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THE TRADITIONAL ARCHITECTURE OF INDONESIA by Barry Dawson; John Gillow

Review by: Nina Stephenson


Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, Vol. 14, No. 1
(Spring 1995), p. 39
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Art Libraries Society of North
America
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27948722 .
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Art Documentation, Spring 1995 39

Coherent Systems, Truth and Beauty, Mental Furniture, Custom a two-page glossary,a briefbibliography, and an index. The clearly
ized Eclecticism,What isWrong with Modernism?, Other People's written text, with few specialized terms, is geared toward those
Wild Style,New Tribalism, Domesticated Sculpture,Mod
Identity, with littleor no knowledge of Indonesia or architecture. Foreign
ernism Gone Wild, Projects ofOptimism. The remaining 83 per words, such as rumah adat (traditional house), are defined, and
cent of thebook is a lavishly-produced, illustratedoverview of the ink-drawn architectural sections, construction details, and deco
author's output, from his early design pieces to recent
forays into rative elements add interestbut little technical information to the
serious art production. Layout and typographyparallel strategies presentation.
used in his catalogue forKeith Haring's 1982 exhibition at the The primary appeal of thispublication lies in its superb color
Tony Shafrazi Gallery; and in his Cultural Geometry and Artificial photographs. Numbering almost 200, they illustratehouses and
Nature, catalogues published by theDeste Foundation forCon ceremonial structures in their settings, the interiors of homes and
temporaryArt for exhibits held at theHouse of Cyprus, Athens, communal buildings, and painted and sculpted decorative, pro
in 1988 and 1990. tective,and architectural components. There is a good mix of full
The extensive self-promoting aspects of thebook may trouble views and details. Children, adults, and domesticated animals (in
some, but in today's hostile climate for arts subsidies, self-promo cluding theubiquitous mongrel dog) are often seen in,or around,
tion is almost a
forgivable sin. As long
as one doesn't take its am the buildings, and new homes are shown being built using tradi
bitious conceptual claims too
seriously, this book can serve as a tional designs and materials. While the images are outstanding, it
colorful documentation of a particular artist and the fin-de-si?cle would be helpful if theyhad been keyed to the text.
era ofwhich he is a part. It should find a comfortable fitin collec These photographs celebrate the resilience of vernacular ar
tions with design
or modern art concentrations. chitecture in Indonesia, particularly in the villages and rural ar
Daniel Fermon eas, despite the incursion of new materials and construction tech
Museum ofModern Art niques. The authors, however, emphasize that the traditional mod
els are gradually being replaced by brick and concrete homes in
many regions. This is particularly true on the island of Java, the
cultural and political center of Indonesia. Among some ethnic
groups, such as the Toba Batak of Sumatra and the Toraja of
HOUSES INTHE ISLANDS Sulawesi, people often favor living inmodern homes, although
theymay stillvalue the rumahadat forritual functions.The future
THE TRADITIONAL ARCHITECTURE OF INDONESIA /Barry of these vernacular traditions is uncertain, making this kind of
Dawson and John Gillow.?New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, photographic study important.
dist. by W. W. Norton, September 1994.?192 p.: ill.? While the textof this title is best suited to the general reader
ISBN 0-500-34132-X; LC 94-60282: $45.00. with interests in Indonesia or traditional architecture, its illustra
tionsmay also be of interest to specialists in a number of fields,
The TraditionalArchitectureof Indonesia is a richly-illustrated
including architecture, art history anthropology, design, geogra
surveyof the indigenous architectureof the Indonesian archipelago. Asian will also
It is an attractive addition to the expanding body of literatureon phy, and Southeast studies. Such readers, however,
need to consult more is a recom
traditional Indonesian arts and material culture and will please scholarly materials. This book
mended purchase for academic, public, museum, and other spe
readers with interests in vernacular architecture, a field
growing cial libraries serving the groups described above.
of academic pursuit. Gillow and Dawson previously collaborated
Nina Stephenson
on Traditional Indonesian Textiles (New York, NY: Thames and
University ofNew Mexico
Hudson, 1992); Gillow also co-authored Traditional Indian Tex
tiles (New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1991).
The introduction outlines Indonesian history and thenumer
ous cultural, economic, and environmental influences
political,
that continue to affect Indonesian society and culture in
general, POST-MAOARTS
and architecture in particular. This is followed by a chapter on
materials and construction, focusing on the indigenous trees and CHINA AVANT-GARDE: COUNTER-CURRENTS IN ART AND
plants that have provided building materials for centuries. The CULTURE /Haus der Kulturen derWelt, Berlin.?New York, NY:
rest of the book is concerned with architectural forms.
regional Oxford 1994.?323 ill.?
University Press, September p.:
Although a survey of this type isnecessarily selective in scope, ISBN 0-19-58623-9 (cl.,alk. pap.): $75.00.
the authors have endeavored to portray structures
representative
from themajor Indonesian islands or island groups. Chapters are The year 1979 proved to be seminal in the development of a
devoted to Sumatra (and neighboring island,Nias); Java,Bali, and modern art movement in China. The post-Mao era
began in 1979
Lombok; Borneo and Sulawesi; and the outer islands east of Bali. under Deng Ziaoping, and while itwas initially limited to eco
The structuresdepicted are not simply shelters, as they continue nomic liberation, it slowly had an effecton other facets ofChinese
to
satisfy important cultural needs, serving
as ancestral homes, life.The emotional pressure thathad built up duringMao's regime
storage houses for heirlooms, or centers for ritual events. Included was challenged artistically throughout China, manifesting itself
are buildings like theMinangkabau house with multiple gables in the formof kitsch culture, and, where this study is concerned,
and upsweeping ridge ends in Sumatra, theDayak longhouse in in the individual artistic languages thatwere shaped as part of the
Kalimantan (Borneo), and the Atoni haystack-style dwelling in new and developing avant-garde.
west Timor. China Avant-Garde:Counter-CurrentsinArt and Culture isbased
Dawson and Gillow, according to the acknowledgements on on a catalogue thataccompanied the exhibition China Avantgarde,
the titlepage verso, have apparently relied heavily on the scholar held in 1993 at theHaus der Kulturen derWelt, Berlin, and con
ship of other authors, including Roxana Waterson (The Living cerns itselfwith modern artistic developments since 1979. This
House: An AnthropologyofArchitectureinSouth-EastAsia [NewYork, scholarly and informativepublication offersa thorough chronol
NY: Oxford University Press, 1990]), Lim Jee Yuan (The Malay ogy of the events?and the framework inwhich they took place?
House: RediscoveringMalaysia's Indigenous Shelter System [Pulau leading to this exhibition. Not only are there chapters on modern
Pinang, Malaysia: InstitutMasyarakat, 1987]), and J. Dumarcay Chinese art but also on contemporary Chinese cinema, literature,
(The House in South-East Asia [New York, NY: Oxford University poetry, spoken and experimental theatre, music, and photogra
Press, 1987]), among others. The TraditionalArchitectureof Indo phy.
nesia lacks footnotes and endnotes but does include a simplemap, Several essays by Chinese andWestern writers place thework

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