Archive for 'Bali'

Bali, the Final Post

For museum visitors, the exhibition Bali: Art, Performance, Ritual closed on September 11, more than two months ago. But for me, the Bali exhibition has only recently truly ended. As the registrar charged with ensuring the safe travel of the exhibition objects, I can’t call my job done until the last object has been safely returned home.

Objects from Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance are deinstalled following the close of the exhibition.

Most of the objects in Bali were borrowed from lenders in the Netherlands. Returning these works was therefore quite a journey.

Read more

I Wayan Wija



Although you might guess that things around the Museum are winding down–we’ve less than a month of the Bali exhibition left–think again.

The rare opportunity to see noted puppet master I Wayan Wija brings an added benefit: Wija has brought a number of his puppets and miniatures, several of which will be available in the Museum Store through his Asia Alive residency, which runs until August 28th.

Current favorites include the frogs and lion (with wagging tail), and quite a few of the miniatures, which are essentially small, unmounted paintings done in the style of the wayang (puppets).

Ratih, the Balinese goddess of romantic love and lust...and everlasting pleasure

Ratih, the Balinese goddess of romantic love, lust, & everlasting pleasure

Unicorns: why not?
Beauty & self-esteem

And then there’s my personal favorite:

Because komodos in love are the best kind

If you can’t make one of the performances or talks, stop by the Museum Store to see the work of one of the world’s greatest living masters.

Language of Cloth: Behind the Scenes

cap from Asi's collection

When someone mentions Bali and Java, what do you see?  Some speak of impossibly verdant jungle broken by blue expanses of sea and sky, sharp-toothed deities in wood and stone, dancers dripping with gold ornament, the press of tourists.

Perhaps because I have never visited Indonesia, I tend to think of its art and craft, the dislocated souvenirs of Paradise.  Like the pieces on view in the galleries, they’re my link to places I may never visit, and so become microcosms of a word-of-mouth world.  But there’s one thing I don’t need imagination for, and that’s batik.

Read more

Can “good guys” be bad and “bad guys” be good?

In Bali, good and evil, or “good guys” and “bad guys,” take on a different meaning from the usage with which some people may be familiar. Good guys are at times bad; bad guys are at times good. These counterparts are equally valued, as both must exist to maintain balance in the universe. Hear Asian Art Museum Storyteller illuminate this duality in her telling of the story of  Rangda, the Balinese witch, from the perspective of Rangda herself. View representations of Rangda in the Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance exhibition, and hear this story and more, first-hand, on a storytelling tour for all ages at the Asian Art Museum.

Read more

Art At-A-Glance: Stories of Rama’s Youth

The Story of Rama (the Ramayana), about a prince and his long hero’s journey, is one of the world’s great epics. It began in India and spread among many countries throughout Asia. Its text is a major thread in the culture, religion, history, and literature of millions. The people of Bali have long practiced rituals, music, dance, and storytelling; made crafts; and used artifacts to tell this ancient story. They also combined Hinduism with their local beliefs about the spiritual powers of animals, creating Balinese Hinduism and their own interpretations of the Story of Rama.

Story ScrollThe series of events depicted in the scroll (left) comes from a northeastern Indian version of the Story of Rama (the Ramayana). As is typical of scrolls from Bengal, in northeastern India, the scenes unfold in a linear fashion. This painted scroll would have been carried from village to village by a storyteller-priest who who would narrate the stories in public performances. The scroll was unrolled scene by scene as the storyteller’s narrative unfolded. Such paintings not only served as visual aids but simultaneously affirmed the existence of the mythic world they represented. Moreover, the recitation of religious stories and the audience’s participation through listening and viewing were means by which worshipers could demonstrate their piety and accrue religious merit.

Especially for Teachers: Through the study of The Story of Rama (The Ramayana) as well as a broader view of the arts and culture of Bali, students can experience how the literary, visual, and performing arts can provide a lens through which to understand the world—and to reflect on their own identities and world views. Prompt your students to explore how artists communicate events and characters with the use of the Lesson: Epic Story Scrolls (Grades 5-8). In this lesson, students will work in groups to observe and describe scenes in the scroll, then compare the context of the scroll’s use with those of scrolls illustrating other epics. They will then create a biographical scroll from the perspective of a character in The Story of Rama (The Ramayana). View The Abduction of Sita (an Excerpt from the Ramayana) video with your students to provide additional context for this lesson.

Art At-A-Glance: The Demon King Ravana Riding a Mythical Bird

Ravana (Bali)The Ramayana, the epic story of Prince Rama, recounts his trials as he tries to rescue his wife, Sita. This statue, currently on view in the Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance exhibition, depicts the antagonist, Ravana (Balinese: Rawana), on his mount, the bird-like Wilmana. The demon king kidnaps Sita, taking her to his island kingdom of Langka. Uniquely, in the Indonesian version of this Hindu story Ravana rides his mount instead of a chariot when he kidnaps Sita.

Hinduism originated in northern India and moved to Southeast Asia through maritime trade. More than 1,000 years ago, evidence of Hinduism existed in much of Southeast Asia. Though Hinduism is still popular in Southeast Asia, the Indonesian island of Bali is the only place in this vast region where a form of it is dominant even today. One of the ways Hinduism spread was through the telling of the Ramayana, a 1,000-year-old Indian epic.

Especially for Teachers: Download the Ravana handout (pdf), for activities related to this object and the Ramayana (The Story of Rama) to conduct with your students in the museum or in your classroom. For related videos and curriculum guides, visit the Asian Art Museum on ArtBabble (a video site dedicated to art content) and the Asian Art Museum’s  Educator Resources page. We would love to hear your feedback on our new Art At-A-Glance format. Stay tuned: there are more to come!

It may be the year of the rabbit…

Read more

Bringing you Bali

If you’ve been to the museum lately, you might be wondering what is occurring behind the screens and beneath the newly darkened ceiling outside of our first floor galleries.

Here is what’s happening: we’re bringing Bali to you! Museum exhibition staff have been busy unpacking loans, condition checking objects, arranging cases, and even building a Balinese pavilion under our own roof.

We still have two weeks  until the exhibition opens to the public, but here’s a quick peek of what we’re doing between now and then.


Senior Registrar Sharon Steckline checks up on a set of gold earrings, held secure with their new custom mounts.

Read more

Bali Temple Explorer

Bali Temple Explorer is now live, both on our website and in the galleries. This remarkable interactive film by Martin Percy, produced by unit9, lets you explore a complex of three small temples located near the village of Bedulu in Bali. You can travel through the site by clicking on the video images, and a menu at the bottom of the screen offers a map and commentary. The museum is grateful to Martin Percy and unit9 for making this interactive experience available as a complement to our Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance exhibition. Let us know what you think!

UPDATE: Bali Temple Explorer has won the 2011 Webby award in the Travel and Adventure category. Congratulations to all!

Cremation Video


Bali Shortcuts: Ubud Cremation from Something Creative on Vimeo.

I am hoping the filmmakers who made this piece will give us permission to show it as part of our exhibition. In the exhibition, there will be a platform used for the actual burning of the animal coffin with the body inside, a ritual dagger that may have been used to cut open the coffin so the body may be placed inside, and a painting showing many of the cremation ceremonies.