big public exhibition space in Indonesia following the passage of a controversial anti-pornography law last year.

"Art and this law cannot be reconciled. There is art and then there is this law and they are very far apart," Suwage told Reuters in an interview.

"There are more important things to address in law than pornography, like education. But everyone wants to win a political point and on this issue the politics come easily."

Suwage's latest works are a series of prints of female nudes overlaid with the actual text of Indonesia's 2008 anti-pornography law, under which a person can be charged for any public activity that "incites sexual desire."

Members of Indonesia's arts community have warned that the law could be used to crack down on traditional artforms such as Balinese or Papuan nude statues, as well as contemporary artists like Suwage.   Continued...

 
<p>Indonesian artist Agus Suwage poses in his studio in Yogyakarta, Central Java September 28, 2009. Suwage knows what it is like to run up against the religious conservatives. Four years ago, he was hauled into parliament, where lawmakers accused him of blasphemy and of producing pornography dressed up as art. Today, facing an even more restrictive climate in Indonesia, Suwage refuses to be silenced and has made those restrictions the focus of his art. Picture taken September 28, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer</p>