Organizer and Chair: Amrih Widodo, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Discussant: Barbara Hatley, Monash University, Australia
Anthony Day, University of Sydney
Most recent writing on culture in contemporary Indonesia focuses on the binary relationship between state control and popular resistance to it. Although the significance of this relationship for understanding the development of the arts in Indonesia can hardly be denied, the scholarship which assumes the primacy of "state control" and "popular resistance" as primary categories tends to legitimate the cultural categories of the state itself, i.e., those of "national" vs. "regional" culture, of "tradition," "preservation" and "development." Meanwhile, local communities and individuals within them may be engaged in shaping their own "cultural alterity" or "internal otherness" (Michael J. Shapiro, "Moral Geographies and the Ethics of Post Sovereignty," Public Culture, Vol. 6, no. 3:479 502) out of the materials of their national and regional cultures, in a way which is not comprehensible solely in the binary terms of the current state centric model.
In this paper, I discuss a performance of East Javanese style shadow puppet theater which was recorded on the night of October 17, 1990 in Mojosari, Mojokerto, East Java, as part of a Ford Foundation funded project to "document" and "preserve" wayang performed in the "East Javanese style." Far from being characterizable by either a single style or genre, the evening's performance was a hybrid of regional styles and included dance, comic routines with live actors, shadow puppet theater, and an exorcistic ritual. In my analysis of the video recording and transcript of the performance event, I argue that the performance moved from a celebration of regional Javanese identity, to that of a national identity which was both "Javanese" and "Indonesian," toward a ritual creation of a community of human beings who were being ritually protected from the changes of the times as such. Was the progression from secular entertainment to religious ritual in the structure of performance simply a pseudo gesture occasioned by the New Order cultural policies, or did it represent a search by individuals for a sense of identity, and "internal otherness," whatever the state might say?
Rene T. A. Lysloff, University of Pittsburgh
In the region of Banyumas, in western Central Java, a performance tradition known as lengger is undergoing radical changes. Accompanied by an ensemble of bamboo xylophones played by men, one or more itinerant female dancers wander from village to village and entertain their audiences with erotic dance, bawdy humor, and characteristically local music, performing at busy intersections or occasionally at private male parties. Formerly associated with begging and prostitution, the tradition has been viewed as vulgar and morally corrupted. Now, however, lengger troupes perform regularly for important state functions and record for major national recording labels. Wealthy villagers and farmers, too, often hire a lengger troupe to perform for all night celebrations. In a word, lengger has been reinvented as an exemplary tradition in Banyumas.
This paper will examine the recent political, economic and social forces that have given rise to changing attitudes toward lengger. Once a rather wild and boisterous entertainment form, lengger has now become somewhat domesticated. The paper will discuss how Islam, attitudes towards female performers, the commercial cassette industry, and the state regulation of "folk arts" all have had a powerful influence on the present day status of lengger in Banyumas society.
R. Anderson Sutton, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Since well before Indonesia's independence, political and cultural power in Indonesia has been concentrated largely on the island of Java-in the national capital, Jakarta, and the former Javanese court centers of Yogyakarta and Surakarta. In the national arena, performing arts traditions from outside Java (excepting only certain spectacular Balinese arts), are viewed as narrowly regional, with little if any potential appeal beyond their local communities. Many of these arts, of course, have played crucial roles in ritual ceremonies. In a recent resurgence of emphasis by the state on "traditional culture," these arts are regaining legitimacy and new meaning at the local level, but also being transformed in response to state designs.
In recent years, an unlikely alliance of provincial government officials, archaeologists, history professors, and performing artists have developed a local cultural center where performances of old and new genres are offered to audiences at annual cultural festivals-on the grounds of an ancient Makassarese fort, which has subsequently seen a cultural park ("Taman Miniatur Sulawesi") built over its very ruins. It is my contention that the positioning of this festival, as well as the cultural park, at the site of the ancient fort represents an intentional concentrating of power that at once conforms to state directives and at the same time serves to counter the hegemonic tendencies of Java-centric "Indonesian" culture. Within a framework of New Order conformity, it nevertheless signals to South Sulawesians, other Indonesians, and foreign visitors, the powerful heritage of Makassar and demonstrates the legitimacy of local cultures of South Sulawesi in a nation that gives little respect to these or other cultural traditions far from the national center.
This paper provides a brief history of the cultural park, identifies recent trends in local performing arts (innovations and revival), and considers the ways in which local artists negotiate between state pressure and other artistic and practical constraints that comprise the social context in which they operate.
Amrih Widodo, University of Wisconsin, Madison
This paper attempts to investigate the reproduction of tayuban, a folk performing art which has been very popular in the northeastern part of Central Java, particularly in the district of Blora since 1987. It will discuss how the development of tayuban has been very much conditioned by such determining factors as the state's project of searching for regional identity, festivals and penataran (short term indoctrinative training) and other state's regulations; sponsorship, commercial cassette industry and mass media; as well as the dynamics of the local politics at the village and district levels.
Aside from those factors, the paper suggests that the reproduction of tayuban had gone along the dynamic process of its reconstruction into an art form and the reinventions of its official history and contending unofficial stories. The paper will demonstrate how the ritual elements of tayuban persist, but with the state trying to replace the village guardian spirits to which rituals are dedicated. The performance then serves as an arena on which conflicting interests meet. Regardless of the conflict of interests, however, the performance also serves as a celebration of each party's "longing," not only for the idealized past, the imagined center, and the desired future, but also for the distanced present. The paper argues that "nostalgia" has been constitutive in the process of the reproduction of tayuban.
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