Cultural Exchange and Agency in Two Australian Artist Collaborative Projects with Indonesian Alternative Pop Acts

Dr Aline Scott-Maxwell1

1Monash University, , Australia

The paper considers two projects led by Australian artists that draw on Indonesian contemporary music and were created collaboratively with Indonesian musicians. Punkasila is an Indonesian punk band and artist collective formed by Melbourne visual artist Danius Kesminas that has irreverently and controversially parodied aspects of Indonesia’s political culture.  The other project, Attractor, is a contemporary dance work conceived by Melbourne choreographer Gideon Obarzarnek and which came about through his prior connections with Indonesian punk and metal-influenced experimental music duo, Senyawa. Senyawa was also central to Attractor’s performance for the 2017 Asiatopa Festival (Melbourne). In considering these projects within the broader frame of the benefits of creative collaboration, cross-cultural exchange and ‘first world’ exposure, as well as inequitable power relations in the creative process and vastly different financial and career consequences, both projects might be seen as having outcomes that primarily further the Australian participants’ artistic (and other) goals. But they also suggest a more nuanced interpretation. Notwithstanding questionable equity issues, the paper invites consideration of the agency available to the Indonesian musicians, the contextual implications of their Indonesian (and global) socio-cultural and musical world and benefits that potentially accrue for them beyond these immediate projects.


Aline Scott-Maxwell is an ethnomusicologist and popular music studies scholar with research specialisations in Indonesian and Australian musical cultures. She has published extensively on historical and contemporary aspects of Australia’s musical engagement with Asia. She is Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University.


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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