DAI Roaming Assembly #10, Infrastructural Rifts: Souls and Soils of Disaster Developmentalism

Co-curated with Farid Rakun of Ruangrupa, Jakarta, for the Dutch Art Academy Roaming Assembly program.

Curatorial Introduction

The Indonesian archipelago is one of many constructed territories to have lived and endured through key contradictions and limits of both exogenous and self-determined developmentalist ideology: from the systemic plantations of the colonial era, to the industrial engineering of postcolonial nationalism, through the violent primitive accumulations of the New Order regime and into an unevenly neoliberalized present. Meanwhile, the archipelago’s deeper history of available forms, its logistically messy, confluent and layered urban and rural fabrics, attest to complex, interwoven, non-common and inter-existent epistemologies of thought, belief, practice and participation that are difficult to capture through singular attachments and reductive modernist analytics.

Globally, as large-scale infrastructure has been increasingly removed from public accountability, private companies absorb and ‘disappear’ political risk, leaving governments to merely campaign on how to fund numericised problems. Infrastructure companies are some of the most dominant forms of contemporary economic life; contract deregulation for a vast array of infrastructure services that were formerly the tasks of the state, whether in Europe, European colonies or early stages of postcolonial polities, enable the penetration of debt-oriented ‘structural adjustment’ logics formerly reserved only for the South.

When struggles around infrastructure developments appear in public against the limits of land, water and social reproduction, the imperialism of structural adjustment by infrastructure appears takes plain view. The sheer scale of present day developments across the planet, combined with the gap left by increasing value uniformity, neutral branding, and singular vocabularies of extinction-oriented ‘best practice’, creates epistemo-political rifts and gaps of symbolic opportunity, where religious, environmental, new labour, indigenous and subaltern communities have been able to differently occupy, and challenge in turn, the ‘fundamentalist’ dimension of late capitalist developmentalism, thus querying the category of the infrastructural itself.

Given the frantic use of resources goes hand in hand with accelerating processes of over-signification, and neither urban or rural thought can be suspended from habituated grounds, this DAI Roaming Academy brings together esteemed emerging and established theorists, activists and artists of the lived infrastructural in Indonesia and Greece, to consider how artists, in particular, might imagine and intervene in the infrastructural in ways that are both signifying and de-signifying on the side of lived eco-social commitment and endurance.

Sidestepping mere arts of ‘exposure’ and overidentification that foreground spectacles and disasters of technology and hardware, “Infrastructure” here comes to be defined through an expanded feminist lens as “an answer to the question of movement and relation” (Angela Mitropolous).


farid rakun – Doublethink-/sink-ing Jakarta
An introduction on how to exercise Orwellian doublethinking towards Jakarta, farid will focus on his own and his family members’ stories and biographies to consider how, contrary to presently popular narrations, Islam-based populism and growth-oriented developmentalism could go hand in hand, be two sides of the same coin, sinking Jakarta further both literally and figuratively.

AbdouMaliq Simone – ‘The Inoperable: On compressing infrastructure and everyday urban life’
How do people residing in districts largely constructed by themselves now deal with dispossession and the disentanglement of long-honed collective operations? How do residents of the residual urban cores of Jakarta, and many other cities of the Southern latitudes deal with the conundrums involved in attempts to update these operations in the midst of multiple forms of urban intervention, some of which are replete with opacities of uncertain potential and effect? Even if the more opaque interventions seem inoperable, never concretely realized, they nevertheless generate unanticipated impacts and frictions. Even the massive volume of projects and infrastructure that is realized sometimes ends up instigating futures far from that which was promised. The presentation considers what might be taking place at the tension-filled, disruptive interfaces between varying logics and forces of spatial transformation and updated operations of autogestion.

Rika Febriyani – ‘Finding ways in a chaotic field’
A study of a classic case: spatial conflict between formal authority and informal organization, taking the examples of Jembatan Lima market and a subsidized housing complex in Kalibata, Jakarta. The presentation aims to explore how conflict becomes a source of energy for daily economic operations outside of largely abandoned city regulations.

Maarten Bakker and Katrin McGauran (SOMO, Centre for Research on Multinational Organizations) – ‘Monitoring  Corporate-State Developments in an Era of Deregulation’
Presenting recent case studies of Dutch company involvement in Indonesia and the South (inc. large scale port developments), SOMO will put into perspective the ideological move ‘From Aid to Trade’ in recent Dutch development policy, and the strategic and organizational challenges of multinationals monitoring within latest regimes of privative, post-regulatory governance.

Saras Dewi – ‘An Examination of Benoa Bay (Case Study), Further Phenomenological Approaches to Social-Ecological Crises in Bali’
How do the Balinese conduct their resistance against non-sustainable hypertourism infrastructure? Through a phenomenological investigation we can pierce into the Balinese concept of Tri Hita Karana, three subtle relationship between human, nature and god. The fight against the reclamation of Benoa Bay utilizes contemporary interpretations of artistic expressions that revive mythologies of the sacred, and transform these into various artistic bodies of works – literature, paintings, music, dance and others. Art for the Balinese is embedded in culture and rituals; in the case of advocating for Benoa Bay, art is instrumental to raise awareness and to organize mass movements.

Cargonauts, Anna Lascari and Ilias,  ‘Gaming Port Infrastructure from Below’
Cargonauts is a unique computer game conceived by a research collaboration of artists and theorists as part of Logistical Worlds. The game captures port struggles from the logisticized labour point of view, in the context of the expansion and privatization of the largest Greek container port of Piraeus (near Athens). Following Brett Neilson’s talk ‘From Warehouse to Data Centre: Poetics and Infrastructures of Political Form’ for DAI Roaming Academy in Jakarta, 2015, Anna and Ilias present Cargonauts as research practice and aesthetic tactics of navigating and worlding infrastructure from below.