The exhibition explores the culture of Bali, told through the island’s famous art and dance traditions. It brings together a lot of objects and images, and provides the casual person with a great introductory insight into Balinese performance culture.

Complimenting the objects’ descriptions very well, are the video clips of actual performances that are projected onto big screens around the exhibit. This combination allows viewers to see the objects performed in actual rituals and processions, and provides the viewer with a sense of the reality of Balinese traditions. It transports the objects out of the motionless, confined museum space and into the natural world, where it is possible to see the functions for which they were made.

…The objects showcase an exoticness within this otherwise formal setting…

Striking and Dazzling

The most striking piece was the embroidery from Negara, West Bali. There are two of these dazzling objects around the exhibition. They are so masterfully painted it is almost possible to immerse yourself in the story they depict. There are other colourful accoutrements such as the gamelan instruments, and the Barong performance masks, which artistically explicate Balinese culture. More subtle elements, such as the exquisite umbrella pieces that accompany the elegant gates, along with the window screens at the entrance to the exhibition, all showcase an exoticness within this otherwise formal setting.

The Verdict

All in all a very enjoyable and successful exhibition displaying Balinese culture. My only issue upon reflection of the exhibition, was the unthoughtful layout of the objects around the room and the reductionist green background that distracted from the colourful, richness of the objects

Highly recommended to those with an interest in Balinese culture, or anyone seeking a burst of culture and flavour from the ‘the Island of the Gods’.

Bali: Dancing for the Gods runs at the Horniman Museum until 8th January 2012.

Admission: £5/£3

4 Stars


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