Anthropologists Margaret Mead (1901–1978) and Gregory Bateson (1904–1980) collected textiles, puppets, paintings, and carvings from the island of Bali, Indonesia, as they conducted research from 1936–38. Most of these objects are housed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The exhibition Fabricating Power with Balinese Textiles explores the Mead–Bateson textiles (and their representations in objects such as wood carvings demonstrating weaving techniques) as forms of religious power that act within a Balinese Hindu cosmology. The textiles displayed are significant for their aesthetic and ritual powers, derived from techniques of fabrication and use in various lifecycle ceremonies, as well as serving as records of a period in Balinese history. Based on information from the 1930s and recent research, the exhibition presents an overview of Balinese textiles as windows into a unique culture and encourages us to consider the value of these objects as they are made and used to this day.

A Focus Project curated by Urmila Mohan, Bard Graduate Center/AMNH Postdoctoral Fellow in Museum Anthropology. Focus Projects are small-scale academically rigorous exhibitions and publications that are developed and executed by Bard Graduate Center faculty and postdoctoral fellows in collaboration with students in our MA and PhD programs.