Artist takes on censorship, porn law amid Indonesia restrictions

September 29, 2009

suwageIndonesian 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.

“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 told Reuters in an interview.

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.”

See the full feature here.

(Image: An Agus Suwage print “Behind the curtain” combining the text of Indonesia’s anti-pornography law with a female nude/Agus Suwage collection/Handout)

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3 comments

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Pornography is and always will be an issue that deserves attention. Pornography not only includes softer forms, but also harder more violent forms, that are abusive and destructive to a society.

Governing what is acceptable and what is not will always be tricky. But discussion and regulation are needed.

Sunanda
freedom of speech is the birthright of all people and art is an expression of speech. Art is the first victim of Islamists, oppression of women and democracy are other trademarks of militant religiosity.

The onus falls on people, especially women of Indonesia to safeguard individual freedom. World is now transforming into a global village and retaining the individual freedom is the responsibility of all people. Once oppression is clearly identified global agencies like UN should address the issues and reprimand the nations. The loans and aid should come with strings attached. A sustained pressure would yield liberal attitudes, looking away is irresponsible.

Indonesia should be more concern about local economy and harmony between different faiths.