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Cultural antinomies, creative complicities: Agan Harahap's digital hoaxes

  • Moschovi, Alexandra.
  • Supartono, Alexander.
  • Napier, Edinburgh.
Publication Date
Nov 12, 2019
[email protected]


The chapter explores how creative repurposing of networked photographs and online interactivity may open new channels and networks for the critical re-evaluation of mainstream culture and subcultures, identity politics, history and power structures. The analysis focuses on the work of Indonesian artist Agan Harahap, who uses strategies of appropriation, digital manipulation, allegory and irony to make unexpected visual and contextual interventions in popular and archival imagery, blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, the public and the private. Over a decade, Harahap built an international reputation and social media following as a visual appropriator/pasticheur and cultural provocateur. His work draws on cultural and political antinomies in postcolonial Indonesia, shifting cultural and social behaviours in contemporary networked societies, and the impact of media and celebrity culture on people and communities, using the malleability of digital photography, the fluidity of the networked image and the architecture of participation of Web 2.0. His visual hoaxes are distributed nationally and internationally taking advantage of, and at times hacking, the instrumentality of a range of different online platforms to ignite public dialogue. The audiences’ participation in sharing and commenting hints at the endless realm of possibilities for how these networked images, stored in the über-archive of Google images, may be circulated, recontextualised and repurposed. The online public interaction reveals different levels of subject awareness, trust and engagement: some users are totally deceived by Harahap’s skillful hoaxes; others react to his absurd scenarios by openly challenging his claims or searching the web to source the original material he appropriates. Harahap’s digital interventions purposefully interrupt the authority and integrity of the archival record and challenge the authenticity of the personal snaps by calling viewers to think twice about what it is that they see while raising questions about the validity and veracity of the photographic image as evidence and historical record.

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