Empire: Legacy of the World’s First Corporation

Put together by Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill, Empire is a project that examines 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 make up the core of the project are 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 confronts large themes, it does so by telling personal stories. The focus is 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 make up the Empire project investigate the unintended consequences of early corporatism on colonised populations, while also examining the waning influence of Western power in the East. The 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. The empire is, above all else, an examination of the continuing repercussions of European intervention abroad.

All the works in the Empire project are 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 will be 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 is scheduled for Friday, 6th of May at 6:00 pm to be followed by the Opening at 7.00 pm at the KHOJ Studios, Khirki. Works will be on view at the KHOJ Studios for the 6th of May from 10.00 am to 10.00 pm.

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