vrijdag 13 november 2015

The Spirit(s) of Rijksmuseum, visited by Ayu Utami

On 10 November 2015 there was a book launching in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. With Paule, I attended it in the evening after the promotion of Dr. Sunarwoto.
Rijksmuseum more and more has a function between a presentation of art and a focus on Dutch history. The book was Gepeperd Verleden. 'A peppered/seasoned past: Indonesia and the Netherlands since 1595, written by Harm Stevens in a series of the museum that will illustrate the foreign history of the Netherlands. Ayu Utami translated the title also as Lada Pahit with a link to Majapahit after the name of the last Hindu Kingdom in Java, 15th century.
The launching started with summaries of the book. It was followed by an impressive Javanese/Dutch dancer who took the personality of the wife of Dutch deserter, pro-Indonesian fighter Poncke Princen. When the Dutch army attacked the village where he lived, she tried to defend him, and died.
Harm Stevens already had made references to good old spirits in the museum. Such as an Acehnese shield used by a fighter who had killed a Dutch officer before he died himself. The original tongkat or walking stick of Diponegoro: the authenticity of these materials evoke the spirit of their former owners.
The major talk was given by Ayu Utami who wanted to give a spiritual vision of a museum ('although spiritualism can be boring and often making love is more fun').
She began with the day: 10 November is hari pahlawan or heroes' day because of those who died in the British attack on Surabaya, 10 November 1945, the first battle in the war or independence. At one moment she glorified this history, but she also criticized the very simple image given about this period by nationalist propaganda. That is a too much lineair, one-sided view of history.
As to the museum, she wanted to correct the colonial history as a history of greed. Colonials were also artists and scholars. She likes the National Museum of Jakarta, built by a learned society established in the 18th century. And the Bogor biological museum where her aunt had been bibliothecary for a long time. Colonialism is also some thing of the age of reason. Trying to give a spiritual meaning of a museum, she also felt that spirituality is not exciting.
There were drinks in one of these large places, created by buildong something new against the walls of the old museum. There was in the exhibition about Asian Glory and Richness brought to Europe, an exhibition of precious things bought or created in the East.

Above is the return of four ships from the Indies in 1598:Mauritius, Holland, Overijssel, Vrieslant. On the whole the exhibition paid much attention to the rich and mighty, not to the victims, the poor. It did not make a politicial or social statement, but still created the effect of a successful and legitimate undertaking.

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