Walter Spies, tourist art and Balinese art in inter-war colonial Bali
This is an art historical study informed by post-colonial perspectives which critically examines the discourse concerning the role and the work of the artist Walter Spies in relation to Bali, Balinese art and the Balinese in the inter-war Dutch Colonial period. Drawing from a wide variety of sources, the thesis examines the development and characteristics of a new artistic form in the area of painting, variously described as 'Balinese Modernism', 'New Balinese painting' or 'Tourist art'. I also investigate the origins and the perpetuation of the popular myth regarding the perceived role of Walter Spies as the instigator of this art. Through examining his cultural position in relation to the Balinese, I examine Spies' role as a colonial figure and as a 'servant' of colonial cultural policy. This post-colonial examination takes into account the broader historical, political, cultural and economic realities of colonial Bali at that time. I deal with theoretical and methodological issues some of which make such a study problematic. In particular, how to deal with the 'subaltern' in historical discourse and the dangers of either essentialising the 'Other' or diminishing hegemonic imperial processes through a cultural relativism which seeks to value the importance of the 'subaltern' voice. In addition to this, the problematic and sometimes misleading use of biography is also investigated. I have synthesised a number of concepts to develop my post-colonial approach, based around the ideas of contact, contact languages and influence. These are used to explain the development of new artistic forms, as well as the discourse and processes which both moulded and reflected them. The study contributes to knowledge through the fresh analysis of the discourse of 'texts' and parts of 'texts' not previously used or explored in a postcolonial theoretical framework. Interviews with Balinese artists and the correspondence of Spies are deconstructed, as well as the films and paintings of Spies which are analysed as colonial discourse rather than as isolated aesthetic products. This project provides a new critique of the creation and perpetuation of colonial discourse through biography and imagery which I propose has much broader implications in the 'post-colonial' world.