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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 9:17 pm 
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See links below for information on an exhibiton of Indonesian textiles at Geneva Ethnographic Museum (Musée d'ethnographie, Genève) entitled: "La fibre des ancêtres: Trésors textiles d’Indonésie de la collection Georges Breguet" which is running from 2 mars 2006 → 31 décembre 2006:

Information concerning the exhibition:
http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/ethg/expo03.php
Information concerning the catalogue:
http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/ethg/exp ... cation.php
Possibility to order the catalogue directly from the museum:
http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/ethg/commande.php
Some pictures from the catalogue:
http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/ethg/reserved02.php


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 10:29 am 
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I thought that I would share with forum members a review by Dr Sandra Niessen of the above exhibition which she very kindly sent to me following her visit to the exhibit last weekend.

“La fibre des ancêtres” (“The fibre of the ancestors”): An exhibit of Indonesian textiles in the Ethnographic Museum of Geneva, Switzerland (22 March – 31 December 2006)

“Experience” is the operative word for this exhibit. Mr. Georges Breguet, the Guest Curator of the exhibition, and the owner of the textiles, had told me in advance that his exhibition was “of the heart”. The exhibition offers a little window onto the sensual pleasure that Breguet gains from his Indonesian textiles, and the origins of that pleasure in the cultures of the archipelago. His passion for collecting was sustained for 30 years. This exhibition is the result of a long-cherished ambition.

Breguet strongly encouraged me to follow the intended exhibition flow, and to enter at the bamboo tunnel in order to get the full effect. I recommend that everybody do this. Before one arrives at the exhibit, however, one must climb a set of stairs. The last one is the most compelling. It is as though the long white thread emerging from the beautiful spinningwheel at the top of the bannister compels one towards the heart of the matter.

The effect is temporarily lost on the landing when one meets up with a museum computer, but this brief concession to the intellectual need to orient oneself to the island archipelago and the diversity in its textile traditions (in an interactive way) can only be lauded.

Then it is as if one undergoes a rite of passage, and enters a mystical other time and place. The passageway is constructed of bamboo and the lights are extremely low. Wisps of sound introduce the visitor to themes of creation, time, the womb, the cycle of life, all very strongly associated with the weaving traditions, despite their diversity, throughout the archipelago.

And then one emerges in the first room. To my surprise, it was an introduction to the techniques used to make and decorate Indonesian cloth. This room constitutes the foundation of the rest of the exhibit which is centred on the distinction between the most ancient, warp-focused textiles of the archipelago, and the weft-focused textiles typical of the Indonesian court cultures that were inspired by later waves of influence from India, China, and the Islamic world. I was surprised at the choice because it is difficult to hold the attention of the public by depicting textile techniques. I think that this attempt was moderately successful primarily because the examples used were so delicious to see. To the technically knowledgeable, this room constitutes a treasure trove showing how techniques are executed and applied. To the technically uninitiated who really wanted to learn about techniques, it would have been a frustrating room because it was not possible to do such things as pick up the cloth and look at the back side, examine structures under a magnifying lens, or access the detailed instruction that would truly engender understanding of the techniques. Perhaps the computer technology could have been used to enhance this room, too.

The second major room is filled with the textiles of the earliest technical layer of the Indonesian weaving tradition. Indigo blue, the deep reddish brown of the Morinda citrifolia plant dye, and the white of unbleached cotton characterize these textiles. Examples from the Toraja (Sulawesi), Batak (Sumatra), Dayak (Borneo) and Timorese were juxtaposed in no particular order in the middle of the room. On the surrounding walls, slides of the originating the societies were projected in succession, but in no particular order of culture. Here, in particular, one felt that one had stepped into an inchoate past.

The same format was maintained in the third room exhibiting the court textiles from Bali, Sumatra, and Java. These textiles were shot with gold and silver, and often made of silk; the colours red and yellow predominated: finery of the higher classes in strongly hierarchical societies. Again a succession of exquisite slide images complemented the display in arbitrary cultural juxtaposition.

With few exceptions, the textiles are old, with natural dyes, often with handspun yarns, the treasures of Indonesian textile collection. The slides depict scenes and situations without reference to the West or the colonial presence. This was not so much a past time, and a past place, as a timeless place, a romanticized construction by the museum curators.

As an anthropologist, I wondered whether I should be disturbed by this. The exhibition is makes no reference to the present or future, and the past is fake. But surely museum visitors, all television-literate, would no longer be seduced by such an exhibition into thinking that this is a current reality! Has the time come that romanticized Indonesian society can once again be used as a legitimate exhibition genre? To be sure, I personally experience nostalgia when I see beautiful old textiles. I know the kind of effort and knowledge that went into their construction – and I am aware that modern social circumstances and trends do not support, value, or stimulate such production. This exhibit touched upon a reality “of the heart”. No living person has experienced it because we were all born too late in the first place, and in the second instance because the “place” does not exist. The depicted reality was a composite, a merging of social, technical, and material themes. It was powerful and evocative, like a work of art, certainly no disquisition or scientific analytical deconstruction.

As a textile scholar, I did feel disturbed by how the textiles were displayed. I liked the fact that they were hung over bamboo, but not that one could scarcely avoid touching them. In this regard, the exhibit defied all extant museological standards. Children rushing through on the weekend, when I was there, set the textiles waving in the air. Audacious visitors looked around to make sure they were not being watched and then succumbed to the temptation to touch. Such is the tactile nature of cloth. To be surrounded so closely by cloth like this was deliciously intimate, but I doubt that museum staff anywhere else will ever allow the visitor to literally come in such close contact with Indonesian textile treasures.

The lighting was appropriate for the textiles, but far too low to be able to comfortably read the (French only) texts provided. This was frustrating for the visitor who wished to do more than undergo that experience from the heart –although the catalogue picks up where the exhibition leaves off. Luckily the message of the two rooms was easily grasped and the dominant experiential component was the primary raison d’être of the exhibition.

Dr. Sandra Niessen
Project Leader Batak Textiles: Celebrating a Cultural Legacy
Gastconservator Wereld van Weefsels
http://www.kit.nl/scripts/persberichten ... efsels.doc
http://www.bonapasogit.nl/Pagina's/Engels/News.htm
Please note my new email address: Niess305@planet.nl

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http://www.tribaltextiles.info
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2006 3:30 pm 
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The Geneva Museum of Ethnography just inform me that all the texts present within the exhibition are now translated in English, you just need to ask a copy of the texts at the entrance desk.
Georges Breguet


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 7:06 pm 
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Georges Breguet has sent me another review of the exhibition, this time by the Jakarta Post (Kunang Helmi) on 21 May 2006:
Quote:
Swiss human biologist Georges Breguet is a collector whose passion for Indonesian woven textiles covers three decades. Traveling each year through the archipelago, he harbors a sensual pleasure for these tactile fabrics.

Breguet's interest in textiles was stoked years ago, when together with a colleague he undertook an important scientific study involving blood types in Tenganan Pageringsingan, a particular Balinese community whose unique technique of double ikat weaving, gerinsing, is now world famous.

The exhibition La Fibre des Ancetres, or the fibre of ancestors, opened March 22 and will run until Dec. 31 at the Ethnographic Museum in Geneva, Switzerland. It presents a selection of pieces from Breguet's private collection of over a thousand pieces. Focusing on weaving, he leaves the world of Javanese batik aside, with the geographical sources of his collection mainly Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali, the Lesser Sunda Islands and Maluku.

These textiles are said to be endowed with magical powers, accompanying the everyday lives and rites of the majority of the inhabitants of the archipelago, from the moment they are born until they die. Ancestors, represented by special woven pieces, are omnipresent. After death, specific rituals involving these woven textiles ensure that the deceased rejoin their ancestors, continuing the thread of life and death.

Weaving is primarily the domain of females and symbolizes fertility and life. However this is not possible without the contribution of male protection. The balance between the female and the masculine worlds is at the core of original Indonesian tribal cultures.

Breguet's personal experience was the key to becoming the guest curator of the show at the Ethnographic Museum. The museum's curator, Jerome Ducor, ensured the realization of Breguet's long cherished ambition. The scientific accuracy of the displays, weaving techniques and general information is guaranteed by noted ethnologist Marie-Louise Nabholz-Kartashoff, from 1968 to 2002 curator of the Department of Asian Textiles at the Ethnographic Museum in Basel, Switzerland.

Slightly more than 60 textiles will be displayed through December: two representative groups of about 30 items each will be rotated midway during the show for reasons of textile conservation and museum space. Artifacts such as spinning wheels, weaving looms and machines, as well as computer shows, serve a more didactic purpose and remain throughout. The show is complemented by many photos, including those by Breguet himself, and an accompanying video produced by NGM Productions, together with Breguet and the Barbier-Mueller Museum of Geneva.

The homage Breguet pays to the virtuosity and creativity of female weavers, especially to one of the most famous of them, the late princess Tamu Rambu Yuliana of Rindi, on the island of Sumba, remains unchanged for both periods of the show. One can admire the last creation that the late princess wove for her own funeral to be able to join her ancestors.

Breguet's advice to visitors is: "Follow the exhibition itinerary to revel in a full censorial experience."

From the museum entrance up the stairs leading to the display rooms, the bannister reveals a spinning wheel with a long white thread directing visitors to the landing. Here the adventure begins after some practical information about the archipelago using computer interaction. This intermediate space also presents the concept of omnipresent ancestors in the daily life of Indonesian peoples.

A low and relatively narrow passageway built of bamboo leads visitors, like in a rite of passage, along a softly lit cocoon, toward the main exhibition. This womblike space evokes a sense of the process of gestation during a passage of time, similar to the cycle of life represented in the weaving tradition.

One emerges into the first room, where visitors are introduced to the evolution of different weaving techniques used to make or decorate cloth in Indonesia. As the show is based on distinguishing between the most ancient, warp-focused textiles in the archipelago, and the later weft-focused textiles proper to Indonesian court cultures, this heralds the themes of the next two rooms.

The second room is where the earliest samples of Indonesian tribal weaving are presented. Here cotton and natural red and blue dyes predominate, demonstrating the use of plant dyes such as indigo blue or the deep reddish brown of morinda citrifolia, which contrast with the white of unbleached handspun cotton.

Archaic motifs taught from one generation to the next are produced using warp ikat. An integral part of native rituals, these cloths are magnificent symbols of a tribal universe that is undergoing rapid change through the influence of the modern world and pressure from world religions, Christianity and Islam.

Hung over bamboo poles are woven cloth, from Timor, Toraja (Sulawesi), Dayak (Borneo) and Batak (Sumatra), found at the center of the space, while a slide show which mixes these cultures is projected onto the walls. Visitors, contrary to normal museum practice, are easily able to touch the cloth, risking the degradation of these superb treasures.

Laid out in a similar fashion, the third room houses court textiles from Bali, Java and Sumatra. Here silk tends to replace cotton. The basic red -- less blue dye -- is visible, and is enhanced by yellow, the color of royalty, shot through with silver and gold threads or decorated by application of gold leaf (prada) or sequins. These iridescent textiles mark the finery worn for festive occasions by all social classes. Red and yellow colors predominate here, while weft ikat weaving is often supplemented by brocade technique (songket), while double ikat (use of both weft and warp) is also occasionally employed.

The motifs show the increasing influence of Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern iconography, which is linked to the major religions of the precolonial period, namely Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Again here a slide show accompanies the fine weaving.

But as an expert in Sumatran textiles, Dr. Sandra Niessen, recently pointed out: "The slides depict scenes and situations without reference to the West or the colonial presence. This was not so much a past time, and a past place, as a timeless place, a romanticized construction by the museum curators."

The exhibition does not pretend to present a complete historical analysis of the social and technical evolution of weaving in Indonesia. It does however touch upon the censorial pleasures upon regarding these well preserved samples, together with a brief explanation of techniques used up to the present day. For those really interested in further information, the concise, compact and colorful catalog touches upon the historical analysis of the evolution of weaving in Indonesia.

Breguet also pays homage to fine craftsmanship, perhaps lost forever in an increasingly modern, hectic world, where a year or more to commission a complicated piece is not feasible, except for the extremely wealthy who order a particular cloth for a couture costume for a very special occasion. Those in Europe will be awarded by tantalizing glimpses of Indonesia's glorious textile heritage.

The catalog of the Geneva show, La Fibre des ancetres, Tresors textiles d'Indonesie de la collection Georges Breguet, Collection Sources et temoignages No 8, Musee d'ethnographie de Geneve, 136 pages with 90 color illustrations, is available in French for SFr 39,-. ISBN 13:978-2-88474-127-9.

Musee de'ethnographie de Geneve, Bd Carl-Vogt 651205 Geneve, T. +41(0)22 418 45 50. Open every day except Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., free of charge. www.ville-ge.ch/meg

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http://www.tribaltextiles.info
on-line tribal textiles resource


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