Reconstructing God: Style, Hydraulics, Political Power and Angkor's West Mebon Viṣṇu
by Marnie Feneley
In December 1936, a villager was led by a dream to the ruins of the West Mebon shrine in Angkor where he found the remains of a bronze sculpture. This was the West Mebon Viṣṇu, the largest bronze remaining from pre-modern Southeast Asia, and a work of great artistic, historical and political significance. Prominently placed in an island-temple in the middle of the vast artificial reservoir, the West Mebon Viṣṇu sculpture was a key focus point of the Angkorian hydraulic network. Interpretations of the statue, its setting, date and role, have remained largely unchanged since the 1960s, until now. Integrating the latest archaeological and historical work on Angkor, extensive art historical analysis of the figure of Viṣṇu Anantaśāyin in Hindu-Buddhist art across the region, and a detailed digital reconstruction of the sculpture and its setting, Marnie Feneley brings new light to this important piece.
Framed with a useful update on the latest archaeological and historical insights into the history of the Angkor World Heritage Site, this new understanding of the West Mebon Viṣṇu sculpture reorients our understanding of religious and political change in Angkor in the 12th century. Fully illustrated in colour throughout, the book will be of interest to art historians and curators, historians of Southeast Asia, and anyone with an interest in the art and history of Angkor.
"Dr. Feneley’s book makes an important contribution to the study of Classical Southeast Asia. In it she tackles one of the most enigmatic and unique sites in all Cambodia.... This publication constitutes a significant step forward in our understanding of the integrated nature of Angkor's art, water management, and society." - John Miksic, Professor of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore
"By skillfully navigating the realms of art history and archaeology, Feneley breathes life into the past through the medium of digital technology. Her groundbreaking work on the West Mebon Viṣṇu exemplifies a vision and commitment to preserving and showcasing cultural heritage in captivating detail with extensive scholarly research at its fundament. Reconstructing God is an essential text for the next generation of digital humanists." - Sarah Kenderdine, Professor of Digital Museology, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
"This beautifully illustrated volume is the most thorough study of a single Cambodian masterpiece ever undertaken. Interdisciplinary in approach, it offers insights into Khmer aesthetics, Angkor’s cultural landscape, and the chronology of a unique sculptural tradition." - Paul Lavy, Assistant Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art History, University of Hawaii
"This minutely documented and generously illustrated book illuminates like no other, the vital nexus linking royal intercession with Visnu to ensure through the control of water, the wellbeing of the kingdom." - Charles Higham, Emeritus Professor, University of Otago
Marnie Feneley is an accomplished scholar, with 20 years of experience in academia, museums and galleries in Australia and Southeast Asia. She specialises in the nexus between Southeast Asian art history, archaeology and religion. She has researched and co-curated many exhibitions, including the “Atlas of Maritime Buddhism” and “Buddhist Artworks” (Hong Kong, 2021), pioneering 3D immersive reconstructions of Asian temples and sculptures.
Publication Year: 2023
368pp || 235 x 185 mm
163 colour images, 47 b/w images