“Beyond Ruins: A Video Remix in the Contrapuntal” is a work in progress that enacts an alternative mode of scholarship fueled by a critical eye towards representation and ways of producing knowledge. Focusing on the history of colonialism in Indonesia, I juxtapose archival footages with readings from diverse texts, as well as various soundscapes, in order to create a contrapuntal representation of word, sound, and image that links disparate and connecting histories in a creative and affective mode of production that is mindfully aware of difference. I take the theory, practice, and metaphor of remix seriously as a mode of thinking and doing that allows one to mobilize semiotic elements in innovative ways by affording the ability to subvert established ways of seeing. In “The Rhetoric of Remix,” Virginia Kuhn asserts that remix as a “digital argument” possesses “the transformative potential of [an] emergent discursive space.” Together with Edward Said’s notion of the contrapuntal as something that can re-engage master archives, Kuhn’s idea of remix’s radical possibility informs “Beyond Ruins” and its ongoing exploration of an alternative and transformative digital humanities scholarship.
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Viola Lasmana is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Southern California and a USC-Mellon Digital Humanities Fellow. Her research interests include American and Indonesian literatures, Southeast Asian American Studies, feminist media, digital humanities, and digital pedagogies. Her dissertation analyzes post-1965 Indonesian cultural productions that form alternative archives, and emphasizes how Indonesia’s history and US imperialism across the Pacific are critically intertwined. Viola has been a HASTAC Scholar and a USC Transpacific Studies Graduate Fellow, and is currently one of Fembot Collective’s International Consultants on the Fembot Advisory Board. Her work can be found in Computers and Composition Online, make/shift: feminisms in motion, Visual Anthropology, and Interdisciplinary Humanities.
Transcript of video (provided by the filmmaker)
Beyond Ruins: A Video Remix in the Contrapuntal by Viola Lasmana
[Footage of a document behind a burning flame]
[MUSIC: ART OF FUGUE, CONTRAPUNTUS 3 BY STEPHEN MALINOWSKI]
Contrapuntal analysis must take into account of both processes, that of imperialism and that of resistance to it. – Edward Said
The contrapuntal mode makes possible transformative and alternative visions through polyphonic melodies and oppositional perspectives.
[MUSIC – HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN]
That eternally harassing, tantalizing future. Mystery. We will all eventually arrive there. Willing or unwilling, with all our soul and body. And too often, it proves to be a great despot, and so, in the end, I arrive too.
Whether the future is a kind or a cruel god is, of course, its own affair.
[MUSIC – HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN]
[ARCHIVAL FOOTAGES OF THE DUTCH EAST INDIES]
[MUSIC CONTINUES – HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN]
[FOOTAGE OF A BUSY TRAIN STATION IN THE DUTCH EAST INDIES]
The world’s green age then was a rotting lime / Whose stench became the charnel galleon’s text. / The rot remains with us, the men are gone. – Derek Walcott, “Ruins of a Great House”
[WOMAN SINGING IN BAHASA INDONESIA]
All alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old, strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich, perennial with the Earth, this Freedom, Law and Love (Walt Whitman, “America”)
[Footage of a train in the Dutch East Indies agricultural landscape]
[TONY KUSHNER READING WALT WHITMAN’S “PASSAGE TO INDIA”]
Passage to India! Lo, soul! Seest thou not God’s purpose from the first? The Earth to be spanned, connected by network, The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage, the oceans to be crossed, the distance brought near, the lands to be welded together
[SOUND OF BEES SWARMING]
[Footage from the Dutch East Indies: a Dutch family and a Javanese housekeeper]
[Footage of Dutch colonial officer speaking to natives]
[Singing in Bahasa Indonesia]
The future awaits an answer and security; everything is in your hands.
[W. S. Rendra, Indonesian poet and acvitist, reciting a poem]
Here’s my verse: A pamphlet for exigent times. / What is the meaning of art, / If separated from sufferings? / What is thinking, / If separated from life’s sufferings? / To you, I ask.
[Instrumental music: Happy Days Are Here Again]
A video remix by Viola Lasmana, University of Southern California
October 2, 2015
University of Maryland, College Park