Research Output
A History Of Boys: The MES 56 And Beyond
  In 2017, DECK Art Photography Center in Singapore started a series of research-based exhibitions on contemporary Southeast Asian photography. For its inaugural exhibition of the series, DECK invited me to curate a show on the MES 56, arguably the most successful and enduring Indonesian photography collective in the region. Entitled “The History of Boys, the MES 56 and Beyond,“ the exhibition displayed one collective work and ten individual works from eight members of MES 56. In addition, the selection also featured four works by three photographers who work around the social and/or artistic habitus of MES 56 in order to provide a dynamic thematic and artistic comparison in the practice of contemporary photography in Indonesia. In this article, which was an extended version of the exhibition curatorial text discussed how MES 56 practices manifested the artistic liberation in photography scene following the fall of Indonesian military dictatorship in 1998 in their endeavor to formulate photographic practices as contemporary art forms beyond the aestheticism of the popular picturesque and traditional documentary genres. Their daring explorations and experimentations with the photographic medium, coupled with their sensitivity in identifying thematic and artistic trends, I argued, catered if not created (or at least spoke to) the demand for ‘art photography’ in the Indonesian contemporary art scene at the turn of the 21st century and brought the discourse of ‘art photography’ from visual artist back to the photographer’s territory. Their amateurisation of photography coupled with a playful and ironic strategy rather than a heroic stance in exploring photography’s narrative potential become a popular artistic paradigm among your practitioners, who started to use the camera not primarily to produce artistically crafted imageries but visual concepts in which communicating ideas and sharing experiences are paramount in the process of artistic production.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    01 December 2018

  • Publication Status:


  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    TR Photography

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    770 Photography, photographs & computer art

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Supartono, A. (2018). A History Of Boys: The MES 56 And Beyond. DECK Journal of Photography, 1(1), 94-105



Photography, Southeast Asia, Contemporary, Indonesia, Singapore, DECK, Exhibition, Mes 56

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