Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Translating Bali to America: Thinking of Pop-Up Museums

There was so much art as a way of life in Bali. Everywhere I went, everyday I walked around, I saw people playing music or making offerings. Then at the temple ceremonies which numbered more than one or two a month, I would see dances, shadow puppets, and so many people all the time.

The culture is so rich in Bali. I look back now while I am in America and it feels so empty and isolating. Where are all the carefully crafted objects, movements, or sounds?

The Balinese Life, Religion and Art

     When I lived in Bali, the main attractions for me were the temple ceremonies. I still think of them everyday I live my life in America. One of these ceremonies are odalan, or temple birthdays. When there was a full moon or a new moon, the local Balinese of the village would go to their temple during this time. As an outsider, it seemed to me like it was mandatory for people to have parties. All your neighbors that you knew would come to this one place to pray and socialize. During the event, everybody would wait for the priest to come so people can start to pray and the next step in the whole ceremony could begin. But while waiting, you would either find your friends or enjoy the gamelan music and dance.
     The women of the village had to make offerings and bring it to the temple. Thus all the women at the temple would see all the work every other women did. There was so much tradition compacted into this one event that happened every six months. Add on other major celebrations and you have the Balinese going to these temple ceremonies much more often than we may see our neighbors next door.

Translating into America

If I tried to explain it in American terms, it's like many of our holidays we have on the calendar had all of the district come together in one area. There would be people playing music and performing dances and plays. There would be so much of the practice of art everywhere. Everything we would see during these events would contain something very deep and unique to a part of our locale because the people who attended were mainly within a 5-10 minute driving distance away. The performers would also be from the same locale.

So where is this in America? Where can you find these art forms? Mainly in festivals and museums. They're very specialized locations and times so the exposure is very compact but I think the outreach needs to be extended even more.

So the question then becomes how would you get people to gather in one place and practice "culture"? I would like to try bringing the place and time towards where the people currently hang out.** This is downtown. We could have activity tables where people could participate and learn about other cultures through practicing the basics of art.

These types of events already happen (but are not focused on spreading awareness about different cultures). One thing that I have found near to me is my Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. It's a museum that recently implemented a philosophy of having people practice art while they discover other artists' work within the museum. Then there's an event that I would like to model from: The SCMAH Pop-up Museum.

Stories + Art + Objects

I wonder how it would go if I focused on art from different cultures/locations and had people try their hand at it? How easy it was for me to jump into a music or dance rehearsal in Bali, I wonder how it would go on the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area...


** (Ultimately, I would imagine these multi-cultural centers in every bigger neighborhood/district so people can easily walk to these places and be able to meet their neighbors everyday. Once these multi-cultural [or single-cultural] centers grow, their art can dialogue can also evolve past the basics. I dream of a day when we can truly see how diverse and different everybody is - to see all the special qualities that make us so complex. And then from there we can see how similar we truly are.)


- Discover a pop-up museum
- Ask the MAH if they've ever done culture-centric pop-up museums
- Update: Read Nina Simon's The Participatory Museum (+ Online Resource)

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