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The Visible and the Invisible in a Southeast Asian World

The Visible and the Invisible
in a Southeast Asian World
Jan Mrázek
In English, terms such as “visual art” and “visual culture” reflect the privileging
of visuality in the practices and discourses of western art. An overwhelming empha-
sis on the visual sense, as well as the development of particular, historically specific
ways of seeing, displaying, and conceptualizing objects, are indivisibly part of
the history of European and American art.
Modern fine art is typically seen, not touched, heard, or tasted. The painting
as an illusionary window through which one sees the represented world, the
conventional mode of experiencing such painting, museums and art galleries as
technologies for seeing in which other senses are systematically suppressed (Do
not touch! Silence! No food!), the centrality of photography in writing on art
and slides in art history classes (the photography creates visual images in which
other senses are forgotten) – all these are aspects of modern art too obvious to
be normally questioned (of course one can’t touch the Mona Lisa!), but they
manifest how the visual sense is the focus and conventional limit of European
fine art. This separation of seeing from the other senses is part of a larger history
of European thought, and relates particularly to the special place given to vision
– looking, observing, inspecting – as the most rational and objective sense.
Correlatively, rational thought is commonly construed as a kind of clear vision
(rather than, for example, sense of touch or taste), as can be seen in the promi-
nence of visual metaphors of knowledge.
These seeing and thinking habits have also shaped Euro-American approaches
to Asian art. This essay explores how things are seen and not seen in Southeast
Asia, how seeing is often part of experiences that go beyond seeing, and how what
is (un)seen is itself often essentially different from the “art object” of western
art history.
© Blackwell Publishing Ltd
While the thinking of this essay grows from studying Southeast Asian art and
living in Southeast Asia, most of the examples are from one particular Southeast
Asian culture, Java, and even here I focus on a limited number of selected cases,
often returning several times to one example as I consider it from different per-
spectives (notably the keris, a dagger with magic powers). It is not my aim to
generalize about Southeast Asia (or Java), but rather to let the examples tickle our
thinking about the visible and the invisible. It is also my aim to give a sense of some
of the local ways of conceptualizing and debating the visible and the invisible.
Anthropologists, historians, students of textiles, and other scholars of culture
have written about some of the issues discussed below, more often than art
historians. However, some art historians, most notably Stanley O’Connor, have
discussed the being of things in Southeast Asia, local forms of connoisseurship,
and the “imaginative frameworks” within which objects are perceived, and com-
pared them to European and American connoisseurship and its imaginative
frameworks. My own approach learns both from this strand of Southeast Asian
art history, and from scholars working in other disciplines.1
Multisensory Experience
Perhaps the most obvious way in which Southeast Asian art leads us to think
beyond the visual is the multisensory nature of the experience of art. For instance,
among the most visually striking and impressive objects displayed in galleries of
Southeast Asian art are various objects used in performances, such as masks,
puppets, textiles, and richly decorated musical instruments. When one perceives
these objects in a performance, one does not just see them – not just see, and not
just them. One perceives them as integral components of multisensory events, and
the objects themselves become more fully what they are through their integration
in the larger event. The event, the larger experience, is not simply visual, nor are
visual and other experiences juxtaposed to each other, but rather they are one.
Let me use as an example performances in the Central Javanese Mangkune-
garan Palace, although much of what I say resonates with innumerable other
cases of Southeast Asian performances. When one sees a mask in a performance
of masked drama, one perceives it as the face of the sensuous body of the dancer
moving to the sound of music. As the dancer dons the mask, it affects his feel-
ing and bodily movements, gives him new identity, becomes part of his living
body, while he gives it life, movement, and sight. A person and a thing are united.
In this process, seeing is important: the dancer looks at the mask before he wears
it in order to better feel and enter into its character – it is a kind of seeing which
leads to the unification of the seer and the seen, rather than one in which the
subject contemplates an object. During the opening movements of the dance,
the dancer may hold the mask and look at it before donning it. The term for
this is ngliling, a word used also when a mother holds her baby and lovingly looks
at her. It is an appropriate metaphor: the dancer nurtures an inner, intimate
connection with the mask and its soul.
When the dancer dons the mask, he is looking through the mask’s eyes – it
is dark inside, and the world is glimpsed only through narrow openings. He makes
it appear as if the mask itself has the power of sight and thus brings it to life,
at the same time succumbing to its character. Various “looking” gestures are
frequent in mask dances (as well as in puppet theater), because creating a feel-
ing that the mask (or puppet) can see is a powerful way to animate the thing.
But what happens involves more than seeing. It involves touching, the physical
feeling of the mask pressed against one’s face, as a constant reminder of one’s
other face, one’s other self (the dancer keeps the mask attached by biting onto
a small piece of leather attached to the inside of the mask).
The costume – even as it combines different textiles and accessories that could
stand as art objects or decorative items in their own right – is an extension of
the mask and becomes organically part of the masked dancer. The costume reveals
much about who the character is – not only whether it is, for example, a king
or priest or warrior, but also about his or her inner character. For example, small
batik patterns are signs of spiritual refinement and restraint, while larger, bolder
patterns are appropriate for an extrovert, “macho” warrior. The batik pattern
thus collaborates and resonates with other ways through which the character is
expressed – the mask, the movements, the musical accompaniment. To fully feel
the batik patterns at that moment, one has to feel them as part of this multi-
sensory composition of forms, movements, and sounds.
Bodily movements and the sound of music are organically connected; music
and movement follow and inspire each other, they give each other feeling, mean-
ing, and expressive power, and they come together to create an experience that
is indivisibly visual and aural.
Some performances actively engage the sense of smell. For example, jasmine
flowers are placed in the folds of the batik cloth worn by the dancer in such a
way that they are gradually scattered and their fragrance pervades the air. For
sacred dances, small offerings with fragrant flowers and incense mark the limits
of the dance space.
Javanese dance generally does not emphasize abstract visual patterns (forma-
tions, creating abstract shapes with the body, and so on) but instead focuses
on the refinement of inner feelings, the control of bodily energies, and the
correct and powerful expression of character. For example, in masked dance,
the dancer’s movements, together with the mask, represent the inner nature
of a particular character. One does not just see such dance, but feels it inside
one’s body.
In the Mangkunegaran Palace, the oldest set of gamelan musical instruments
is decorated with the same colors and patterns as the architecture – it is
indivisibly part of it. One of the most striking aspects of performances in this
large audience hall (pendhapa) is the exceptionally beautiful, almost otherwordly
acoustics: even when each of the many musicians in the large ensemble plays
very softly, one can hear each musical part distinctly yet at the same time they
all come harmoniously together. The sound seems to be coming from no par-
ticular direction, filling the whole space with soft but physically sensuous sound
Figure 5-1 Performers of a sacred dance in the grand hall of the Mangkunegaran
Palace in Solo, Java, wearing batik and other cloths, with fragrant jasmine flowers in
their hair, accompanied by gamelan music. Photograph by the author.
matter. Like a gothic cathedral, at the same time that it defines space and helps
to give it feeling and character, the architecture is essentially a giant musical instru-
ment, with the gamelan set being part of it.
When I enjoy such an event, I do not look at it as something outside me,
outside my space. Instead, I am immersed in it, I am situated within it – within
the architecture (which is not built around the distinction between audience and
performers, as is the case in the European proscenium stage), within the music.
Seeing is not detached from what it sees nor from other senses, but it grows
from the multisensory nature of the perceived world.
In many ways a museum experience is as multisensory as a performance: the
smells, sounds, and touching (or not touching), the particular kind of silence of
art galleries (the hushed voices, the irritated looks one gets when one raises one’s
voice or laughs) – all that is memorable, and essentially part of the modern art
world. What may be different, however, is how everything in this particular kind
of multisensory environment claims that sight is the only meaningful sense, and
the other senses are only potential disturbances of visual apprehension. What is
different, in other words, is how sight and perception are construed – not neces-
sarily in verbal narratives about the experience, but in the experience itself. Art
objects can be sensual and evoke all the senses but typically through the medi-
ating sense of sight (as when one sees flowers or naked bodies in a painting).
Let us return to Southeast Asia. It is not only in performances that things
such as masks, puppets, musical instruments, and textiles are more than simply
visual. Let us think back to the batik cloth that we have encountered as part of
the dancer’s costume, but let us think beyond the performance, to batik cloth
used in everyday life. In a batik market, one can see how women evaluate batik:
they hold it and feel it with their hands to apprehend the quality of the cloth,
they put it close to their faces to smell the wax which was used to decorate it,
and of course they think of its use, how they are going to wear it, how it will
feel and appear on their bodies, how it will make them appear, what will people
– perhaps their neighbors, friends, men – think of them when they see them
wearing the cloth. Even beyond a performance, people encounter the cloth in
a way that is not limited to visual contemplation.
Let us consider another example, to which I will be returning throughout this
essay: the keris, a dagger common in many parts of Indonesia and the Malay
world. It has either a straight or “wavy” blade, and on the blade is visible the
pamor, a pattern resulting from the blending of light and dark metals. While it
is often exhibited in museums for its visual beauty and fine craftsmanship, its
traditional meanings and functions are quite different from that of a typical art
object. In Javanese culture, it is one of the five essential possessions of a man.
Believed to have various magical powers, it can bring good or bad luck to its
owner. There is a complex connoisseurship (oral and written discourse describ-
ing and categorizing kerises, and teaching how to evaluate them), as well as philo-
sophical and mystical explanations that read the keris as an esoteric text about
man and the world, and a sea of (hi)stories about various kerises. I will discuss
102  JAN MRÁZEK
the keris in more detail in the next section, but here I want to focus on the
multisensory character of people’s encounter with it. Looking at the keris is
an important way of studying and evaluating it, but it is merely one part of the
perception of keris.
To start with, the keris is regularly cleaned with a traditional ointment, which
brings out the pamor pattern and gives the keris its characteristic fragrant scent.
This scent is an indivisible part of “looking” at a keris. Incense is sometimes
burned and fragrant flowers are given as an offering to the keris, since fragrance
attracts invisible beings and “facilitates the contact between a person and the
keris.”2In the mythological and magical world of stories about kerises – a world
that is never entirely separate from the material world – scent also matters: for
instance, the metals of certain magical kerises are said to be distinguished by
particular fragrance (for example, “a sweet fragrance”).
The process of examining a keris is governed by an etiquette which ensures
that the keris as well as its owner are shown respect, that the people present
show respect to each other, and that the keris is protected from physical and
spiritual damage. The etiquette regulates ways of holding and handling the keris,
and the ways one moves when handling a keris – that is, rules that concern not
primarily visual perception, but bodily interaction with the thing. Texture and
feel to the touch are also important: descriptions often say how a particular keris
or type of iron feels to touch (“when it is touched”).
Figure 5-2 Four Javanese kerises without scabbards, showing the pamor patterns on
the blades. Photograph by the author.
As a part of the examination of the keris, one taps on the blade and listens
to the sound. Treatises on keris include long lists of sounds, such as: “mbren-
gengeng [droning, buzzing, reverberating] like a bee”; “drung, long is its sound”;
kung, ’mbrengengeng”; “ngong-ngong, within the sound there is yet another sound,
[a] long ting ngong ngong”; “brengengeng, quivering like from above”; “nong
nging brung”; “gung drung”; “ting ngeng”; “prung jung, the sound/voice is
trailing off.” Magical kerises communicate by way of sound: a keris may shake
in the scabbard and make a noise to alarm its owner when a thief enters the
house. In some cases, the magical power of a keris is conceived as the maker’s
voice – magical formulas uttered by him – “recorded” (as modern texts describe
it) on the keris.
Another traditional way to learn more about the keris is sleeping with it:
the dreams that it generates help one understand the particular keris. We will
discuss below what it is that one learns about the keris, but here the point is
that the connoisseurship of keris, like the appreciation of the mask worn in a
dance performance, goes well beyond looking. As we will see, one may look at
a keris for its visual beauty, but traditionally it is more important to understand
something else about the thing, something invisible and not simply aesthetic.
The Thing and the Invisible
The keris is a material, visible object, yet when one reads Javanese texts about
kerises, the visible and otherwise perceptible aspects of the keris – the physical
form and its details, the pamor, the sound, the feel to touch, and even the signs
seen in dreams – are cues to understanding something else, something invisible
and immaterial: the keris’s individual character or nature (watak,sifat), power
(daya), or content (isi). For traditional connoisseurs, it is ultimately this special
character and the invisible power that is most important about a keris, and the
examination of the visible material object is a means to understand the invisible
and the immaterial.
In order to describe the workings of these invisible powers, analogies of
electromagnetic waves and transmission are frequently used in modern texts.
For example:
According to the science of physics, sound and light are basically a kind of vibra-
tion. Attacks of sound can be heard by the human ear, while attacks of light can
be seen by the human eye. But in the keris-science, the attacks of the content of
the keris cannot be perceived by the tympanum of the ear or the retina of the eye,
but by . . . pangrasa.3
The Javanese word pangrasa (very approximately: “feeling, sensing”; from the
root rasa) means, the author says, “sensitivity of the heart,” “inner sharpness,”
or “what people call the sixth sense.”4
104  JAN MRÁZEK
The “transmission” between a keris and a person is sometimes compared to
the invisible workings of radio or television: a person is like a radio receiver and
the keris like the radio broadcasting station.
A radio receives vibration-signs from a broadcaster by way of air, too. However,
in order that the reception is clearer, an additional tool/medium is needed, that is,
an antenna. In the world of keris, fragrance functions as the antenna. From record-
ing different experiences, we can say that it is true that fragrance indeed facilitates
the contact [kontak] between a person and a keris. So, when we use the analogy
of the mechanism of radio, keris is the object that broadcasts the vibration [vibrasi],
and, with the help of the fragrance (as the antenna), the human can receive the
vibration. At the same time, the human, a radio receiver, is also the broadcaster.
That is because in a certain manner, the human can also broadcast vibration which
can be recorded on the keris.5
It is not clear whether the waves are “longitudinal, or transversal, or perhaps
[they are] other waves that are completely beyond the sphere of physics,” so
they are called the “luck-inducing vibration” (getaran angsar,vibrasi angsar),
and the kind of waves in “the world of the keris should not be confused with
the kind in physics.”6Unlike the vibration in physics (such as light, sound, heat,
or radio waves), detectable by one of the five senses (perhaps with the help of
a radio and an antenna), the keris-vibration (as well as similar vibration generated
by people) is subject to pangrasa.7
Pangrasa, also translated above as “inner acuteness/sharpness” is not a know-
ledge or skill that can be learned. “The soul of children and babies is still pure,
and so their pangrasa is still sharp, in comparison to adults.”8On the other hand,
pangrasa can be cultivated by yoga-like practices such as breath exercises.
Describing one variation of this science, Harsrinuksmo, a Javanese expert and
the author of a number of books on the keris, refers to his gurus from the
Yogyakarta palace, the late Widyosastrosetiko and Widyosudarmo.
The science is called ilmu tajeg, and it is used for the detection [mendeteksi] of
kerises in an esoteric manner. Basically, ilmu tajeg is a science of concentrating the
sensitivity of one’s feeling on the attacks of vibration or vibrasi which is generated
by the keris or another wesi aji [“precious iron,” a generic term for keris and other
magically potent weapons]. Maybe the vibration or vibrasi which is generated is
almost the same kind (or maybe even the same) as that what is called radiesthesia
in the books written by the Westerners.9
In the quotations above, the “content” of the keris is described as a kind
of power that produces vibrations. On other occasions, it is described in terms
of invisible beings inhabiting the keris. These two are complementary
A lelembut, makhluk alus, or jin can inhabit the keris. These are immaterial
(lembut, alus), and under normal conditions invisible beings or spirits. One is
more likely to feel their presence through the sense of smell (fragrance without
a visible source) or hearing (sounds and voices). They may be called in by the
keris maker by means of magical formula (mantra), which may also “cause the
jin to know his tasks . . . such as to safeguard the owner” of the keris in which
the jin lives.10
Jins and other immaterial creatures, like other God’s creatures, including human
beings, enjoy certain things. Generally, jins and other immaterial creatures like the
fragrance of certain flowers, the scent of incense, and offerings of food. This is true
about any object, including the keris; if it is regularly given . . . such offerings, a
jin or another immaterial creature will come and inhabit it. They come because
they are “served” offerings that they like. Since the spirit is regularly given food
by the owner of the keris, he will respond in “good spirit” according to his
abilities. . . . It can happen that the jin is one of the “naughty” ones, and s/he will
disturb the owner.11
There are “good jins” as well as “bad jins,” and “there are even jins that have
a religion.” Most people believe that the jin in their keris is a good one, “although
there is no proof.”12
According to Harsrinuksmo, there are three kinds of “content”: the “blessing”
(berkah), “immaterial beings” (makhluk alus), and “induction” (induksi), and all
three of them generate radio-wave-like waves or vibration that can be detected
[dideteksi] by pangrasa.13 Another immaterial inhabitant of the keris may be an
ancestor-spirit. Yet another popular opinion of what is the impalpable aspect of
the keris holds that the empu (expert keris maker) stores powerful words within
the pores of the iron. This, too, is expressed through a modern metaphor. The
master keris maker, “records” his voice on the keris just as one records sound
on a cassette tape or a picture by a camera. He is said to have a “magnetic power.”14
A keris that contains the voice of the empu is called tayuhan, and the term is
also more generally used to refer to any keris that has some kind of content.
The verbal form of tayuhan (nayuh) denotes the act of perceiving the immaterial
meanings of the keris. This includes methods that use meditation, but the most
popular forms are those in which the keris is placed in a certain manner by or
under one’s body during the night. The dreams then become “the sources of
meaning.”15 One thus comes closer to the invisible content precisely when one’s
eyes are shut and one is not conscious. However: “What appears in the dream
of the tayuh-er is not the content of the keris, but a symbol of the character of
the keris’s content.”16 This suggests that both dreams and the waking world are
merely covert signs or symbols of “characters” or “meanings” imperceptible by
means other than signs or symbols.
It could be asked what role the metaphors of modern technology, magnetism,
and the like play in the language of the keris. The “content” or the “power”
(daya), or “power to influence” (daya pangaribawa) is often said to be
“mysterious, inscrutable” ( gaib, ghaib) and secret, and the inscrutability or inex-
plicability seems to be essential to its nature. It is not articulated except through
106  JAN MRÁZEK
modern technological metaphors. The knowledge about the power is powerfully
meaningful in its secrecy, in the way it cannot be easily seen and talked about.
Harsrinuksmo, writing from the point of view of a researcher, has talked to
several people “who are considered experts in the problem of isoteri of the keris”:
However, these discussions were not satisfactory, because, in general, the experts
do not like to debate. In fact, when they are chased with a detailed question, they
try to evade it. As if most of them were of the opinion that the content and the
power of the keris is not to be talked about, let alone debated. There are also those
who try to evade answering by talking in a rather diplomatic manner: the know-
ledge about the keris should be learned in order that one can benefit from it, but
should not be discussed, let alone made into a material for research. Also, many
have responded: “I am just learning about the benefits of the power of the keris.
The question what in fact is the power was not taught to me by my guru.”17
Another author writes: “The belief that the keris is a pusaka which has a
mysterious power [daya ghaib] cannot be proved by means of the science(s)/
knowledge of the external/material”;18 rather, the “belief is born of rasa [taste,
feeling, the faculty with which one comprehends hidden meanings and truths;
related to pangrasa].19 Similarly, texts about the symbolism of keris, which treat
keris as a source of wisdom about life – as a kind of obscure philosophical text
– interpret keris by means of rasa.What is perceived by rasa is the invisible, the
immaterial, the implicit, the inner. The invisible, immaterial aspect of the keris
perceivable only by means of “signs” – as interpreted by rasa or pangrasa (or an
“old text,” ultimately based on rasa) is also the locus of its power and its
meaning. Clifford Geertz writes:
Rasa has two primary meanings: “feeling” and “meaning” . . . As “meaning,” rasa
is applied to the words in a letter, in a poem, or even in speech, to indicate the
between-the-lines “looking north and hitting south” type of allusive suggestion that
is so important in Javanese communication. And it is given the same application
to external acts generally: to indicate the implicit import, the connotative “feeling”
of dance movements, polite gestures, and so forth. But, in this second sense, it
also means “ultimate significance” – the deepest meaning at which one arrives by
dint of mystical effort and whose clarification resolves all ambiguities of mundane
The powers and meanings of keris are essentially inscrutable, invisible to the naked
eye, and they cannot be proved in terms of rational thought or by science. In
order to suggest that the powers of keris are not necessarily a superstition,
modern Javanese authors turn to metaphors of modern technology, pointing out
that even in the realm of modern technology and science, the invisible – such
as radio waves – can be real.
We have seen that the visible, audible, and palpable aspects of a keris are signs
to understanding inner, immaterial, invisible power and character. What and why
do people want to learn about the invisible? Each keris has specific powers – for
example, protecting from particular kinds of harm, bringing a particular kind of
good luck – and it is appropriate for one person but not another, to the extent
that the same keris can bring good luck when matched with the right person but
bad luck when owned by the wrong person. The connection between a man and
a keris is thus very personal: the term for describing a good match between a
person and a keris is the same as that used to describe the right match between
a man and a woman (jodho). The transfer of a keris from one person to another
is traditionally not thought about as sale, but as something more like a marriage,
and the money paid is called the dowry. The keris’ invisible, immaterial inner
nature is thus at the heart of the connection between a person and the thing.
Understanding the invisible – or misunderstanding it – has serious consequences
for dealing with the keris, and for what the keris “does” to people, because it
can benefit or harm them.
Perhaps any art work, or any object for that matter, is surrounded by, is
seen through, the thickness of a tissue of words, conceptions, beliefs, and
(hi)stories. The lore of legends surrounding kerises is rich and extensive, and
the (hi)stories are an important part of the knowledge and discourse surround-
ing the things. As we try to think of different kinds of invisibility, we may note
that one of the most common plots involves a keris mysteriously disappearing
(magically flying away, stolen by a magically potent enemy). Some kerises have
the power to become invisible or to make their owners invisible. But one can
also ponder how many of the kerises “appearing” in the (hi)stories are invisible
in actuality – no one has seen most of the most famous legendary kerises.
At the same time, these stories of “invisible” kerises are part of the thinking
and feeling with which one looks at and thinks about any keris. In some cases,
legendary kerises (re)appear in the real world, even while doubts may remain
whether a particular keris is truly a keris from a particular history/legend or not.21
The keris is only one of innumerable examples of things – things that are
in many cases seen in museums and art books – which are more than simply
visible, simply material objects. The conceptualizations vary widely – from things
containing invisible powers, spirit beings, divine or ancestral presence, and so on
– as do the ways in which these objects are treated and used, but generally they
are shown respect, prayed to, given offerings, and believed to have the power
to benefit or harm people, from individuals to whole villages or kingdoms. Aside
from weapons, one can think of masks, puppets, sculptures and other images
(often of gods or divine beings, from Thai Buddha to Filipino Santo Niño images),
textiles, and musical instruments. Stanley O’Connor’s pioneering essay on heir-
loom jars in Borneo provides a thorough reflection on one such kind of object
and the “imaginative frameworks” through which they are perceived. Essentially
the same kind of more-than-visible thing includes objects that are not man-made,
such as stones, trees, and various features of the landscapes, like caves, lakes
and mountains. Also charged with similar invisible, immaterial meanings and
powers are sacred musical compositions, dances, and oral and written texts. The
108  JAN MRÁZEK
things discussed here, such as the keris, share much with “things of nature” as
well as with a variety of “things” that are not material objects. In all cases, the
visual sense, and especially the kind of aesthetic contemplation associated with
art objects, is not enough to apprehend them.
It is not enough to consider how the object looks and what it means; one has
to start from what it is, how it is in the world and how people are with it. Earlier,
we have seen that certain things are experienced very differently from the typical
visual art object because of the multisensory and bodily nature of human
involvement with them. Now, we see how things are not simply visible because
of the being of the thing, because the thing has an invisible “content.” Seeing
visual objects such as the keris is not enough because they are not simply visual
and not simply objects. A part of their significance or power is inner, invisible
energy, or spirit, or particular “personality.” The things may have their own
will and agency, they influence people’s lives, they are open to communication
(they may reward offerings or other signs of respect, and so on), they may not
be simply inanimate, and they may look back. Magically potent heirlooms
(pusaka) – such as kerises and other weapons, gongs and gamelan sets, and so
Figure 5-3 Decoration from a royal boat, now at the Radya Pustaka Museum in
Solo. Believed to be magically potent and potentially harmful, in the museum it is
placed in an altar-like space and presented with flower offerings (visible in the photo)
every Thursday evening. Photograph by the author.
on – have personal names, preceded by the honorific Ki, used also for revered
persons. The visual sense is not enough to apprehend or evaluate such things in
a world in which visible and invisible beings coexist, a world that is not fully
visible. Seeing is often only one of the ways to access the invisible.
Let me conclude this section with one more example. We have mentioned
musical instruments in the previous section because they are, in many cases, visu-
ally beautiful and richly decorated, yet they are also meant to produce sound
and are typically experienced in multisensory events. In many Southeast Asian
cultures musical instruments – some more than others – are venerated, given
offerings, treated with respect, and believed to have sacred or magical powers
or to be inhabited by spirits or divine beings, and their production may involve
taboos and rituals. In Thailand and Cambodia, for instance, a particular kind of
drum (taphon), but more generally other musical instruments as well, is sacred
because it is believed to embody the divine teacher. For some, however, the instru-
ment is not an embodiment but a place where the teacher’s spirit dwells. Others
believe that the instrument merely symbolizes the divine teacher, or symbolically
comes from the teacher. Note here the variety of conceptualizations. The point
I would like to make is that people often disagree conceptually about how some-
thing is sacred or what the nature of the invisible, immaterial power is, and even
one person may offer multiple explanations (the same is true, for example, about
the kerises); yet, they agree, without necessarily discussing it or even thinking
about it, that the object must be shown respect, and that it may bring good or
bad luck. People make gestures of respect (wai) before playing the instrument,
people do not step over it or place it in a disrespectful location, and generally
they feel the presence of something that demands reverence and care. Beyond
conceptualizations, without necessarily thinking about it, people feel the pres-
ence of the invisible and respond to it through their behavior, with what they
do and do not do. Even when the invisible is not thought about or consciously
perceived, it is present for people.
Visual Images and the Invisible
Understanding art is about much more than visual images. It is also about the
being of things, and various forms of the invisible. But visual representation is
itself in various ways pervaded by the invisible, and cannot be fully understood
without it.
Any visual image is involved with the invisible, it grows from invisibility: it
makes the invisible visible. In many cases, the visible images refer to another
invisible – human desires or virtues, abstract notions such as purity, and so on –
when images and the stories they tell are interpreted symbolically or allegoric-
ally, as they often are in Southeast Asia. For example, the battle between a demon
and the hero of a story may symbolize the struggle between self-control and
desires within a human being.
110  JAN MRÁZEK
A somewhat different kind of invisibility – the kind discussed in the previous
section – is involved when a visual (or multisensory) representation is used as a
means to evoke the invisible sacred or magical world. Visual images, as well as
performances that work with visual images, often work in this way: they visualize
the invisible (the divine, the spirit world), while often preserving the contradiction
of this process (the visible image both is and is not the sacred invisible being;
it is both magical and symbolic), and thus emphasize the presence of the invisible
in the visible, or the invisible as an inspiration of the visible. The invisible always
haunts the visible.
In some cases, the situation is reversed: rather than using the visible to invoke
the invisible, the invisible is used to add value to the visible. People are fascinated
by the invisible, the secret, the magic, by their own fears and uncertainties. This
is true when, for example, an image or a show meant primarily for entertainment
or amusement incorporates elements of magic or invisible powers, as is often the
case in Southeast Asia. This is true, for instance, about Javanese jaran kepang,
an entertainment in which dancers with hobby-horses are possessed (or “entered,”
as one would say in Javanese) by horse spirits, go into a trance and behave like
horses. (This case could be compared to the masked dance discussed earlier: in
both cases, the spirit of the thing enters the person in an uncanny way and trans-
forms him or her.) In many cases, one event may function as entertainment as
well as a ritual: the line between the two, like the border between the visible
and the invisible, is not always very clear.
In short, to understand visual images in Southeast Asia, one needs to see how
they are involved with the invisible. One may think of the importance and care
that the eyes are given in South and Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, the Santo
Niño (Christ Child) images are placed in such a way that their gaze is directed
at a place that needs blessing (such as the cashier in a restaurant) or protection
from evil spirits or elves (such as an old tree). In the case of objects such as
certain kinds of (more or less sacred) sculptures, puppets, and masks, the eyes
are made with the most care, after the object is otherwise finished, and this may
be accompanied by a ritual of the “opening” of the eyes, the giving of the gift
of sight, equated with life, to the image.22 When things look back at us, in the
case of these images, or otherwise communicate and live with us, we see them
To Show or Not to Show
To display a Euro-American art object, to make it visible, is to let it be what it
was meant to be. The greatest extant works of European art are permanently
on display. This kind of visibility is part of the nature of the object, and it does
not matter a great deal at what time of the day or on what day of the year one
sees the work (if it does matter, it usually has something to do with visibility:
when the light is best, when the museum is least crowded).
In Southeast Asia, the temporality of seeing art is often different, as is the way
that an artwork works: it does not need to be visible for it to work. Some objects
are never displayed, or they can be seen only on special occasions, such as during
ceremonies or festivals. Temples and palaces come alive and become a spectacle
during festivals but are quiet at other times. In many of these cases, even when
the works can be seen, seeing them is not the only or primary reason for
displaying them. Instead, the reason may be to pay respect to them and/or to
take care of them (as in ritual cleansing of objects). When they are invisible, their
presence or existence is still important. For example, magically potent objects –
weapons, sculpted images, musical instruments, and so on – are kept in palaces,
temples, monasteries, and traditional houses. They are not just stored for future
use, but rather their active invisible presence is important for people’s well-being.
Seeing is thus not always essential to the working of art, and things may be seen
only on particular occasions or in special contexts.
This makes the temporality of material art objects – which, we have learned
previously, are not merely material – closer to forms of art such as music and
dance, to performances. Seeing is a part of a multisensory, social, special event
(special in the sense that it does not happen at any time). But even some Southeast
Asian performances do not need to be seen, as audience may not be essential.
Certain musical instruments are played, and musical compositions and dances
are performed, only on very rare occasions (for specific rituals, or at times of
disaster), and it is a taboo to play them at other times.
Figure 5-4 One of the most sacred objects in the Surakarta Royal Palace, this old
cannon is revered but never seen: it is enclosed in a special structure within a larger
pavilion. Photograph by the author.
112  JAN MRÁZEK
In some cases, objects are forever hidden within larger works. In Thailand,
sacred or magically potent objects, such as older and sometimes broken images,
puppets, and musical instruments, are permanently “buried” within a new Buddha
image.23 Sacred and symbolic objects are ritually buried under Hindu temples.
While these objects are meant to be permanently hidden from sight, they are
still important elements within the larger sacred structures, they make them “work,”
rather like the hidden (and for me mysterious) workings of my computer.
A New Visibility
The “Southeast Asia” in the paragraphs above is, of course, a fiction. One way
in which it is so is that, while many of the traditional attitudes to things and
vision are very much alive today – often more than one might expect – I have
nonetheless focused on these traditional ways and ignored newer ways of seeing
and dealing with things, which we will call, to keep things simple, modern. These
modern ways happen to be more or less closely related to those of modern art,
with which I have been contrasting Southeast Asian ways of dealing with art. In
this section, I would like to give a few glimpses of how traditional and modern
ways coexist, mix, and/or conflict.
Let us look at the keris again. In most conventional understandings, an essential
element of art is “beauty,” or at least beauty and art are closely connected. Let
us see how “beauty” figures in Javanese texts on the keris, such as a treatise by
Ki Darmosoegito (1892–1972). I will focus in particular on the pamor, which,
as we have seen before, is an important source of meanings and powers of the
wesi aji. For him, the “beauty” of the keris is a quality conflicting with the more
traditional (or as he puts it, “old people’s”) values. Or, if one considers the older
meanings of wesi aji as the real ones, as Darmosoegito does, then considering
wesi aji as beautiful is a fallacy of our times, and something originating from
“the foreigners.” “It is obvious that the pamor of the keris is not merely a
beautification/ornament.”24 Pamor is not a form of ornament, so that it would
be beautiful or good to look at, but it is considered to have its own power.”25
Relatively recently, instead of the meteoric material which used to be combined
with the iron to create the pamor, nickel came to be used, in part because of an
erroneous scientific analysis of older kerises. “Its appearance is really beautiful.
But, when perceived with Javanese rasa, it cannot be categorized as wesi aji,it
is just ‘imitation of goodness.’26 Later, another investigation of the components
of pamor was conducted, this time with more advanced technology.27 The new
conclusions “changed completely the picture” and titanium was found to be the
dominant component.
The Titanium metal is extremely powerful, resistant to heat and rust . . . [and] organic
acids . . . In this modern century it is used for missiles and jets . . . We have to respect
our ancestors who have chosen this metal for heirloom weapons.28
Before these new findings were published, however, nickel became the pamor –
after all, it was proven by modern science that nickel is pamor. In addition to
nickel, other metals came to be used as “pamor,” including silver and gold. The
appearance of the “pamor” was also often made more representational; for instance,
a popular motif is an art-nouveau-like foliage. Darmosoegito says that this kind
of pamor “looks ‘very beautiful’ 29 (scare quotes in the original) and comments
on the blade called Gelap Tinandhing, which employs the new pamor: “Its appear-
ance is very beautiful and pleasing, but when it is considered from the ‘place/
function of pamor in [the world of ] wesi aji,’ it is without any meaning, it is just
beautiful to look at.”30 Another Javanese author explains that “[t]he common
nickel that can be purchased in stores does not have the cosmic vibration
[geteran kosmis] because it does not contain any mysterious power.”31
When Ki Darmosoegito writes about the beautiful new “pamor,” he perceives
it as something foreign:
Its use is merely for serving the people from foreign countries who all want to buy
souvenirs. So, they do not talk about whether the wesi aji is good or bad, but rather
observe only and only the “beauty of appearance” [italics and quotation marks in
the original].32
. . . The newly made artefacts/weapons strive only for beauty of color/appearance,
in order to attract the hearts of people who are absorbed by beauty, in order that
they buy it for a high price; however, as a wesi aji, it is without meaning/rasa/
value. Dozens of years ago, the Office of Industry Ngayogyakarta, because they
found out from an examination in the Laboratorium of Bandung that the pamor
Prambanan contains nickel, they begun to make various artefacts/weapons, such
as: kerises, . . . and small knifes for opening letter envelopes, pamor-in them with
nickel. These creations were very very beautiful, foreigners who all stop by in
Ngayogyakarta are all buying it, since they consider them weird objects, and some
of them think that the kerises, swords, and the other [products] in the cabinet in
the Office of Industry, are the same as the sacred heirlooms that are revered by
the Javanese people.33
For Darmosoegito, the way of thinking and looking which emphasizes the beauty
of the keris, originates from foreigners. It is they who value what is beautiful,
thinking that the beauty is what is “revered” by the Javanese. They also provide
the economic stimulus for the production of very beautiful kerises that, however,
are “without meaning/value” for the Javanese who understand what is (for
Darmosoegito at least) the true being and value of the keris. This new, foreign
way of seeing and valuing the keris, based on the foreigners’ money-power, sense
of beauty, and modern science (which was the original stimulus for the employ-
ment of the “pamor nikel”), for Darmosoegito conflicts with what for him is the
true value of the keris. This Javanese truth is revealed through “Javanese rasa,” the
“old people,” and the “old texts.” (To understand the authority of these, one may
remember that another word for keris commonly used in Javanese text is pusaka,
or sacred heirloom: the respect for keris is also a respect for revered ancestors.)
114  JAN MRÁZEK
The source of the bitterness that one may feel from Ki Darmosoegito’s writ-
ing as well as other texts is not the production of the new “very beautiful” kerises
for foreigners and for “those people whose hearts are absorbed by beauty.” Rather,
it is the fact that this production, as well as the new meaning and power of the
kerises – as well as the concept of beauty itself – replaces (or has replaced) the
old ways of creating and appreciating the keris. An appealing new visibility and
focus on appearances replaces a way of being with things in which the invisible
and immaterial were crucial. This replacement is a kind of disappearance of the
keris – the disappearance of the invisible. It may remind us of the disappearances
of the keris in Javanese (hi)stories, which typically make people “extremely sad.”
Ki Darmosoegito’s claims that the beauty of the keris is meaningless from the
Javanese point of view are a reaction to the foreign view of the keris as exceed-
ingly beautiful, and in that sense they are as contemporary as, say, the foreigners’
influence. The clash between the “traditional” and “modern” is not a conflict
of the past and the present, but rather a conflict of two present, living worlds.
Apart from the disappearance of the knowledge of how to make the “real”
keris and the respect for the invisible and immaterial aspects of things, old kerises
disappear from their old places when kerises are bought by foreigners and also
when they move to museums. Let me quote a description of the disappearance(s)
of wesi aji from the introduction to a Javanese book by Waluyodipuro.
Strangely, since the Dutch period until now, very many foreign nationals have wished
to purchase a keris for thousands, and in fact sometimes for tens of thousands of
rupiah . . . In the past, Mr. A. GALL (a German) in Surabaya owned pusakas,
having bought hundreds of them. What would he need them for: just to make
them into souvenirs when going back to his country. What nonsense! I do not
understand these reasons! In foreign countries, people store wesi aji in museums
or as a personal possession, [items] that were originally given as a present (souvenir)
to foreign diplomats or that were bought. If this goes on, perhaps in the future in
Indonesia good and superior pusakas will be depleted, and only the coarse and bad
ones will remain. In the end, if our descendants would want to learn about good
wesi aji, they will be forced to go to museums in foreign countries. Will not it be
something to laugh at: the Javanese studying Javanese language in Leiden
(Netherlands); and to study wesi aji they will have to go to Bremen, Moscow,
San Francisco, Peking, or London.34
The Indonesian encyclopaedia of the keris has this motto: “Must our children
and grand-children learn about the keris from foreigners?”35 The fear that wesi
aji would be taken away to museums in foreign countries is a reason for estab-
lishing “our own” museums. Museums in Indonesia, on the one hand, are intended
to protect the old kerises (and other objects) from being carried out of the coun-
try. At the same time, however, the Indonesian museums – and the meanings
with which they endow the keris – replace the “old” meanings and worlds of the
keris. In many writings on the keris, there is a sense that museums are essentially
foreign to the world of keris. In the Encyclopaedia of National Culture: Kerises
and Other Traditional Weapons the word “museum” is mentioned only once, under
the entry: larung.36 Larung refers to the act of getting rid of an evil keris, which
has bad influence on the life of its owner. According to most texts, there are
two ways to deal with such a keris. It should be “either stored in a museum or
dilabuh’ [‘anchored,’ i.e., covered with white cloth and, accompanied by
offerings, and thrown into the ocean, in a ritual evoking old Javanese burial
practices] – as long as it is not used by people.” Here the museum object is
construed as something that is “not used by people,” and the museum as a space
in which the keris does not work, in which the meanings and powers of the
keris are annihilated. In the index of the Encyclopaedia, “museum” is explained
as “the place where ancient objects are stored.”37 In traditional texts one gets
the sense that the keris is full of powers, it has its own will, personal character,
and name, and some kerises can move and act on their own. However, in the
museum the keris becomes something new, namely, an “ancient object” – and
as such it figures in the modern world. Yet as we can see from the idea that the
museum can be used to neutralize evil kerises, its world of beautiful objects does
not entirely replace, but coexists and interacts with, the world in which kerises
remain alive and powerful.
We should remember here that the keris is merely an example: many other
kinds of objects have a similar fate, though each case may be different in details.
Much of Southeast Asian art found inside museums, with the exception of
modern and contemporary art, was not meant to be there, and in their previ-
ous lives, the objects were experienced and appreciated in essentially different
ways than in the museum. One can think of, for example, images of the Buddha,
one of the most common objects in museum collections of Southeast Asian art,
available, when displayed in the museums, for close visual scrutiny and aesthetic
contemplation, but with the fragrances, sounds, and human activity and religious
feeling of a Buddhist temple taken away.
The Javanese ways of thinking critically of beauty (the kind valued by foreigners),
of inappropriate emphasis on appearance, and of museums – all values and
institutions new and foreign to the traditional world of kerises – should not make
us assume that beauty, appearance, and institutions of collecting are not tradi-
tionally important in Southeast Asia. But they should make us realize that they
are important in a variety of ways, that beauty and appearance are not always
important, and that we have to learn to think about them ever anew.
In the case of kerises, we see that there is a change of emphasis from esoteric
interpretation of hidden signs, meanings, and powers to appreciation of visual
beauty; from mystical knowledge to visual appearance. This is a more general
trend of modern times. Let us look at another example, the Javanese shadow
puppet theater (wayang).
Javanese often emphasize that wayang stories and characters are essentially signs,
and they are explained as analogies and metaphors with which people make sense
of the world. According to Javanese interpretations, wayang contains hidden truths
about human life and the world, rather like the keris or poetry. These truths, or
116  JAN MRÁZEK
rather concealed, obscure cues (sasmito) to finding these truths, are searched for
in the stories, in particular encounters between characters, in the medium itself
(for example, the puppeteer as God, people as puppets), and in the often obscure,
archaic, but richly evocative language of wayang. These interpretations are limited
in how much they say about the multiple lives of wayang and especially the
physical actuality and pleasures of performance events, but they are nonetheless
an important and popular form of discourse surrounding wayang. The cue-like
symbols of the shadow theater both reveal and conceal, like the shadow as con-
ceived by Heidegger, “a manifest, though impenetrable, testimony to the con-
cealed emitting of light.”38 Heidegger’s description of artwork resonates with wayang
and its “hidden cues” rather well: “the primal conflict between clearing and con-
cealing . . . the work is the fighting of the battle in which the unconcealedness
of beings as a whole, or truth, is won.”39 The medium of wayang – a play with
puppets and shadows taking place in the darkness of the night, evoking invis-
ible forces and beings – seems to encourage this understanding of wayang.
Over the last few decades, wayang performance has been changing and, as
people often think of it, modernizing. Generally speaking, everything in wayang
has become more clearly visible, and there has been increasing emphasis on pleas-
ing appearances and spectacle. Visual representation has become more realistic
and visually explicit: Javanese commentators say that realistic depiction is replac-
ing imagination. In the past, the flickering flame of one oil lamp illuminated the
Figure 5-5 Shadows of Javanese wayang puppets as seen at a performance from
behind the screen. Photograph by the author.
screen and the puppets. A few decades ago this was replaced by an electric lamp,
and, more recently, halogen light, which provides increasingly stronger light
and sharper shadows. Additional electric lights now illuminate the stage where
musicians and singers sit, and, as everything is more visible, there is more
attention to the appearance of the stage and the musicians: the tendency is toward
a stage that is pleasing to the sight, neat, clean, and nicely decorated, musical
instruments have to be polished, musicians wear neat uniforms, and beautiful
and sexy woman singers are seated on an elevated platform so as to make them
more visible. The wayang screen against which the puppets are shown has become
spectacularly larger, and the puppets in larger performances tend to be gilded
and visibly expensive. Stronger light (together with amplification) makes it pos-
sible for more people to watch, and some wayang performances have become
massive entertainment spectacles watched by tens of thousands of spectators, and
increasingly commercialized.
All this brings wayang closer to another entertainment medium, another
cultural force in the contemporary Javanese world: television. As wayang enters
the world of modern popular entertainment, it comes as no surprise that it has
become a popular television program. Television, thus, makes wayang more
visible in yet another way: visible beyond the place of the performance and on
televisions across Indonesia.
If the truth, or revealing, of wayang is like a shadowy glittering of meaning
that can be seen only in darkness, but one that stimulates imagination and
philosophical thought, then television can be thought of as the technological
embodiment of the representational conceptualization of modern objectivity, in
which truth is understood as the correctness of representation, and involvement
in the world is accessed through representations which are between us and the
world. The representation of reality takes the place of reality; the processed,
managed, controlled images of television, set before the subject, replace another
way of relating to the world: being included in it. Because modern representation
claims that it is not merely an image, but that it corresponds to reality in an
objective way, it may, as in the case of much television and scientific instruments,
conceal its nature as a man-mediated image, and claim that it is a way to
objectively see (rather than represent) reality. The world becomes a world as
objectively construed by human subjects, and thus humans are challenged to
control and manage this represented world. In controlling and managing the
world, the aim is to bring everything into the realm of the visible and the rep-
resented, thus subduing the world into surveyability and clarity, which becomes
understood as knowledge. To be in the dark, to be hidden, to be obscure, to
be outside of human control, becomes understood as not being in truth. To be
immediately (through one’s own body-mind) involved in the world, to be part
of it (as one is part of the social gathering when watching wayang), to let one’s
imagination respond and be moved by its forces, becomes understood as not
having an objective perspective. Wayang grows from darkness and its knowledge
is obscure; television, like the Cartesian certainty that is truth-as-correctness, makes
everything clear and visible. In becoming more like television, and in becoming
118  JAN MRÁZEK
a television program, wayang enters the realm of a new visibility and a new
attitude to the world.
Different and conflicting attitudes towards the visible and the invisible coexist
and interact (or not) in contemporary Southeast Asia. This interaction plays itself
out in areas such as the encounter between traditional arts and the modern media
and entertainments, as in the example above, as well as in contemporary art. Many
artists in Southeast Asia, even as they are part of the contemporary art world and
share many of its values and ways of making and thinking about art, are to differ-
ent degrees and in different ways inspired by local art and its world, including
traditional visibilities. This can be seen on the popularity of performance art and
other media that go beyond conventional framed painting, in some cases directly
referring to traditional arts. For example, the Yogyanese artist Heri Dono has
recreated wayang puppets and performance, and on one occasion he (with friends)
painted on the wayang screen.40 The process of painting, rather than leading to
a finished product and a single visual image, became a multisensory performance,
complete with traditional musical accompaniment, emphasizing the movements
of the painters and the temporality and transience of visual imagery. One saw
this painting through the thickness of the performance event, rather like when
one watches a wayang performance. Even in apparently conventional Euro-
American style paintings one often finds reflections on the visible. For example,
in Lucia Hartini’s Spying Eyes, disembodied eyes fly around in the air like tiny alien
spaceships, attacking a sleeping, half-veiled woman with what appear like rays of
light or perhaps laser weapons. Vision here is shown as an aggressive, violent
force, detached from humans.41 One may note that Southeast Asian artists are
not alone in reacting to and often breaking away from established conventions
of modern Euro-American art, as indeed this is one of the major concerns in
contemporary art worldwide. The interaction between older and newer visibilities
in Southeast Asia is thus also involved in the contemporary art world, and in
the ways that artists reflect on its conventions and possibilities.
As one tries to understand Southeast Asian art, one is forced to rethink the nature
and role of seeing. Much art is not simply visual, in that vision is only one of
the senses through which it is perceived, in that the visible is only one of the
cues about the invisible aspects of (animate) things, and in that the visible and
physical are only one aspect of the world. I have introduced several examples of
Southeast Asian art that challenge us to think about the (in)visible, but of course
I have not tried – nor do I believe that it would be possible – to describe a
uniquely “Southeast Asian” attitude to the visible and invisible. Nor do I mean
to suggest that there is something uniquely Southeast Asian in the importance
of invisibility. Rather, with the help of thinking of Southeast Asian cases, I have
tried to raise certain questions about the visible and the invisible and to think
towards an openness to the invisible.
1 See Mrázek and Pitelka, What’s the Use of Art?; O’Connor, “Art Critics”; Taylor,
Studies in Southeast Asian Art.
2 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 64–5.
3 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 63.
4 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 44.
5 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 64–5.
6 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 65.
7 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 63–6.
8 Darmosoegito, Bab dhuwung, 15. The same observation is made in Harsrinuksmo,
Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 66.
9 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 41.
10 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 31.
11 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 60.
12 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 32.
13 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 53– 62 (“Hipotesis Isi Keris”) and
14 Koesni, Pakem pengetahuan tentang keris, 6 8.
15 For detailed descriptions of different ways of nayuh-ing, see Koesni, Pakem penge-
tahuan tentang keris, 18–24, and Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris,
especially 78– 83.
16 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 79–80.
17 Harsrinuksmo, Mengungkap rahasia isi keris, 31.
18 Hamzuri, “Sarasehan bab keris,” 12.
19 Darmosoegito, Bab dhuwung, 10.
20 Geertz, The Religion of Java, 238–9.
21 Pedersen, “An Ancestral Keris,” 214 –38.
22 For a Southeast Asian example, see Mrázek, Phenomenology of a Puppet Theatre, 29 46;
for Indian examples, see Eck, Darsan.
23 Thanks to Irving Chan Johnson for this example.
24 Darmosoegito, Bab dhuwung, 15.
25 Darmosoegito, Bab dhuwung, 17.
26 Darmosoegito, Bab dhuwung, 18.
27 For details, see Arumbinang, Pakem padhuwungan, 10–13.
28 Arumbinang, Pakem padhuwungan, 11.
29 Darmosoegito, Bab dhuwung, 20.
30 Darmosoegito, Bab dhuwung 20.
31 Soemodiningrat, “Kerisologi satleraman,” 21.
32 Darmosoegito, Bab dhuwung, 20.
33 Darmosoegito, Bab dhuwung, 91.
34 Waluyodipuro, Seserepan bab dhuwung, iv–v.
35 Hasrinuksmo, Ensiklopedi budaya nasional,4.
36 Harsrinuksmo, Esiklopedi budaya nasional, 98.
37 Harsrinuksmo, Esiklopedi budaya nasional, 229.
38 Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, 154.
39 Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought, 55.
120  JAN MRÁZEK
40 For images and discussion of this event, see Mrázek, “Heri Dono’s Moving
Pictures,” 16–19.
41 Wright, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain, 134–5 and color plate 37.
Arumbinang, Haryono. Pakem padhuwungan [Keris Treatise/Manual]. Yogyakarta:
Lembaga Javanologi, 1985.
Darmosoegito, Ki. Bab dhuwung (winawas sawetawis) [About Keris: Some Observations].
2nd edn. Surabaya: Jayabaya, 1989.
Eck, Diana. Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. 3rd edn. New York: Columbia
University Press, 1998.
Geertz, Clifford. The Religion of Java. London: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1960.
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... Arab, Persian and Turkish elements) (Grabar, 1973(Grabar, , 2005(Grabar, , 2006Hilenbrand, 1999;Lapidus, 2002;Vernoit, 2000Vernoit, , 2004Leaman, 2004;Hagedorn and Shalem, 2012;Junod, Khalil, Weber & Wolf, 2012). Research concerning the role of commodities and economics, literature and language, religion, geography and mapping, science and technology involving maritime trade routes from the 8th century onwards (including the era of European colonisation) is well documented (Geertz, 1968;Netton, 2005;Park, 2012;Burckhardt, 2009;Ricci, 2011;Mrazek 2011) but few detailed studies focus on Southeast Asian perspectives or scholarship. ...
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There has been much debate over what constitutes ‘Islamic art’ and whether even the notion of a homogenous Islamic style is tenable. This paper questions a contentious practice: the tendency to exclude Southeast Asian Islamic-inspired artifacts from the category of ‘Islamic art’ as they fail to comply with an artistic canon that codifies works as ‘Islamic’ based on an Arab-centric aesthetic derived exclusively from artistic and cultural development in Western Asia and Northern Africa. This study challenges this limited view by demonstrating that reciprocal cross-cultural exchanges of arts, crafts, and technologies along the vast network of maritime trade routes traversing the Indian Ocean linking East and West prior to European colonization, contributed to the aesthetic evolution of Islamic art. Based on findings analyzing specific artifacts, historical records and data from curatorial interviews in Australia, this investigation aims to promote artistic/cultural legacies and enrich/extend Muslim heritage for diverse contemporary audiences
Picture books are reported as beneficial for children to develop cultural and intercultural awareness. However, little research has examined the ways in which Asian picture books can be interpreted with Asian philosophies. This paper aims to examine perceptions of contemporary Vietnamese artists towards the application of the Taoism Yin–Yang balancing principle, particularly the concepts of Yin, Yang, and Qi in their artworks. Findings from interviews with artists reveal that the Taoism Yin–Yang balancing principle is essential for Vietnamese artists to create visual meanings in their artworks. Our analysis also indicates that Taoism concepts of Yin, Yang, and Qi are applicable to interpret visual meanings of picture books about Vietnam. These findings are significant for teachers to explore visual meanings in Vietnamese picture books specifically and provide researchers with ideas to develop a framework that can account for non-Western meaning-making in images of picture books.
The ethnographic film Family Victim explores the bi-directionality of cultural and family context in the development of someone behaviorally quite different from the norm. Estu is the so-called “bad coconut” of a respected Javanese family. His disruptive patterns of conduct have stressed his relationships and threatened his marriage, eliciting multiple explanatory models for his “troubled and troubling” life course, including the Indonesian idioms of distress amok/ngamuk and spirit possession, and the globalized folk diagnosis of psychopathy. By tracking the anthropologist’s attempts to understand Estu’s deviance and his family’s response to it, the film and the chapter demonstrate the forms of analytic consciousness an anthropologist goes through in making sense of a subject, and illustrate how the intersubjective reality that takes shape influences relationships, the filmmaking process, and the finished film.
When Joseph Conrad sailed on the Vidar from Singapore harbour tothe small coastal trading stations on the eastern coast of Borneo, the round trip took three weeks. The most difficult part of the journey occurred at the estuary of the Berau River where the Vidar would have run in, past the shifting bar and mud flats, and followed slowly up the mangrove-lined banks of the main branch to a settlement almost forty miles inland. It was here in 1887 that Conrad encountered the trader Charles Olmeyer whose existence in this remote place provided such an enduring focus for Conrad's imagination. In his first novel, Almayer's Folly, Conrad drew a portrait of Almayer (Olmeyer) as an exile, living on the banks of the Berau River in a sullen recoil both from the wilderness that gripped the settlement in its green immensity, and from the customs and values of those with whom he shared almost the entire course of his adult existence. Drawn to the outermost reaches of the earth by greed, Almayer's life, as conceived by Conrad, was the very symbol of rootlessness and alienation.
Written with a rare combination of analysis and speculation, this comprehensive study of Javanese religion is one of the few books on the religion of a non-Western people which emphasizes variation and conflict in belief as well as similarity and harmony. The reader becomes aware of the intricacy and depth of Javanese spiritual life and the problems of political and social integration reflected in the religion. The Religion of Java will interest specialists in Southeast Asia, anthropologists and sociologists concerned with the social analysis of religious belief and ideology, students of comparative religion, and civil servants dealing with governmental policy toward Indonesia and Southeast Asia.
Reproduction of original: 1998. UMI no.: 9818296. Thesis (Ph. D.)--Cornell University. Includes bibliographical references.
Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India
  • Diana Eck
Eck, Diana. Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. 3rd edn. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.