Alfred Gell describing ‘deathpower.’

Both of my long-term readers know that the key concept in my work on Cambodian funerals and religion is deathpower, the social power created through the proper (moral or amoral) management of death. A colleague recommended Alfred Gell‘s monumental 1998 volume Art and Agency: an anthropological theory to me, and what do I find on p. 149 but this gem, which practically describes my work:

A Buddha statue celebrates the possibility of a ‘good death’ and monks are semi-dead individuals who aspire to the ultimate good-death condition….In a sense, then, what the relic does is make the Buddha state like the Buddha, by making it ‘dead’ through the insertion of a ‘death-substance’–in the rather paradoxical sense that Buddha-hood implies death-in-life.



SOUNDING on Cambodia, September 3, 2010

Holy Crap – I have almost never, in my entire museum-going life (and folks, I’m *married* to a curator, so I’ve been to a lot of museums) heard about an exhibit I want to see more than this one: “Life, Death, and Magic: 200 Years of Southeast Asian Art,” at the National Gallery of Australia, in Canberra.  the description of the exhibit is as follows:

For thousands of years, across mainland and island Southeast Asia, the deification of significant ancestors and the veneration of spirits of nature have formed the basis of traditional beliefs. It has also been the impetus for the creation of splendid and extraordinary works of art in fibre, stone, metal, wood and clay—made to protect and give pleasure to the living, to honour the ancestors and to secure safe passage for the human soul between this world and the afterlife.

Life death and magic: 2000 years of Southeast Asian ancestral art provides an evocative overview of the region’s ancestral arts and culture, from prehistoric times to the twenty-first century. Beautifully designed, it is prolifically illustrated with works of art from countries and regions including Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, East Timor, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia and southern China which are drawn from museums around the world and the National Gallery of Australia’s exceptional collection of Southeast Asian art.

Now, there’s no way I can raise the scratch to go see this exhibit, so I’m counting on my Australian friends to go, take photos if possible, and comment or post them somewhere.  This is astonishing looking work.  Thank Flying Spaghetti Monster they’re publishing a catalog.  Which I’ve already ordered. Massive Hat Tip to Alison of AlisoninCambodia for the notice.

NoelbyNature, the animating force behind the Southeast Asian Archaeology Blog, has some lovely notes and photos from excavations at Angkor Wat.

Hat tip to Igor Prawn for posting the nice graphic of the World’s Tallest Towers, including a space for the entirely hallucinatory and never-to-be built tower bragged about recently by PM Hun Sen.  Phnom Penh Post.

Also, Tuol Sleng, the notorious prison and torture center also called (more appropriately, S-21), rated a mention at Atlas Obscura.


Sackler Gallery “Gods of Angkor” Lectures on Youtube!

The first of nine (9!) lectures relating to the stellar-looking, envy-inspiring, and (since I’ve compelled nearby friends to go take a very close look on my behalf), apparently gorgeous exhibit, Gods of Angkor: Bronzes from the National Museum of Cambodia. This exhibit ends in January 2011, so go there now!

If you can’t, thank the gods of Angkor for the internet (I imagine they would have named the internet after the “Net of Indra,” giving rise to the near-alternative universe name, The Indranet, but I digress…): you get to see the lectures on youtube, as they emerge.


The first lecture, which begins after a lovely introduction by Louise Cort, the Director of Ceramics at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, and somewhat more to the point, the Co-curator of this exhibit, at the 5’55 mark, is by John Guy, Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and titled “Golden Towers: Reconstructing the Lost Ornamentation of Angkor, Freer and Sackler.” And thanks to the Indranet, it is embedded below:

Director Cort has made the immediately forthcoming lecture series titles available; I sure hope as many people see these in person as possible! The full announcement is reprinted after the jump… Continue reading


Sounding on Cambodia for March 10, 2010


Art for Haiti by Ricardo Levins Morales

This poster is sold signed. Half of the proceeds goes to Partners in Health for earth quake relief. PIH is the grassroots organization established in Haiti by Dr. Paul Farmer. It is Haitian-led and provides direct assistance in Haitian communities without the costs of an administrative bureaucracy. [link]

Morales is a famous local printmaker and artist, whose work you may very well have seen previously.  He’s recently opened up a new operation, after the previous one with which he was affiliated closed its doors.


Ass-Headed (Buddhist) Demons

A great photo of a glazed ceramic tile from 15th century Burma, in the British Museum’s collection, along with a very nice description of these gents, and their place in the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

But the reason I looked into it? The hilarious title on a posting of it over at Texas Liberal, called “Ass-headed Demons. Do You Have Them In Your Life?

Yes I do, TL, yes I do.