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Miscellaneous > 17.4 Exhibition Design

Dossier Indië - A different look at colonial photography

by De Vrijer Van Dongen

The photo exhibition Dossier Indië delves into the history of colonized Indonesia between 1840 and 1949. 
The earliest photographs, dating from the early 19th century, depict the Dutch East Indies as an exotic idyll. This idealized image slowly makes way for a more accurate portrayal with images of exploitation, war and, finally, Indonesia’s independence. The photographs on display gradually change in character and paint a more realistic picture of the relations in colonial society. At the same time, the exhibition’s perspective shifts from the Dutch colonials towards that of the colonized Indonesian people. 
The exhibition offers a layered and multifaceted narrative, which is reflected in the exhibition’s design and layout. In recent years, many photos, films and personal stories have been uncovered from the archives. Together they present a more authentic picture of the colony’s last hundred years than ever before. Blow-ups of powerful images guide visitors through the space and give an initial impression of the theme. The large pictures physically envelop the viewer and allow visitors to fully experience the story, while the vintage prints that follow draw the viewer even deeper into the narrative. 
The spatial design of the exhibition leads visitors from one confronting scene to another. The wooden structures that serve as a canvas for the photographic narrative change shape as the history of the Dutch East Indies unfolds. At the beginning of the exhibition, when the colony is still depicted as a one-dimensional, exotic idyll, the structures are simple wooden backdrop stands. But as time continues and the Dutch take hold of the land and the people, the structures get a more industrialized look, with the walls resembling wooden drill towers. The military theme is presented by using wooden poles in different heights, reminiscent of the kampongs’ wooden defense. In a segment on World War II the same walls represent separation and imprisonment. Wooden protest signs refer to the proclamation of the Indonesian Republic, as do the colors of the red-and-white flag of Indonesia. The dark walls represent the bersiap period (1945-46), a pitch-black page in Indonesia’s history, ending with the colonial war (1947-49) and, finally, the declaration of independence.

  • Creative Directors Marianne de Vrijer & Jody van Dongen
  • Art Directors Marianne de Vrijer & Jody van Dongen
  • Designers Marianne de Vrijer & Jody van Dongen
  • Illustrators
  • Photographers
  • Editors
  • Copywriters
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