Put together by Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill, Empire was a project that examined the architectural, cultural and spiritual traces left behind by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) traders and colonists in five former VOC trading posts and colonies: Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Ghana, and South Africa. The five multi-channel, non-fiction video works that made up the core of the project were intimate, first-person portraits of people and communities whose lives are still in various ways defined by the Dutch colonial endeavor. But while the project confronted large themes, it did so by telling personal stories. The focus was on building a compelling set of human characters, each one a personification of a different aspect of the post-colonial experience.
The contemporary and personal stories that made up the Empire project investigated the unintended consequences of early corporatism on colonised populations, while also examining the waning influence of Western power in the East. Empire was conceived as a way of looking at the present through the lens of the past. Since the Dutch East India Company’s (VOC) ground-breaking colonial-capitalist adventure, multinational corporations have become the unofficial governing bodies of our time, determining prices, dispensing employment, guiding our culture and polluting our backyards. They are so integral to our existence that it is difficult to imagine how we would organise our lives without them. Empire was, above all else, an examination of the continuing repercussions of European intervention abroad.
All the works in the Empire project were created and exhibited in collaboration with local artists and arts organisations. The video installation of the Empire project on India, titled Empire: 22º00′ N, 77º00′ E was viewed for the first time at KHOJ Studios, with two other previously completed Empire installations – Empire: 5º00′ N, 120º00’E (Indonesia) and Empire: 7º00′ N, 81º00’E (Sri Lanka).
Artists’ Talk was scheduled for Friday, 6th of May at 6:00 pm to be followed by the Opening at 7.00 pm at the KHOJ Studios, Khirkee. Works were on view at the KHOJ Studios for the 6th of May from 10.00 am to 10.00 pm.