On March 14, 2014 Synapse curators Anna-Sophie Springer and Etienne Turpin shared some of their research and curatorial strategies for the upcoming exhibition 125,660 Specimens of Natural History at the Collecting Geographies conference organized by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Moderna Museet Stockholm, Folkwang Museum Essen, and the Tropenmuseum Amsterdam. Focusing on the entangled worlds of colonialism and environmental destruction and their enduring legacies in contemporary Indonesia, the exhibition finds its starting point in exploring the role of the gigantic collection of animal specimens from the Malay archipelago which Alfred Russel Wallace shipped to England in the mid-nineteenth century. We discussed the conceptual framework of the project, including our research on other scientists working in the archipelago such as Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn ad Ernst Haeckel, in order to provoke further reflection on how a colonial archive can be reassessed through transcultural collaboration. Combining archival material and new productions by Southeast Asian contemporary artists, the exhibition aims for artistic and collaborative knowledge production about how colonial collections have shaped both conceptions of nature-culture and categories of knowledge, and explores how these archives can be re-appropriated and reconsidered today. Premiering in August 2015 at Komunitas Salihara in Jakarta, Indonesia, the exhibition will thereafter travel to museums in Europe.
125,660 Specimens of Natural History: Re-imagining the Practice of Collection Through Alfred R. Wallace’s Malay Expedition – co-curated by Etienne and Anna-Sophie, in collaboration with Rich Pell of the Center for PostNatural History, for the contemporary art center Komunitas Salihara in Jakarta. Read more about the exhibition here.