Monday, May 25, 2009

now blogging from the Asian Art Museum's website

Woohoo! We've got the blog figured out for the Asian Art Museum. So if you were following the Bali Art Blog you may also be interested in following that one. It has a wider focus, not just on Balinese art, but on art from all over Asia. Right now lots of posts are around the coming exhibition "Lords of the Samurai" which is an exhibition of Japanese art from the Eisei-Bunko Museum in Tokyo.

As we get closer to the opening of the Bali exhibition, in February 2011, you will see more posts about that project, including posts from other folks, such as the curator, the registrars, and marketing folks.

Please link to the Asian Art Museum's blog so we can get more people engaged. The posts have been pretty interesting.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

a new dance production from Bali: "Sri Tanjung: The Scent of Innocence"

I receive posts from the Bali Art and Culture Network listserve, and at the risk of circulating the same information to the same people with the same interests, I pass along a recent post that caught my interest.
reports on a new dance drama production retelling an old story about an innocent women killed by her jealous husband. She goes to the spirit realm and is returned to life, and a remorseful husband who then challenges her accuser, the king to a duel. Heady stuff! Wish I could see it.

According to the blog:
"The story of Sri Tanjung goes back to the 13th century in East java where we are still able to see the story engraved on various archaeological sights such as the Batur Pendopo of Candi Penataran in Blitar and Candi Surawana in Para, Kediri. In the 17th century, the story was written down in the Middle-Javanese language and came to be known as the Kidung Sri Tanjung. It was also once a popular repertoire for arja [Balinese dance-drama] and ritualistic wayang [I'm not sure if here they mean wayang dance or wayang kulit, the shadow puppet theater, which has a ritual form performed in temples as part of ceremonies] in Bali, but is now all but forgotten. Now, the story is brought back to life through a thorough creative process of research, narrative interpretation, script writing, music and vocal composition, and choreography. . . . Under the leadership of Kadek Suardana, artists of different generations from various disciplines of the performing arts have been brought together to try out their capacity in the exploration and hybridization of traditional idioms (dance, instrumental and vocal music, wider culture)."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

NEH grant preparations & Interesting article on barong and rangda


I have been swept into other projects at the museum--Afghanistan programs, budget planning, Bhutan and Samurai exhibition planning--so my Bali posts have suffered. But over the past few weeks the curator, Natasha, our grant-writer, Dino, and I have been working on a grant proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide lead funding for the Bali exhibition. It has been fun to think again about our plans for this exhibition, which will be the first of its kind in the US, and the first of its kind at the Asian, in the sense that the performing and ephemeral arts will play major roles unlike ever before.

I enjoyed the attached article on how the Balinese distinguish between art for sacred purposes and art for commerce using the Barong and Rangda as examples. Just as the Barong and Rangda represent the polars of good and evil that are in constant flux and realignment (rituals are enacted to maintain a healthy balance), the two uses for sacred arts--ritual and commerce--may also be seen as a contiuum that the Balinese expertly keep in balance.

I was fortunate to see two Barongs enlivened, one in a temple procession and one danced on stage by professionally trained dancers (the latter in the picture above). Both experiences are etched in my memory and make me want to see the Barong again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Leadership Limbo at Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) in Denpasar

Bali's national art institute, the Indonesian Arts Institute ISI, is apparently in turmoil after a dispute over who should serve as the rector of the school. I heard that students have barricaded the offices and are boycotting classes. I have only been able to find these two articles in the Jakarta Post about the struggle for the top position of the school.

"Rai re-elected despite mass opposition," by Dicky Christanto, The Jakarta Post, 8/27/2008
"ISI dispute to go to the minister," by Dicky Christanto, The Jakarta Post, 9/2/2008

In the first article it mentions that student protests included a performance of the comic shadow theater, Wayang Cenk Blonk. I am not totally clear on the meaning of "cenk blonk" as opposed to the term Wayang Kulit, which means literally "shadow" (wayang) "leather" (kulit). In the book Balinese Dance, Drama, and Music: A Guide to the Performing Arts of Bali by I Wayan Dibia and Rucina Ballinger they write about "Wayang Cengblong" which "is an anachronism for Nang Klenceng and Nang Eblong, the names of two clowns prominently featured . . ." and that there "is much more joking than in a regular Wayang show. " (p. 50). Can anyone enlighten me if these are one and the same?

There are lots of YouTube clips of Wayang Cenk Blonk, but none when I searched "Chengblong." Maybe the spelling has changed . . . Here is one of the videos I found:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Can and should the museum commission a cremation tower for its exhibition?

We had our second Bali team exhibition meeting last week and we discussed what ephemeral arts we might include. If money is no obstacle, which of course it always is, we would like to see if we could possibly commission a bade (cremation tower) to be erected in front of the museum or in Civic Center Plaza.

What issues might this raise for people? I imagine we might meet with concerns about religious art in public spaces. Might there also be discomfort from the Balinese community about having a sacred art form with a very specific funerary function commissioned for purely aesthetic and cultural education purposes? What will we do with the bade once it is dismantled? Clearly we need some input from the Balinese community on these questions.

My first step will be to reach out to local Balinese advisers and specialists, and at the same time to folks I met in Bali to see if a) this plan is even feasible and b) if it can be done without making a serious cultural gaffe. Tomorrow I will have a chance to bounce this idea off some folks with intimate knowledge of Bali, as I am attending the open house hosted by Gamelan Sekar Jaya in their new Oakland studio.

Great Photos of Bali

I have been ogling the gorgeous photos taken by one of the museum's Jade Circle members, Dennis, in Bali on the recent trip in July. These shots in particular stopped me in my tracks.

I am not sure where he took the image of people having ritual purification at the temple baths, but the image on the right was from the Royal Cremation procession in Ubud on July 15, 2008. I missed the procession as I had positioned myself at the temple so as to try to get a better view of the ceremonies there. It is great to see these images from different places along the procession route, since no one person could take in the whole event given the difficulties of moving from place to place.

Photos by Dennis Lenehan

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Indonesian Pornography Bill

The Bali Times ran a rather alarming blog today entitled Fury, Incredulity in Bali over Porn Bill.

The article quotes many who are concerned about the bill, which
"criminalizes all public acts and material capable of raising sexual desires or violating 'community morality,' including poetry and music."

In a diverse, multi-cultural country like Indonesia, defining pornography and enforcing laws prohibiting the raising of sexual desires from one island to another may present quite a challenge:
"Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika has said the bill fails to consider cultural diversity in a nation that stretches from the conservative Islamic province of Aceh to the animist highlands of Papua, where women go topless and men wear almost nothing but long gourds on their penises."

As regards Balinese art, the article continues: "Critics say Balinese customs threatened by the bill include the ubiquitous Hindu religious statues of Lingga and Yoni that depict male and female genitals, and the Kecak dance which is performed semi-naked."

The bill is supported by the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), which has rising influence in Indonesian politics. Will Indonesia be the next hot spot of religious extremism?

See also ABC News Australia's post, "Thousand of Balinese rally against anti-porn bill"