01 January 2015

From Bandung to Berlin

Having listened to the captivating interviews BFM conducted with historian Peter Carey, one’s historical imagination is ignited while browsing “From Bandung to Berlin”, an online project that creates fictional history in the “time between the first Asian-African conference in Bandung 1955 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.” The prologue describes the historical archive as “…a utopian – or dystopian – site of knowledge, an imagined junction where identities, memories, values and beliefs are contested. In most cases it is impossible to grasp truth as a whole, or to depict it with precision.” With its narratives categorised in past-present-future time frames, navigating the website is like visiting an art space with three sections.

Trailer for War is a Tender Thing [clips from this documentary by Adjani Arumpac appear in the 'Spectre of Alonto’ narrative, by Renan Laru-an]

"The New Past" covers stories from the three countries that make up the proposed confederation of Maphilindo. Tales about an inter-religious affair, presidential love letters, and a suicide note that started a rebellion, include strong elements of a collective colonial legacy. The last narrative is written by Tan Zi Hao, whose use of archival documents and Mao Zedong’s poems, projects a playful approach towards a serious subject matter. Tinkering with physical history gives ‘The Spectre of Qiu Nan’ a superior edge over the Filipino and Indonesian works, although the English-translated poems ultimately reveal the shackles of our colonial past. The freedom to view a fictionalised account at any time re-enacts the art gallery experience, in this case, multimedia representations of historical figures.

Screenshot from the 'Spectre of Soekarno' narrative, by Muhammad Al-Fayyadl

Zhou Enlai's cunning diplomacy during the Bandung conference is alluded to in "The Endless Present", whose "...move was not dealing with diversity, but deferring it in the name of common neutrality." Ding Ling's 'Scarlet Letter' about Women's Day remains progressive to this day, and this reference to the intellectual repression during the Maoist regime, coincides nicely with the recent award-winning Ann Hui film. After seeing metaphorical illustrations about the Hundred Flowers campaign, one can choose to apply for a “Spectral Citizenship”, and complete a survey which basic questions make one reflect on one's nationality. This digital gallery is highly enjoyable and leaves enough to one's imagination, and its sufficiently open-ended format serves as a great examples for how alternate histories are told.

MCP’s edition of Qiu Nan’s letter, reproduced with a new title "My Suicide" (我的自杀). [referred to in the 'Spectre of Qiu Nan’ narrative, by Tan Zi Hao]

鲲鹏展翅,九万里,翻动扶摇羊角。
背负青天朝下看,都是人间城郭。
炮火连天,弹痕遍地。 吓倒蓬间雀。
怎么得了,哎呀我要飞跃。
借问君去何方? 雀儿答道:有仙山琼阁。
不见前年秋月朗,订了三家条约。
还有吃的,土豆烧熟了,再加牛肉。
不须放屁,试看天地翻覆。
- 毛泽东, 《念奴娇•鸟儿问答》, 1965年秋

Drawings by Yuchen Chang [accompanied with poetry narrated in 'Let Hundred Flowers Bloom']

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