Saturday, June 18, 2011

Creating a Balinese Cosmos

In conjunction with their big Bali exhibition this summer, the Asian Art Museum has enlisted a host of Balinese artists and musicians to come to San Francisco for demonstrations and performances. For the first part of June, Jero Made Renten, I Nyoman Sudirman, and Garrett Kam were in the lobby every day creating cosmological figures for a traditional Balinese offering to the gods.

"So are you really creating a cosmos?" I asked them.

The reply from one of the old Balinese gentleman was very funny. "Not really. To create an offering to the gods, we'd be using rice and feathers and branches, but here we're using Playdough. And there would be a second offering next to it with animal sacrifices like a chicken or roast dog."

"Oh, you must do one with a roast dog," I told him. "It would freak out everyone in San Francisco."

Upstairs in the beautiful Samsung Hall, a gamelan group from Santa Cruz, California called Anak Swarsanti was giving a lecture/musical demonstration.

The questions from the small audience weren't very interesting and neither were the longwinded answers from the leader of the group, but the musical excerpts were fun.

Be sure to check out the Balinese guitarist I Wayan Balayan's appearance on Thursday evening, June 30th. He was a sensation at this year's Other Minds Music Festival, and the MATCHA party atmosphere should be perfect for him.

A very cool piece associated with the exhibit is the online Bali Temple Explorer, which is one of the best uses of interactive video ever seen on the internet. It allows you to wander around a Balinese village temple at your own pace, you can listen to narration or not, and it has a magical, Myst-like feeling. Click here to check it out.


janinsanfran said...

I assume these Balinese are Hindus and the offerings at the altar are an imitation of daily puja. In Nepal the puja offerings seemed to be predominantly vegetarian, mostly flavored rice -- perhaps in deference to the Buddhist strain in that culture. But it was abundantly clear what animal was living on them: packs of street dogs.

sfmike said...

Dear Jan: From what I can gather, the Balinese are the original multi-culti Indonesian culture that is mostly Hindu in an officially Muslim country. As for roasted street dog, I have no idea if our host was trying to shock us with a joke or was perfectly serious. In any case, I was amused.

pjwv said...

Since I have once again been kept up for hours by the barking dogs in my neighborhood, I'd like to say that "sacrificial victim" is really the only sensible use for those creatures.

sfmike said...

Dear Patrick: I'll make sure the Asian Art Museum knows there are a few pooches in San Leandro who'd be perfect sacrificial victims the next time they are creating a Balinese offering.

pjwv said...

I'd be happy to provide directions.