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A Photo of the artist Syaura, an Indonesian woman with shoulder-length, straight, black hair. She smiles from cheek-to-cheek, baring her teeth. She stands in front of green tropical foliage.A Photo of the artist Syaura, an Indonesian woman with shoulder-length, straight, black hair. She smiles from cheek-to-cheek, baring her teeth. She stands in front of green tropical foliage.

Credit: Soekiko, courtesy of the artist.

With Syaura Qotrunadha
Date and place of birth
b. 1992, Mataram, Indonesia
Current location
London, UK
Year(s) of residency and/or fellowship
2021, VH Award Resident

How do you characterize the media you work in?

I started off as a photographer before I began to experiment with other media like sculpture and video. I’ve never limited my media, and my choice of media always depends on what format the narrative at hand requires.

How does your practice engage with technology?

Historically, I haven’t had access to much “high tech”; I only started work on simple 3D animation very recently with the help of a friend. More often, I’m working with basic technology and trying to optimize its functionality. In the making of Fluidity of Future Machines (2021), for example, I used microscopes. It’s worth pointing out that not all technology is computational, it really depends on your location and what is available around you. And when I made the papier-mâché mold for History Then and Now, 1800s (2022), that can also be considered as technology.

An exhibition view of History Then and Now at Gajah Gallery. Each of the paper works, digital prints on cotton, framed by built-out paper maché sculptures, hang on wire away from the wall.

Syaura Qotrunadha, History Then and Now, 2022. Photo Credit: Gajah Gallery

You were a finalist for the 4th VH Award. Can you tell me about the work that garnered you this honor?

Fluidity of Future Machines is the last video in a trilogy that looks at the ways in which education is formed by historical values, as well as expectations around future technology. The project began in 2019, when my friend and collaborator recorded me, as I was still in the process of making History Then and Now, 1800s, using old thesis drafts. This gave rise to a video that addressed contemporary issues around education and was narrated by a child. The second video was grounded in one of the elements that paper comes out of—soil—and was narrated by a storytelling mother, who relayed a script I wrote that discussed racial anthropology from the counter-perspective of Dr. Fenneke Sijsling’s Racial Science and Human Diversity in Colonial Indonesia. To the best of my knowledge, memories or history are always closely related with land acquisition and contribute to shaping our identity today. The third video, which I worked on for the VH Award, was a collage of microscopic, medium shot, and bird-eye footage, throughout which an old man reflected on his relationship to water, which is another element that forms paper and represents water acquisitions for mass-produced technology.

What was your focus during your time at Eyebeam? Was there a culminating project?

I was producing Fluidity of Future Machines throughout the residency, shooting video on microscopes, and working with an editor to edit the videos. This was paired with Eyebeam meetings and group sessions throughout.

How has dialogue or collaboration with Eyebeam artists and alumni factored into your work?

At the beginning of the residency, as I was figuring out the best way to put text in my video, conversations with [Eyebeam Alumni Artist] Zach Lierberman were important. He gave me an interesting idea to approach it as a graphic text, and I’m currently producing an artwork that develops that technique. I also asked [VH Award mentor] Kamau Patton about the status of historical archives in contemporary art because that was something that came up when I made the video about racial anthropology.

How do you think about the role of the artist in society?

For society, artists constitute a complicated situation! You better not put down “artist” as your occupation for an ID card here in Indonesia; it’s really not common as it will be challenging to function as a citizen for the simplest administrative purposes. I think that, as artists, we can look at things differently from the rest of the general population, and with depth, because we live in a freer state of mind, and maybe that can effect changes. At least starting with those who are closest to us. Freedom with consequences I must say.

Eyebeam models a new approach to artist-led creation for the public good; we are a non-profit that provides significant professional support and money to exceptional artists for the realization of important ideas that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Nobody else is doing this.

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