Saturday, November 14, 2015

The path to a higher state, then and now.

Not from the museum. This is on site at the Banteay Srei temple,
whose ensemble of stone carving has to be among the greatest
and most breathtaking on the planet.
Weirdest experience so far in Cambodia has been the Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap, whose layout, like those of the country's celebrated Buddhist/Hindu temples, leads the visitor on a path that symbolizes a larger journey. In this case, that journey's successive steps are marked by swelling music, heavy on strings with occasional minor-key passages to signify that this is serious stuff, and other passages that sound like Zamfir's pan flute.   Oh, yeah: there are some good pieces of Khmer sculpture, too,

The museum is run by a private company in conjunction with Cambodia's Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and it reminds me of the trend in some American museums of turning, likely because of declining government support, to blockbuster exhibits and multimedia presentations that appeal to a limited attention span.  In science museums, this takes the form of lots of stuff about dinosaurs and Star Wars. At art museums, it means lots and lots of exhibitions of the Impressionsts. One guidebook calls the museum "edutainment," and that seems about right to me.

In the temples from which the museum's sculpture is taken, the journeys replicate a path through life and attainment of a higher state. Here, the journey ends in the souvenir shop.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015



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