Anonymous Project

Yogyakarta-based artist Angki Purbandono’s Anonymous Project started during his three-month residency program at Cemeti Art House (Yogyakarta) and Arthoteek (Denhaag) in 2006. He collected old photographs purchased from secondhand stores and conducted research into the photos’ history. Next, he transformed this images into zinc-made neon boxes and attached a collection of found photos on them, reinterpreting history.

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TOP TO BOTTOM, (from “Anonymous Project“)
© Angki Purbandono

His primary motive was to examine the relationship between photographs and history; how one relates to the other. Most of his images were culled from personal family archives that ultimately ended up lost somewhere along the sands of time. As there were no attempts to acknowledge these images as “historical reference”, the photographs simply become “passive historical notes”.

What I liked about the collection was its eclecticism. Many of them were taken in Indonesia in the 1930s, where such images were often the premise of curiosity and remembrance for the rich. How many of them are still alive today? Given the long exposures needed during the picture taking, the sitters often appear to have bored or disinterested looks on their faces.

Appropriating found photography seems to be quite popular, especially with the advent of software tools like Photoshop. The artist is likened to an anthropologist going through time, trying to piece together puzzles with no solutions. Presentation becomes important as the artist attaches his/her personal interpretation of the photos, inviting viewers to create their own conclusions on what the photos mean.