josephine lie

Josephine Lie

Lives and works in London


work in the exhibition:

MERAPI : Stories from the Volcano 2011

interactive digital media

Link to the Merapi Stories website

catalogue text:

Fieldwork opens five years after production began on Merapi: Stories from the Volcano.

Before beginning the shoot I could not have predicted how generously the local people would recount to me their remarkable tales of Mount Merapi’s 2010 eruption. And yet it wasn’t entirely surprising. I vividly remember being ushered into the remains of a destroyed house to be fed dinner by an older couple who had lost almost everything. They spoke only Javanese and communicated with me through smiles and offerings of tea.

This act of kindness, and many others like it, compelled me to persevere through the following months of post-production. Eventually, the video interviews and collected scenes were transformed into an online interactive documentary.

In making this work, I sought to avoid simplifying the eruption as solely tragic. Tragic it was, as many natural disasters are. But I wanted to reveal the multifaceted nature of the eruption by sharing people’s different experiences, and to show Indonesian people as they are rarely portrayed in Australian media – as a wonderfully diverse community, who happen to be our neighbours.

Of course, these 21 videos portray only glimpses of lives and are a snapshot in time. On returning to Merapi in 2014, I found the rebuilding of homes and livelihoods impressive in scale.

Formerly destroyed villages have been resurrected in rows of concrete houses, and babies born during the eruption have grown into bubbling children. A small makeshift museum of melted artefacts has been erected and giant boulders ejected from the volcano are now annotated with signs. Visitors can take jeep tours that speed along the steep slopes of former villages, and end with souvenir stalls selling t-shirts displaying “Merapi – Only in a Jeep”. This is a community of survival and reinvention after all.

The stories heard from Mount Merapi could be repeated many times over in a country fated by its location on the ‘Ring of Fire’. Mount Merapi itself remains one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Time will tell whether the latest safety precautions are enough to protect surrounding villages. Or whether the mystical beliefs of older generations will be tempered by a younger generation who seek to explain eruptions through scientific method rather than the work of a volcano deity. No doubt, it’s a community that will continue to adapt to its unique circumstance.

So the story continues. Indeed, the stories continue.

Josephine Lie

London 2016