Charging the Boundaries of “Islamic” in Islamic Art: Arahmaiani and the Interplay of Jawi

Anissa Rahadiningtyas

Cornell University, Ithaca, USA

When Arahmaiani (b. 1961) displayed her public performative installation of a hanging sculpture in Jawi script that reads “اي لوۏ يو / I Love You” in English in Esplanade, Singapore, in 2009, can we consider her work as “contemporary Islamic art”? What is at stake when we use the terms “Islamic,” “Islamic art,” and even more complicated, “modern and contemporary Islamic art” for the works of artists coming from the periphery of the Islamic world like Southeast Asia? Arahmaiani’s use of Jawi script draws a reference to the long history of Islam in the archipelago. At the same time, it problematizes the notion of singularity and universality of Islam. “اي لوۏ يو” with its soft and colorful materiality presents Arahmaiani’s voice as a Muslim to counter the representation of Islam after 9/11 in global media. I locate Arahmaiani’s works within the inherently problematic discourse of “modern and contemporary Islamic art.” I argue that this work has the capacity to destabilize and decolonize the categories of Southeast Asian Studies and Islamic Art History. It further interrogates the seemingly fixed boundaries of “Islamic” and the prevalent separation of modern and contemporary art from spirituality and religiosity.

Biography: To come


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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