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Jul 03, 2023 · Sara Giannini

Curatorial note

For Edition IX, If I Can’t Dance has invited art researcher, writer and pedagogue Nuraini Justaliuti to articulate further the role of storytelling as an archival technology within the practices of what she calls the ‘commons museum’. The ‘commons museum’ is a multiyear, multimodal research project that draws from Justaliuti’s long term engagement with radical pedagogy, vernacular archiving and community-based techniques of life. As a kind of operational concept, it is structured upon the practices of Indonesian activist communities that are committed to recuperate suppressed Indigenous knowledge across agriculture, language, storytelling, and crafts. In a context where indigenous practices and languages have been almost pushed to extinction by Dutch colonialism first, and modernization later, these groups preserve culinary, agricultural and cultural traditions, as well as educate children and women on how to farm, weave, cook, and be economically autonomous. Next to this, they hold creative writing and art workshops, as well as revive old myths, rituals and ways of living harmonically with nature. Departing from the resistance practices of such communities, Justaliuti has conceptualized the ‘commons museums’ as long-term platforms that protect and manage the commons through alternative schooling, methods for creating, archiving, and, ultimately, mechanisms for surviving together. With this proposition, Juliastuti provokes a new understanding of the museum as a living space for collective practices, where collections and archives are made of acts of transmission between bodies and generations. As such, the ‘commons museum’ is also an invitation to rethink the museum away from its colonial heritage, questioning the practices of extraction, displacement, accumulation, and display that have been at the core of its foundation.
During the initial phase of her project with If I Can’t Dance, Juliastuti’s research on storytelling and archiving within the methodologies of the ‘commons museum’ led her to engage more closely with Indigenous myths and cosmologies that shift human-centric perspectives and forefront the worldviews of non-human animals, natural elements and spirits. Driven by the desire to open up the ‘commons museum’ to these different dimensions, the research progressively morphed into Stories of Wounds and Wonder, a script for children and adults that will be released as an illustrated publication as part of our Edition IX Finale in the Fall/Winter 2023. Unfolding over different episodes, the script narrates trans-species practices of survival across the Indonesian archipelago. Each episode animates the events and environments traversing the lives of the ‘commons museums’ from the perspectives of local animals. Inspired by the Indonesian wayang puppet theatre tradition, readers of different ages will encounter endangered monkeys, fugitive rats, street dogs, and, among other humans, women who wove around the mountains as a form of eco-political resistance. Through storytelling, the script aims to offer an accessible and yet critical approach to issues ranging from the environmental crisis to the discussion around colonial reparation between Indonesia and the Netherlands.
This .Studio space is imagined as an expansion of Juliastuti’s writing desk. Here you can find teasers of her script in the making, but also various research materials, as well as a series of dispatches from her summer trip to Indonesia and Timor Island.
Before leaving you to the wealth of these materials, herewith a selection of Nuraini Juliastuti’s solo and collaborative writings on critical and decolonial museology, commoning, alternative cultural production, and radical pedagogy.

Juliastuti, Nuraini, ‘Limits of Sharing and Materialization of Support: Indonesian Net Label Union’ in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Journal Vol 19, No 1, 2018, pp. 87-102 ›››

Juliastuti, Nuraini, ‘Free Schools as Tools for Inclusion: Tiny Toones and Arte Moris’, in The Force of Art, Valiz, Amsterdam, 2020 ›››

Juliastuti, Nuraini, ‘Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Writings as a Performance of Self Care and Embodied Archives,’ PARSE Journal, Issue 10, Migration, June 2020 ›››

Juliastuti, Nuraini, ‘Listening to Zapatistas While Drawing’, in A Lasting Truth Is Change, edited by Yolande Zola Zoli van der Heide & Taylor Le Melle, K. Verlag, Berlin, 2022 ›››

Juliastuti, Nuraini, and Daulay, Fiky, Buklet Kata Kunci Praktik Teknologi Vernakular di Indonesia (Glossary of Vernacular Technology Practices in Indonesia), Kunci Cultural Studies Center, Yogyakarta, 2018 ›››

Juliastuti, Nuraini, and Zaayman, Carine, ‘Finding friends in glass houses, an essay written together with Carine,’ Observing Memories, Issue 5, December 2021, pp.60-67 ›››

Kunci Study Forum & Collective, ‘Inside Outside Colonial Theatre: An Audio Guide’, part of the Heterotropics research residency at the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, 2017 ›››

Kunci Study Forum & Collective, ‘The School of Improper Education,’ Critical Times 3:3, 2020, pp. 566-578 ›››

Kunci Study Forum & Collective, This Classroom is Burning, Let’s Dream about a School of Improper Education, Ugly Duckling Presse, New York, 2020 ›››

About Nuraini Juliastuti

Nuraini Juliastuti (b. 1975, Surabaya, Indonesia. Lives in Leiden) is a trans-local practising researcher and writer, focusing on art organisations, activism, illegality, alternative cultural production, and archiving. In 1999, Nuraini co-founded the Kunci Study Forum & Collective in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She obtained a PhD from the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University. In 2020, she took up a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Amsterdam. In this role, she worked as part of the Worlding Public Cultures: The Arts and Social Innovation project at the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis. During its first decade, Kunci contributed to the public discourse of arts and culture through publishing Newsletter Kunci and a mailing list. These two open forums were dedicated to discussing the contemporary cultural issues in post-1998 Indonesia. Since 2016, Kunci has established a long-term project, the School of Improper Education.

Nuraini’s individual and collective works have been presented and published in Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Asia Cultural Centre, Para Site, Afterall, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Sternberg Press, Valiz, and Critical Times. Kunci curated Made in Commons, which was exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam in 2013. In 2016, Kunci and Para Site published an anthology of migrant workers’ writings titled Afterwork Readings, while the sonic work Outside within the Colonial Theatre: An Audio Guide was presented during a research residency at the Tropenmuseum in 2017. The chapbook Letters: The Classroom is Burning, Let’s Dream about a School of Improper Education was published by Ugly Duckling Presse in 2020. Through Kunci, Nuraini is also involved in the Arts Collaboratory and Global (de)Centre networks.

Next to her academic and art projects, Nuraini develops Domestic Notes, a publication-based project that takes domestic and migrant spaces as sites to discuss everyday politics, the organisation of makeshift support systems, and alternative cultural production. With her family, Nuraini runs Reading Sideways Press, a small press which publishes works and translations on arts, sports, and literature.