What Bungalows Can Tell

In October 2019, I participated in the residency, research and exhibition project 900mdpl in Kaliurang, Indonesia, where I made the video work What Bungalows Can Tell

What Bungalows Can Tell, 2019, 11’33”, HD video (film stills)

The village of Kaliurang (region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia) was built as a health and holiday retreat for the Dutch colonial middle class in the 1920’s. Situated on the slope of the Merapi volcano, at an altitude of approximately 900m, the generally cooler climate offered a pleasant escape from the hectic and sweltering city life. Today, the majority of the colonial bungalows is still intact. Some of them are used for touristic purposes, others are abandoned and considered haunted.

In Javanese mythology Kaliurang is known as one of the main portals to the kingdom of Mount Merapi, which is why many deities and protector spirits as well as bad-natured ghosts appear in the village. They reside in the bungalows, where they embody the stories of the past and remind the local people of certain events, shaping the collective conscience of the community.

The colonial past still haunts the present as the underlaying racial and segregational design principles of the bungalows continue to have an effect on everyday life. Many of the housekeepers and caretakers that worked for the Dutch bungalow owners maintained their jobs after independence, albeit with a new ‘master’ and/or homeowner. Some have kept these jobs in the family for two or three generations.

The architecture of the bungalows constitutes an essential part of both past and present colonial experiences. As a physical frame to the activities of the ghosts and housekeepers the traces of the past are at the same time revived and overwritten.


Installation view at 900mdpl biennale Hantu-Hantu Seribu Percakapan (Ghosts of a thousand conversations), Kaliurang, Indonesia, 2019
Curators: Mira Asriningtys and Dito Yuwono

Photographs 1, 3, 5 and 6 by Kurniadi Widodo

Installation view at Transient Museum of a Thousand Conversations, ISCP, New York City, 2020
Curators: Mira Asriningtyas and Dito Yuwono (LIR)