Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance, Multimedia Tour Acoustiguide

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Made in 2009, the Asian Art Museum gives a series of videos and an acoustiguide tour of Bali’s cultural arts from sculptures to dance.  Furniture, weapons, instruments, and architecture figure heavily in the acoustiguide. When downloading this podcast, you will see reproductions.

While they do not go into full detail, one can see that Northern and Southern Bali art seems to have their own distinctions, similar to the North and the South of the Americas.  I enjoyed learning about the kinds of materials used in Bali art such as palm leaf.  For those interested in Bali literature, the series acts as a nice introduction with its examples of original works and adaptations from Hindu epics.   In Bali art’s interpretation of people from Hindu stories such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the art depicts them as teeth baring gods where in Indian art, where the originals often depicted them with serene expressions (except for Kali).  I like how puppets apparently a big cultural treasure in Bali, especially during religious ceremonies.  On another note, the acoustiguide gave one audio sample for your listening pleasure.  The Gamelan music in the podcast had this wonderful soothing quality to it.

In the videos section, the viewer receives an opportunity to see numerous slices of Bali religious life.  This mostly involved cremation rituals.  Seeing the funeral for the Ubud Royal Family, these commemorations of grief do make for a spectacular showing.   I commend the people who permitted people to film the cremation ceremonies.  Such a dizzying and elaborate ritual.  However, watching the footage left me feeling as if I intruded on a person’s personal mourning.  Especially when these ceremonies obviously represent a lot of feelings for their lost loved ones.

After deviating away from the original purpose of this review, I will now write about how the Asian Art Museum tied together the Bali art scene.  The podcast devoted a big section to how foreign influence affected Bali in art and history.  Outside influences that dictated Balinese art have their own section in this series such as how in the 1930s, the Bali artists started learning about art styles such as the use of “foreground”.  In reverse, we learn about the foreign artists who created art for Bali such as Dutch artists creating Krishna statues, and not knowing anything about the religion that Krishna came from.  In fact, the podcast emphasizes Dutch relationships just as much, if not more than the Hindu influence of Bali.  Then again, the Dutch left a violent imprint on this place.  Especially with how they colonized Bali in 1906.  Post colonization, the podcast showed examples  of Western footage that put Bali in the realm of the Exotic Other.  An old film “La Isla de Bali” encouraged explorers and tourists to come and visit this country.

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