Tintin Wulia / December, Protocols of Killings (Gothenburg)
December (2021) from Protocols of Killings by artist Tintin Wulia
December is a three-part narrative work surrounding my grandfather’s forced disappearance on 18 December 1965, in Denpasar, Bali. He was taken away as part of the government-sanctioned, extrajudicial mass killings of alleged communists in Indonesia that started on 1 October 1965, abetted by leading democracies of the world including the USA. I was born only seven years later, but this forced disappearance as one of my first childhood stories strongly shaped my identity.
To safeguard the family as I was growing up during the Suharto autocracy, these stories about 1965 were always passed on secretly, so not even my closest friends knew my story. It was only several years after Suharto fell that I began speaking about it publicly—this was in the early 2000s, and I was over thirty. Thousands, perhaps millions of families with similar experience have been legally discriminated, and the Indonesian government never acknowledges their involvement in the killings. My grandfather was never released or returned, and his body was never found.
Looking at Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, the struggle to break away from A restrictive social—and in cases like Indonesia, judicial—system that categorize people at a certain place in society is what reverberates in me.
Hansberry questions the injustice of this kind of bordering. My own work on borders for the last two decades not only aligns with Hansberry’s sighted eyes and feeling heart, but also adds a global layer, thinking about humanity as a whole.
December is also the first work in my project Protocols of Killings: 1965, distance, and the ethics of future warfare (2021-23, funded by Swedish Research Council at the University of Gothenburg). With the cold war history as the backdrop, and reflecting on the currently expanding drone warfare technology as the latest distance killings method, I will be examining patterns in a 30,000-page recently declassified 1964-68 archive of the Jakarta US Embassy surrounding the Indonesian mass killings.
As a preparatory step in the project, December incorporates the archival documents dated December, September, and May—three different months during the killings, that are personally significant to me. These are, respectively, the month my grandfather was forcefully disappeared, the month when the pretext of the killings took place, and the month it became possible for my father’s family to gather again after being separated for safety reasons. I work these out with animated drawings, sounds, and fragments from my childhood family stories, while contemplating spatial and temporal distance.
According to Norwegian Refugee Council Senior Advisor Richard Skretteberg, the Indonesian mass killings 1965-66 is the largest atrocities post-World War II that garnered the least amount of international attention. Showing December as part of this exhibition—RAISIN, curated by Asha Iman Veal at 6018North for the Chicago Architecture Biennale—is one entry point into conversations with the American audience, who may not be aware of the US government’s complicity in the massacres.
BIO: Tintin Wulia is a researcher at the University of Gothenburg, and an internationally-practising artist who has been examining the complexities of borders for more than two decades. She has published over eighty artworks in nearly two-hundred exhibitions in over thirty countries, including in major international exhibitions such as the Istanbul Biennale (2005), Jakarta Biennale (2009), Moscow Biennale (2011), Sharjah Biennale (2013), and Venice Biennale (2017). Her works are part of significant public collections worldwide including at He Xiangning Art Gallery, China, and the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, the Netherlands. She conducted aesthetic fieldworks in urban public spaces during her Australia Council for the Arts Fellowship (2014-16), and focused on mosquitoes in her Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (2018). She is currently Principal Investigator for the Swedish Research Council funded project Protocols of Killings: 1965, distance, and the ethics of future warfare (2021-23), aesthetically drawing links between the protocols surrounding the Indonesian 1965-66 massacres—as a form of hyperdistant killings—with those of drone warfare’s technologies of the future.