Implicated Objects

"Moving beyond the binary narratives of victims and perpetrators, this series of 3D printed objects is both an homage and appropriation of colonial artifacts, created through digital piracy."

Implicated Objects reworks Michael Rothberg's concept of The Implicated Subject, providing a different way of thinking about historical violence, to move beyond familiar categories of victims and perpetrators. The implicated subject is "part of a post-memory generation, and is prosthetically connected to historically significant or problematic pasts it did not directly experience."

The problematic pasts of colonial objects frustrate aesthetic appreciation, despite their unique appearance and the exquisite craftsmenship that went into making these objects. They are situated in between the binary narratives of being "from the deck" and "from the shore".

This series takes its coral-like aesthetic from these objects, often found by scuba divers at the bottom of the ocean, in the shipwrecks of trading vessels that were never able to complete their journeys. Their cargo is unintentionally positioned between vantage points - between deck and shore. Over time, they have grown together by sea creatures looking to build a home.

This is recreated using digital replication and 3D printing. Objects that otherwise remain frozen in time become open to reproduction, manipulation, and reappropriation. Opposing colonial efforts of monopolising trade. Each derivative disperses implication into more extensive networks of association. Does replicating and manipulating them also replicate their implication?

Over 1700 ships of the VOC attempted more than 8000 journeys between Europe and Asia. Around 250 of those ships sunk somewhere on their journeys. Of only about 30 of those the location on the seabed is known.

"...this had an impact on the types of hybrid artworks the Dutch commissioned. They expanded and increasingly commercialised the trade shifting the focus from costly and exclusive items to larger quantities of appealing and affordable objects for a wider market."

Nowadays, these objects are displayed in museums, or sold at auctions and added to private collections. The ones in museum collections are kept safely behind glass, not being used anymore for their once intended purpose. They are shipped across the world to be displayed at various exhibitions for many people to admire. They are typically made of silver, gold, ivory, glass, porcelain and other precious materials, richly decorated by exquisite craftsmen with unparralleled skill.

"...these goods were often equally a reflection of artistic interactions made possible through the global networks of the VOC. The potters of Jingdezhen and Arita, the silversmiths of Batavia, and the textile dyers of the Coromandel Coast adeply altered the designs and shapes of their wares to cater to many different European and Asian markets to satisfy Dutch conceptions of Asia."

What interests me in these objects is their existence as hybrids - European design tastes were mixed with Chinese, Japanese, Buddhist, Hindu, and other Asian influences by the craftsmen by which they were created, predating the modern industrial supply chain by some 300 years.

"Perhaps the best examples of the contact point between the perspectives 'from the deck and 'from the shore are the types of goods traded between them."

Visiting the exhibition "An old new world" of the National Museum Singapore, the permanent collection of Asian Civilisations Museum Singapore, or the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I can not but admire the artefacts with colonial histories on display. If you have visited these exhibitions, you may too have overheard diverse visitors admiring the same objects.

Quote from and books pictured:

"Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age", accompanying the exhibition of the same name, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2016.

"An old new world, from the East Indies to the Founding of Singapore, 1600s-1819", National Museum of Singapore, catalogue of the exhibition with the same name, 2019