Altamira Cave Paintings to Be Re-reopen—With Very Limited Access

[GUARDIAN, OLIVE PRESS, LTTW, SPAIN] For 12 years, visitors have only been able to see the replica of Spain’s early civilization cave paintings in a museum a few hundred feet away from the actual site. Since Thursday, five elderly Spaniards were chosen by ballot to make the inaugural trip to the caves. However, the visit only lasted only just over half an hour; allowing the group about eight minutes to admire the paintings.

Why such strict provisions apply?

The site has been closed several times, starting in 1977 after scientists warned that body heat and CO2 levels from the 3,000 daily visitors were deteriorating the paintings. When the cave was re-opened again in 1982, to a limited amount of visitors, people were queuing up to three years to get a glimpse of the prehistoric masterpieces. In 1985, UNESCO declared the site as World Heritage site.

The cave was again closed to the public in 2002 to protect the paintings from microbiological damage which appeared because body heat, light and moisture for the appearance of green mold on some of the paintings.

This year, from now until August to be exact, overall 192 visitors are expected to be allowed in under the program. During the visit, however, researchers will measure their impact on the cave’s temperature, humidity, microbiological contamination and CO2 levels. They will have to comply with a strict dress code and wear masks and shoes before entering the site.

The results will be used to determine whether or not the cave can be reopened to the public, a controversial decision that has pitted the local tourist economy against government scientists.

There are many reasons in assuring the sustainability of the site. First and foremost, such heritage possessed rich early human civilization values* we should be aware of— values in which relevant to many generations to come, as both irreplaceable sources of knowledge on science and technology, as well as aesthetic and artistic inspiration. Secondly, every cultural heritage also has its economic values* which can be useful for countless tourism programs. Accordingly, in the name of sustainability, a good management should be taken into account.

Which brings me back to the Altamira; too bad, I’m not there to see it. I personally can only compare to where I live, which heritage management is preferably perceived and practiced in completely different direction. One example is the famous Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia.

Adikara Rachman, who was deeply involved in the Restoring the intangible Significance of Borobudur Temple initiated by SBF, explained, “There were different motivations among the state and the societies in regard to the site. Most of all, sadly, Borobudur was then managed solely upon its economic values, because it will fundamentally affect the foreign exchange market due to its high tourism potentials.”

Still, Adikara said he did not think such management would work properly. To the contrary, it will trigger another, greater problem. “This sets a new level of exploitation, while creates more conflict of needs between the authorities,” he said.

So, how do we reply to these different heritage managements? Is one better than the others? Besides, whose responsibility is it anyway?


*Sacred Bridge Foundation (SBF)

To Artist Andrea Buttner, Poverty Is “Good”; To Me, I Don’t Really Care Much About It

by Bhima Aryateja

[THE IRISH TIMES, LTTW, DUBLIN] Poverty is often related to all things negative. To some extent, poverty can even lead to crimes, violence, drug abuse, etc.; although in reality, we don’t really care about much, do we?

In this case, there is one who does. A German artist named Andrea Büttner responses poverty through art. She sees poverty as a virtue, as presented in her Solo exhibition at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland, opened from January 24 throughout March 19, 2014. Büttner, a PhD at the Royal College of Art, London, has long been interested in subjects as ‘poverty’, ‘shame’, and ‘vulnerability’. Büttner’s works have surprised many audiences by the thoughts and symbols she used as response to the complex and problematic issue like poverty.

Inspired by the links between the notions of poverty as expressed in the 12th century by St Francis of Assisi, and in the 20th century by the Italian art movement of arte povera – radical art is (in theory) free from the concerns of the marketplace, she doesn’t view poverty as a state of devastating physical want. Within this corridor of thinking, she realized that poverty is one reason that makes many people feel ashamed; but there is also other things left unnoticed, that is the artistic, philosophical, religious and political explorations of poverty can also worked as a conscious choice, to be part of a good way of living the world.

To do so, she distills ideas and things down to a simple form. Her fabric sculptures, for example, are a series of square monochrome abstracts, each a slab of intense color. She clearly likes the idea of taking a humble, workaday material and recasting it in a pure, aesthetic form in the privileged context of an art gallery. Similarly, she uses plywood shuttering to make her woodcuts. Shuttering is a disposable building material commonly used to shape cast concrete structures such as the gallery itself, as she points out. The woodcuts refer to St Francis of Assisi.

In the end, Andrea Büttner has shown us that there are many ways to response to issue as poverty, how complex and intricate it may seem. To artist Andrea Büttner, poverty is “good”; and her art can show you that she really care about poverty—let’s hope so. Now the challenge is, how to make one really care about what the art says? One such as myself.

Caring is believing

Poverty itself, however, has more than one definition, and area of ‘problem’. One figure which has been suggested is that an income of half the national average indicates poverty; the World Bank Organisation measures poverty based on incomes, or in this case, a person is considered poor if his or her income level falls below some minimum level necessary to meet basic needs; the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines poverty as the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions, also debility due to malnutrition.

Within those definitions, I may trapped to the very common perception of poverty as a state of indignity or helplessness, and moreover, the human inability to create something positive out of it. Having live my life this way all this time, perhaps this constant ignorance had become a habit of mine that’s very hard to get out of. Thus, issue as poverty is neither mine to care, nor mine to comprehend.

Happily though, there are also others who care and take a stand before it; ones who are able to see it as a force of courage, creativity, and conscience within self and others. In the latter case, art is a very good example of one who can gain from and even rise up above poverty. In the context of art’s creation, poverty can be experienced as both artistic and aesthetical force. In fact, we have witnessed the birth of many great works of arts that derived from such force, such as El Sistema, Kool Herc, Jean Michel Basquiat, and more.

Having seen many examples as such caring individuals and groups, I realize how often I complain about how ignorant people are about poverty, when I’m actually one of them. Poverty is still around us; in fact, it is very close to where I live. So I guess ‘seeing is believing’ is far than enough if one speaks about poverty. It takes a lot of caring as well; then the world will start to believe.


It’s a Fact: Museums Are as Big as Sports and Entertainment!

[BBC, LTTW, LONDON] At 6.7 million, the British Museum is set for record attendance in 2013, up 20% on 2012 and beating 2008’s previous record of six million, according to a recent report by the BBC. The number is also rivaling the total of 9 million sold tickets to London Olympics 2012, and beating 2013’s all music festival goers of 6.5 million; and keep in mind that this is from the British Museum alone!

The same observable fact was also happening in the United States, a nation of more than 17.000 museums. According to the American Alliance of Museums, There are approximately 850 million visits each year to American museums, more than the attendance for all major league sporting events and theme parks combined (483 million in 2011). By 2006, museums already received an additional 524 million online visits a year just from adults, a number that continues to grow.

With such staggering numbers, both the British and Americans are safe to say that museum is as big as sports and entertainment; and this might be very useful for the museums enthusiasts across the globe.

Museums are popular

In today’s climate where history and cultural heritages are not voiced as loud as sports or entertainment, especially among the young generation, those numbers could speak louder than words. Museums are popular; and probably unlike sports and entertainment, there are rooms for everyone; from all ranges of ages, income, education, and nationality.

The British Museum’s director, Neil MacGregor, said: “I am delighted that so many people have visited the world collection at the British Museum in the last year. Displays onsite, loans and touring exhibitions nationally and internationally, big screen viewings and online access mean this is truly a dynamic collection that belongs to and is used by a global citizenship”.

To Americans, museums are viewed as one of the most important resources for educating the young generation, telling important stories by collecting, preserving, researching, as well as interpreting objects, living specimens and historical records. With more than a billion tangible world heritages preserved and protected in one place, perhaps near to their home, museums are considered a more reliable source of historical information than books, internet, teachers or even personal accounts by relatives, according to a study by Indiana University.

In short, one would say that history and cultural heritage is indeed as popular as sports and entertainment; or in other words, museums are as big as football matches and music festivals.

However, museums are losing its charm in many other countries, such as in Indonesia. In fact, some are “successfully dying”, as the common joke says. So, if Indonesia, with its 17,508 islands covering an area of 741,050 squares miles, has thousands if not millions of museums’ materials which may have potentials as great as the British Museum, how should we evaluate this?