The paper explores the billboards and murals of Jesus Christ that sprang up and proliferated across Ambon during the religiously inflected conflict that engulfed the Indonesian provincial capital in rampant violence from 1999 until 2002. During the war and since, popular Christian painters have been plastering the city's main thoroughfares and Christian neighborhood gateways with portraits of Jesus and Christian symbols. Monumental and assertive in public space, these artifacts perform in several capacities: as visible emblems of Christian territory, as a way of making manifest and presencing God, as a pedagogical mode of intervention in everyday Christian behavior, as a way of branding community identity, as a material counter to Islam's national and international visibility, and—one suspects—as a kind of huge amulet aimed at warding off the Muslim other. They are also part of a dynamic “interocular” field where apparitions, print media, and their painted spin-offs cycle seamlessly into each other. Additionally, the murals refract different scales and modes of visuality ranging from the evidentiary and bureaucratic State-seeing to the hypervisibility of media “spotlights” that single out “hot spots” around the globe. All of this, in turn, takes place within the play of visibility and invisibility that is one important legacy of the war. Homing in on the powers and hazards of public images in Indonesia today and the multiplicity of visual modes and discourses and perspectival fragmentation more generally characteristic of our times, the paper aims to expand our understanding of what the visual might be.
Skip Nav Destination
Patricia Spyer; Blind Faith: Painting Christianity in Postconflict Ambon. Social Text 1 September 2008; 26 (3 (96)): 11–37. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-2008-002
Download citation file: