Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Bali at the Asian Art Museum

A huge exhibit featuring the arts of Bali has opened at the Asian Art Museum for the next six months, and the great signage on Civic Center Plaza is going to be a constant reminder that I am presently too poor to travel to a land that has enchanted visitors for centuries.

The Southeast Asian island, from all accounts, is a special place where decorative arts, music, dancing, theatre and spiritual practices are integrated with each other, and into everyone's daily lives.

In this sense, the arts and crafts on display reminded me of rural Mexico where offerings to spirits are imaginative pieces of art used ritually...

...and include the use of anthropomorphic masks in theatre and dance.

Also like Mexico, with its blend of pre-Columbian icons mixed with Catholicism, the religious influences in Bali are a wild mixture of hyper-local indigenous beliefs with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Muslim theologies.

There are a number of video installations scattered throughout the exhibit, demonstrating how the objects are used in Bali, which only makes one want to visit even more...

...to experience the full sensory overload of heat, scent, food, and gamelan music that accompanies the art.

To compensate, the museum is hosting an extensive series of art making demonstrations, concerts, plays, dancers, films and puppet shows over the coming year for those of us who can't afford the trip. (Click here for a schedule of events.)

As museum Director Jay Xu (above) put it at the press preview, an annual membership to the museum is only $75 which provides admission for two. "There are 60 different special events scheduled around this Bali exhibit, so that works out to less than a $1 a visit if you want to go to all of them."

That's something I can afford, and the museum needs all the help it can get these days, after narrowly escaping financial disaster involving predatory lenders.

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