WELCOME TO THE BACKSTAGE

ceremonial
forest

Bisj Poles

Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam (NL)

In the central atrium of the Tropenmuseum, the Lichthal (literally ‘Hall of Light’), we made a spatial installation of 58 bisj poles. These beautifully carved wooden sculptures stretching several metres high are monuments commemorating the dead and play an important role in the bisj ceremony, the ceremony of the Asmat people in Papua New Guinea. The majority of the poles had been lying in various depots in the Netherlands more than 50 years and were brought together one-time-only for this exhibition.

Location
Amsterdam (NL)
Client
Tropenmuseum
Year
2007
Surface
700 m2
Status
Temporary
Role
Spatial design, Graphic design
Films
Tungsten Studio, Roy Villevoye & Jan Dietvorst
Translations
inVision, Sam Herman
Lighting design
Rapenburg Plaza
Interior contractor
Vecht Metrieur
Audiovisual realisation
VHS bv
Lighting production
Focus Showequipment
Photography website
Thijs Wolzak
AV big screen
Dick Schuttel
Sound compositions
Hans van Koolwijk, Thijs Scheele
Portraits of Asmat people
Roy Villevoye
Technical realisation
KIT technical facilities
Translation
Sam Herman
Realisation cloth
Theatex
From outsider to participant

Our task was not only to see these poles as beautiful artworks, but to bring the accompanying ritual and ceremony to life.

The bisj poles were planted like a forest on a raised platform in the middle of the space, with a backcloth around them stretching several metres high on which we could project film clips of the bisj ceremony. These film clips, the authentic sound recordings and the light show of colour and shadow, day and night, bring the bisj poles to life and draw you into the bijs ceremony. You are transformed from outside to participant and you experience the intensity of this magic ritual.

Different perspectives

We also had special film productions made, which can be seen on the outside by the side of the stage. Various people share their vision on the ritual and its significance from different perspectives. The museum curator discusses the museum collection perspective, for example, and there are interviews with Papuans about the rituals of the bisj ceremony made by filmmakers who travelled to the Asmat territory.

Awards

D&AD Awards London 2008

Environmental Design/Exhibtions, winner

International Design Excellence Awards

Environments, winner

Designpreis Deutschland 2011

Nominated