Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The best in 2011

 Coin Deities, Collected in the 1930's
 Margaret Mead: Upon the hundreds of stone altars of Bali, there lay not merely a fruit and a flower, placed as visible offering to the many gods, but hundreds of finely wrought and elaborately conceived offerings made of palm leaf and flowers, twisted, folded, stitched, embroidered, brocaded into myriad traditional forms and fancies. There were flowers made of sugar and combined into representations of the rainbow, and swords and spears cut from the snow-white fat of sacrificial pigs. The whole world was patterned, from the hillsides elaborately terraced to give the maximum rice yield, to the air which was shot through with music, the temple gates festooned with temporary palm-leaf arras over their permanent carved façade, to the crowds of people who, as they lounged, watching an opera or clustered around two fighting cocks, composed themselves into a frieze…Their lives were packed in intricate and formal delights...

 The witch Rangda. 1800 - 1930 (?).
 There were so many fantastic shows this year that I hardly know where to begin - but why not being in the beginning with "Bali, Art, Ritual, Performance,"  at the Asian. I think it was the first big show of the year, bringing museum goers a multi-dimensional look at an island that has long fascinated Westerners.

Their complex culture, a mixture of native beliefs and Hinduism may now be a performance more for Western tourism but enough remains to give a idea of what once was - and still is to some degree - a living culture. The exhibit didn't go into detail about the Dutch conquest. That would have been so brutal and bloody that it would have overwhelmed the exhibit. But for an honest look at the brutalities of the Dutch conquest in the 16th century, read Michael Kondl's "The Taste of Conquest. The rise and fall of the three great cities of spice."

1 comment:

Zoomie said...

I missed that one, but look forward to 2012 and more trips to the city. I've been too local this year.