EMPIRE: 5º00′ N, 120º00’E

On 25th February, HONF presents one night video exhibition by Kelly O’Neill (US) and Eline Jongsma (NL), two cross-Atlantic filmmaking team. Their approach is solidly Do-It-Yourself: they work as a two-person crew, and use small, low-cost camera equipment. They first collaborated in 2006 while attending an artist residency in Prishtine, Kosovo. While there, they made and exhibited a new media installation shot partially on the largest US-led military base in Europe.

Empire is an ongoing new media and educational outreach project, created by Kell and Eline that examines the architectural, cultural and spiritual traces left behind by Dutch East India Company traders and colonists in five former VOC trading posts and colonies: Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Ghana and South Africa. The five multi-channel, nonfiction video works that make up the core of the project are intimate, first-person portraits of people and communities whose lives are still in various ways defined by the Dutch colonial endeavor.

Empire was conceived as a way to look at the present through the lens of the past. Since the VOC’s groundbreaking colonial-capitalist adventure, multi-national corporations have become the unofficial governing bodies of our time. They determine prices and dispense employment. They guide our culture and pollute our backyards. They are so integral to our existence that it is difficult to imagine how we would organize our lives without them. The contemporary, personal stories that make up the Empire project investigate the unintended consequences of early corporatism on colonized populations, while also examining the waning influence of Western power in the East. The project is, above all else, an examination of the continuing repercussions of European intervention abroad.

The exhibition held in Jogja National Museum, Yogyakarta, Indonesia showed two videos installation that shooted in Indonesia and Srilanka.

The first video that shooted in Indonesia was made in collaboration with House of Natural Fiber, Yogyakarta’s new media art initiative, and was filmed on location in Manado, Sulawesi and Cibubur, Java.  Empire: 5º00′ N, 120º00’E tells the stories of two men on a mission. They don’t know each other and their stories never meet, but their identities are deeply intertwined with the Dutch interference in Indonesia.

On one side, Permadi is a member of the World War II reenactor group called “Niederlande Kampfgruppe”. On weekends, he and his group dress up in the uniforms of the Waffen SS. Their efforts are rooted in history; according to Permadi and his friends, about 20 Dutch-Indonesians living in occupied Holland signed up to join the Waffen SS in the 1940’s. In 1944, these volunteers, together with the German army, stood up against the Allied Forces on Dutch soil, and were killed in the process. Despite their defeat, Permadi believes that the Nazis are the most inspiring fighting force the world has known.

On the other side is Yaakov. He grew up in Manado, born of Dutch-Indonesian parents. A few years ago, he found out that his family’s religious background was not Christian, but Jewish. Since then, he has embraced the Jewish faith wholeheartedly, and has put all of his efforts into creating a small Jewish community in Manado. Sometimes he feels attacked from all sides: European Jews question his faith, while Indonesians call him “Company”.

While Empire confronts large themes, it does so by telling personal stories. The focus is on building a compelling set of human characters, each one a personification of a different aspect of the post-colonial experience.

Related Events

Workshop Real Fiction : Approaches to Documentary


on 20th February 2011, Kelly O’Neill and Eline Jongsma gave one day workshop at HONF about documentary film-making. This workshop gave the approaches to documentary using low budget filming equipments, and the ‘behind scene’ of their recent work of documentary film.