Thursday, 18 September 2014

Craft and the archive: Museum collections and memory in a Balinese village

Craft and the archive: Museum collections and memory in a Balinese village.
Siobhan Campbell

Unknown artist, Hanoman, c. 1900, kober, natural pigment on cotton cloth, 490 x 530 mm, Forge Collection E074236
Photo: Emma Furno, courtesy of the Australian Museum

Abstract This paper examines the different forms of indigenous agency embodied in a museum collection and identifies personal relationships as a constructive platform from which to understand objects in collections of material culture. Specifically, it describes the results of a field investigation to gather Balinese responses to the Forge Collection of Balinese Art at the Australian Museum. This approach reflects the broadening vision in museum practice and scholarship over the last decades, recognising that most museum institutions describe themselves as the custodians or guardians of collections and seek to engage with the indigenous communities that produced them. Most people in the village of Kamasan in East Bali, Indonesia, have recollections of the late collector and anthropologist Anthony Forge, given that only 40 years has passed since he lived in the village with his family. This paper relates some general responses to his collecting project before considering the complex and productive relationship between Forge and the artist Mangku Mura. Not only is it apparent that the relationship between artist and anthropologist–collector had implications for the material form of art produced in the village, and subsequently housed in the museum collection, it shows that traditional artists produce their art in defiance of conventional understandings of ‘traditional’ art. While this paper is an occasion to reflect on the applicability of a particular field methodology and approach to other cultural collections, it also points to the wider implications for interpreting ‘traditional’ practices by opening up to debate ideas about timelessness and originality in the context of changing social relations. Read full paper

Full paper published in craft+design enquiry: issue 1 Issue 6 2014, Craft.Material.Memory

Museum Collections, Balinese Art, Kamasan Village, Fieldwork, Source Communities,
Anthony Forge

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