Repurposing: Paradise

4 May – 30 June 2024

“Repurposing: Paradise” delves into a contemplative review of Bali’s “paradise,” a concept historically laden with contradictions due to its oscillation between global capitalist attractions and the island’s complex cultural tapestry. This exhibition challenges the superficial acceptance of Bali merely as a commodity, leveraging theoretical frameworks from Dean MacCannell (1976), Erik Cohen (1998), and Edward M. Bruner (2005) to dissect staged authenticity and cultural commodification, urging a sophisticated understanding of local interactions with the idea of ‘Bali Paradise’, the ‘Island of the Gods’ concept as predominantly an invention of the tourism industry—a viewpoint that simplifies the complex dynamics between local cultures and global tourism narratives.

“Repurposing: Paradise” is inspired by Michel Picard’s (2017) analysis, which argues for the recognition of local inhabitants not as passive objects under the touristic gaze but as active subjects who articulate their cultural presentations. These are intricately shaped by their self-referential systems and their interpretations of tourists’ desires, providing a nuanced counter-argument to perceptions that local engagement with the paradise narrative is purely dismissive or resistant. Picard’s assertion that “Balinese culture actively engages with and shapes the tourist gaze” underpins the complex interaction between maintaining authenticity and the commodification of culture. 

 

Drawing from Adrian Vickers’ historical analysis, the exhibition showcases Bali as “a paradise created” (Vickers, 1989), emphasizing the island’s transformation through colonization, exoticization, and commodification, and demonstrating Bali’s resilience in reshaping its own narrative. Furthermore, it integrates considerations of modernity and colonial history, encapsulating the narrative of adaptation and resilience, including the visionary regulations proposed by SCETO in 1970, advocating for sustainable development respectful of cultural heritage. An instance highlighting the clash between modern development and cultural preservation is the controversy sparked by the construction of the Bali Beach Hotel in Sanur in 1966. The ensuing debate over building heights and the emblematic policy mandating “no building taller than a coconut tree” highlights the tension between cultural identity and economic growth in Balinese society.

Through the lens of Balinese visual art, the exhibition delves into visual culture and its ramifications on social understanding. It engages with the multifaceted question of visuality and culture, building on Martin Jay’s (1996) observation that anything that imprints upon the retina becomes part of a new paradigm, one that prides itself on democratic inclusivity. Raymond Williams (1976) highlights the complexity imbued in the notion of culture, a term knotted with intricate meanings and implications. This reveals an intellectual dichotomy, especially when locals seek to comprehend their art through foreign texts and languages.
By fostering a nuanced perspective that acknowledges the instrumentality of ‘paradise’ for both Western and local imaginaries, “Repurposing: Paradise” transcends simplistic duality, inviting visitors to appreciate the intricate dance between cultural self-expression and global economic forces. 

Repurposing: Paradise

Artists

Citra Sasmita
Dewa Ngakan Ardana
Faelerie
Filippo Sciascia
Gede Sukarya
Jemana Murti
Mella Jaarsma
Nyoman Darmawan
Pande Wardina
Sarah Mosca
Todd McMillan
Wayan Upadana