Conversations with the Past
When presented with the colonial photographs in this project I felt an urge to communicate with the people in the pictures. I wanted to tell them how it turned out, what we achieved, what we lost. At first, I sought to make these composites a humorous take about the gulf between past and present. Then I noticed a pattern emerging: most of my props had a logo. But it wasn’t product placement. Surrounded by branding, we lose track of how everyday objects have become proprietary commodities, and how technology transforms what we know. One effect of putting myself in the pictures is a sense of mutual incomprehension over basic things we could have in common: a toy turns out to be a movie promotion, a shirt is actually part of an internet music meme, a plastic card somehow binds grocery shopping into multinational finance. I leave it to the viewer to decide whether this branded lifestyle is progress, a regression, or the latest wave of colonization in a history of cycles. Could these bygone Javanese imagine that much of today’s world knows Java™ as a tradename for software or slang for a cup of coffee?