Traces of cross gender in Indonesian traditional dance

SIPFest 2018 is a performing arts bienalle held by Komunitas Salihara in conjunction with the art center’s tenth anniversary. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the event which runs from 4 August 2018 onwards until early September. To see more of their programs, please click all the SIPFest 2018 banner found in think archipelago website.

Didik Nini Thowok

Didik Nini Thowok in SIPFest 2018, Jakarta, 7 August. Photograph by Witjak Widhi Cahya, courtesy of Komunitas Salihara

It is likely to spark controversy whenever such an issue is brought up amid the majority religious people at the present Indonesia, but cross gender has been a part of the traditional performances across the archipelago which now become the sovereignty of the country.

Dancer cum choreographer Didik Nini Thowok, a 1982 graduate of Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) in Yogyakarta, whose birth name Didik Hadiprayitno, and who has carved a name on the short list of a patron of cross gender dance remains unshaken by the prevailing sentiment.

He is adamant at preserving cross gender dances in many of his works. One of them was presented in a lecture-performance in SIPFest 2018, Jakarta.

Moderated by Joned Suryatmoko, Didik’s unabated traditional dances and his ability to embody the female character dazzled the audience. All the more precious was his extensive research on cross gender traditional dance shared to public in one occassion. It revealed that the issue is not a new, abhorrent influence. It has thrived in the society before long.

He listed references to cross gender cultural and historical presence in a number of Javanese masked dances, Ludruk, Ronggeng, Balinese theatrical dance, Tari Gandrung, Buginese ritual, and in current times, the cabaret-styled Oyot Godhong in Yogyakarta, whose performers are mostly ISI students.

The routinely-held grass-root entertainment often involves  comedy show and lypsincing, savoring popular songs local and foreign-alike.

In comparison to European classic piece Swan Lake, the humorous Trockadero Ballet,  the Indian Stree Vesham where men perform as women similar to Japanese Kabuki, or the opposite movement of Takarazuka where women perform as men like the Chinese Yueju Opera, and mask dances in many Asian countries, Indonesia has a variety of cross-gender performance of its own, apparent across social groups, from grass root level to the royal castes, from entertainment to rituals, as follow:

  1. Langendriyan, a Javanese Opera performed in the palaces of Yogyakarta sultanate as well as in Surakarta. The opera played in both kingdoms differ in the gender. While the opera group in Yogyakarta consisted of men, the Langendriyan in Mangkunegaran Surakarta was performed by all women dancers.
  2. Wayang Wong, an epic Mahabarata-inspired theatrical dance which reached its zenith in 20th century, also performed before the sultanates of Yogyakarta and Surakarta
  3. Tari Golek, performed following Wayang Kulit
  4. Tari Topeng Cirebon, a female-led mask dance impersonating male character originating from the west coast of Java, such as in Palimanan and Indramayu
  5. The folk performing arts of Wari Lais, whose history can be traced in Cirebon, Cilacap, and Lasem
  6. The popular Ronggeng in Banyumas, which was later called Lengger Banyumas, where female dancer staged Tari Baladewan of male character to accompany local peasant ritual
  7. Lengger Wonosobo, whose origin dated back to Hindu era, performed by male dancers impersonating female eroticism
  8. A play and mask dance of Malang, called Tari Beskalan Putri Malangan, derived from folk tale Panji and played by male impersonators, to accompany ritual ceremony
  9. Ludruk Tutik Bintang Timur from Surabaya, a famous Ludruk group in 1950s, famous for the play Sarip Tambakyoso, a tale of indigenous heroism during the Dutch colonization
  10. Tari Gandrung Banyuwangi, documenting male dancers with female costumes holding drum and violin
  11. Drama Gambuh of Bali, influenced by cross-gender performances of predominantly-Hindu India. It is common to see such type of dance in Hindu society, where one of the goddess Shiva is depicted half male and half female. In Bali, other dances of similar fashion are , Legong Muani, Nandir, Trunajaya, Panji Semirang, Wiranata, Margapati, and so on, making it a land of opportunity for artists to thrive freely, such as dance group Sekaa Gong Kebyar Wanita, Topeng Wanita, Kecak Wanita, Gambuh Muani, and Arja Muani. (Muani means male).
  12. Folk theatrical dance Randai, whose origin can be traced in Padang, West Sumatra. Randai dance required a night-long performance, which explained why dancers are all males replacing the female dancers who are supposed to play their characters by nature due to the local customs of deriding women seen outside homes at night. Ronggeng is an acculturation of Javanese and Sumatran culture, hence the resemblance of Ronggeng and Randai.
  13. The sacred ritual Bissu in South Sulawesi, a tradition of Buginese as written in epic La Galigo. Performed with violent content by male monks, Bissu involve feverish dance and sing to the state of possessed-like and result in self-inflicted stabbing to limbs.

Jim Lim’s old tale of contemporary theater

SIPFest 2018 is a performing arts bienalle held by Komunitas Salihara in conjunction with the art center’s tenth anniversary. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the event which runs from 4 August 2018 onwards until early September. To see more of their programs, please click all the SIPFest 2018 banner found in think archipelago website.

Indonesia’s theater legendary Jim Adhi Limas, also known as Jim Lim, delivered a lecture on the early development of contemporary theater in the late 50s, and a performance with Wawan Sofwan and Joind Bayuwinanda in SIPFest 2018.

Dubbed as the founder of Indonesian contemporary theater, Jim Lim was credited for being one of seven founders of Studiklub Teater Bandung (STB), 1958, besides university colleagues Suyatna Anirun, Thio Tjong Gie, Tin Srikartini, Sutardjo A., Wiramihardja, Adrian Kahar, and a journalist Soeharmono Tjitrosuwarno.

Led by Jim and Suyatna, the country’s oldest modern theater club had a mission to promote the not so popular subculture at the time. Jim directed their debut performance Jayaprana, playing Raja Buleleng Anak Agung Gde Jelantik, and Suyatna as I Gusti Ketut Putus. Some of the archives were presented in the lecture program Omongobrolan in Komunitas Salihara.

The former headed for France in 1967 on scholarship program, and decided to stay there ever since, leaving Suyatna to lead the band alone, and had continuously made prolific works in decades that follow, such as Karto Loewak, the adaptation of Ben Jhonson’s Volvone (1973), and Kavia Sang Natha from Shakespeare’s King Lear (2009).

Not only performing foreign scripts by Goethe, Chekov, Moliere, Schiller, H Von Kliest, or Tennesee Williams, STB had popularized local scripts by Ajip Rosidi, Utuy T. Sontani, Misbach J Biran, Kirjomulyo, Saini KM, and Bakdi Sumanto.

Jim’s constant presence in French filmography also made him continuously appear since 1973 until recent time, where he was known for Diva (1981), Gwendoline (1984), the Bitter Moon (1992), un Amour de Sorcière (1997). His latest act was in 2017 sci-fi movie Les aventures de Spirou et Fantasio. 

In his homecoming interview in early 2018, the 80 year-old Jim said that having started in theater made him easier to adapt in film industry, but might not be vice versa.

Wawan Sofwan were among aspiring actors in Bandung who joined the theater club. He then founded Main Teater.

The birth of many modern theater groups in Bandung similar to Wawan’s Main Teater is claimed to have its partial origin in STB, namely Actor’s Unlimited (AUL), Laskar Panggung Bandung (LPB), Bandoengmooi, Teater Re-Publik, or the 25 years existence of Teater Bell.

Just like Nano Riantiarno’s Teater Koma, or the late W.S. Rendra’s Teater Bengkel, Jim’s and Suyatna’s STB shares the status as celebrated Indonesia’s modern theaters.

Omongobrolan at SIPFest 2018, Jakarta

From left: Joind Bayuwinanda, Wawan Sofwan, and Jim Adhi Limas, in a performance in SIPFest 2018, Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta, 12 August 2018

Gaby’s philosophical quest and the earned freedom in Studio Hanafi

Setengah Isi, Setengah Kosong (Half Full, Half Empty) by Fiametta Gabriela is Galeri Kertas’ fifth exhibition featuring paper paintings and other art installation. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the event which runs for a month starting 3 August 2018. To visit their official site, go to, or their instagram @galerikertas_art, and @studiohanafi.

Fiameta Gabriela exhibition

Fiametta Gabriela performs an art installation on the opening of her sole exhibition Setengah Isi, Setengah Kosong in Galeri Kertas, Depok

Galeri Kertas run their fifth exhibition with promising young artist Fiametta Gabriela entitled Setengah Isi, Setengah Kosong as she opened her sole exhibition in that cloudy afternoon with a performance involving a washed out papers hung on the line in a room and a bucket of water.

The transformational process of wet paper is said to be an analogy to the forsaken old form in search of a new thesis. Not only the artist herself, visitors can experience how to interact with the materials that form, or in the process of forming the artwork, and the personal impact towards their respective emotion. This also involves paper dillution.

As a teacher of philosophy at University of Indonesia Tommy F. Awuy pointed out, the young Gaby is on a deep philosophical quest, distancing her abstract-oriented works from the tendency of poppish art by her peers. He noted that Gaby asserts the impression of understanding space and time as the understanding to the constant problems of our daily lives, such as a problem identifying oneself, the culture, religion, the nationhood.

And he thinks that the value art derives from the imagination to the ways of addressing the problems, which if applicable, will become a knowledge.

In this sense, he stresses out the inclination to accept that humans are always enduring process for the better, but never become perfect. To be half is to remind that the other half is there to complete only if we incline to accept them, the process, represented by the natural flow of water.

A Nanyang Polytechnic graduate in visual communication, Gaby saw the water as a medium to purification process, to remove impurities. She said that the project, started in March, is also a process approach to sort out personal matters of her life, and she is not ashamed at making mistakes in that particular process.

Gaby’s concept of using water as part of the elements in her exhibition is impressive, Tommy described while adding the concept of Panta Rhei by Heraclitos, that everything flows.

Besides, there are 24 series of paper paintings to get scrutiny in the newly built art space in Depok as the expansion unit of Studio Hanafi, exclusively run by the senior artist himself. Instead of resuming his prolific artwork there, Hanafi spends his effort to attract aspiring minds to seek artistic possibilities and pursue how far can those possibilities go under his mentoring and loose direction.

In the opening speech, Hanafi spoke about his studio’s term on creative freedom, where the younger generation across disciplines maintain the freedom they have earned without any market restraint, but to cultivate new markets with fresh discourses of their own. It is the kind of creative freedom that is earned, not given.

Following the exhibition, Studio Hanafi is preparing a workshop by Gaby, and in doing so, has selected several young artists to earn their freedom and find themselves new thesis to be presented to the current art market. Neither the studio or Gaby dictated the use of any medium, but promoting the use of paper as quality artwork is in core mission of Galeri Kertas.

Interactive art installation made from chinese ink on tissue entitled “to be or not to be”

SIPFest 2018: a reference to universal humanism

SIPFest 2018 is a performing arts bienalle held by Komunitas Salihara in conjunction with the art center’s tenth anniversary. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the event which runs from 4 August 2018 onwards until early September. To see more of their programs, please click all the SIPFest 2018 banner found in think archipelago website.

Creating an exhibition in the awe-inspiring vicinity of Komunitas Salihara was both suitable and challenging to Jakarta-based sculptor Gabriel Aries Setiadi, whose artworks involving LEDs are among the three visual artists brandishing their new media art installation.

Together with Achmad Krisgatha and ARTJOG 2018 winner of Young Artist Award Meliantha Muliawan, they took part in three months preparation, from concluding survey to locate the spot for their artworks, to creating process by adapting to the architecture of Salihara, and the final step of installation which had taken them by surprise.

The result of the contemplation was what the artists aimed to share with the audience of Salihara International Performing Arts Festival 2018. “Artists should aim at facilitating the public through ideas,” Gabriel said before his arched light art gracing a silent corner of the second floor. More striking spot is Achmad’s giant blue LED installation hanging  cold and lonely at the apex, increasingly pervasive as the dusk fell upon visitors staring from the viewing deck of the third floor.

Curator Asikin Hasan who prides the art center he works in as the country’s best among other buildings of similar function by Ikatan Arsitek Indonesia, said that in its tenth year, Komunitas Salihara has progressed from a mere place of exhibit into a public space, and currently being a place to form discussion.

Themed Di seni senang, (Happy go artsy), the art space’s co-founder Nirwan Dewanto said SIPFest continues to be a small recreational party for the exceptionals. “The majority of our audience aged between 20-30 years old who fill the 220 seats at its most capacity with a different kind of art expectation. I think that entails critical discourse we have been nurturing here,” he said.

He added, “We do not simply invite Didik to have him dance here, but we want to raise the transgender issue often entailed in his dances.”

In a similar notion is choreographer Otniel Tasman chosen to perform Lengger, a dance only recently brought to light after being shunned for long in the place of its origin in Banyumas.

“I put honesty above everything else in my work, about how our culture perceive Lengger all this time, the discrimination those minority men face for dancing like women,” he said.

A theater by Rukman Rosadi, the Yogyakarta-based proficient director who gets less scrutiny, about Sjahrir, played by Rendra Bagus Pamungkas (starred in Wage as Wage Rudolf Supratman, 2017) talks in parralel about the universal value of being human.

Universal humanism, a non-violence and non-discriminatory movement since 1969 by its founder Mario Rodriguez Cobos, has always found a relevance in many of Salihara’s program, a necessary identity reminder especially at the onset of of religious extremism.

Among a plethora of programs, from visual art, theater, dance, music, to their latest addition, the art lecture, the SIPFest 2018 feature promising local and international artists alike to share the platform in Komunitas Salihara for a month ahead with names such as choreographer Lucy Guerin (Australia) whose Split won her the Helpmann Award in 2017, musical duo Quatuor Bozzini (Canada), Ju Percussion Group (Taiwan), Toccato Studio (Malaysia), Nassim Soleimanpour (Iran) , whose script read by Reza Rahadian an Sita Nursanti, master choreographer Jim Adhi Limas, dubbed the founder of Indonesian contemporary theater, and many more.

Jazz Buzz last day: Trodon

The last performance in Jazz Buzz Salihara 2018 by progressive rock band Trodon brought unrelenting hard beat and the harshest sound you could expect in the genre, but in a melodic arrangements. They incorporate ear-piercing hard rock with the harmonic tones of classic and modern composition notable in video games.

It bodes well with the theme Myth and Draconis they presented, where each song sequence was accompanied by displayed graphics on the backdrop about the legend of the dragon.

Trodon interpreted the many characters in the legend with a variety of style. There were middle-east music theme, fantasy melody, and the rhythm chosen to build the atmosphere that support the story of each repertoires.

Most of the songs were composed by the lead electric guitarist Biondi Noya, who is accompanied by the rest of the band consisting of keyboardist Irene Pattinaya, drummer Peter Lumingkewas, bassist Aprila Sitompul, synthesizer by Alexander Jason, saxophonist Nadya Romanenta, and cellist Adela Batfutu.

The saxophone and cello in their formation partly explains Trodon’s uniqueness, of which they produce progressive rock jazz pieces by taking the inspiration from, as contrast as it sounds, video game sound elements and European classics such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Gustav Holst, Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy.

Their performance since 2013 display all the complexities of the unique combination.

Trodon has graced numerous stages from Piston Brake Cafe, Rolling Stone Cafe, Leitstar HQ, to festivals such as Solo International Performing Arts in 2016, and Jazz Sans Frontieres of Komunitas Salihara, 2016.


Trodon at Jazz Buzz Salihara 2018. Photograph by Witjak Widhi, courtesy of Komunitas Salihara.


Pianist and drummer experimental collaboration in Jazz Buzz 2018

It took a year for Adra Karim and John Navid to prepare a collaborative work in a duo called Mirak Div. They recalled Tony Prabowo, a music composer with contemporary taste, whose initiative led to the group formation, and later they accepted the invitation to play in his annual event, and eventually staged their maiden performance in Jazz Buzz Salihara 2018.

It was meant to be a recording project, as John described it. But when the plan slacked off, the duo realized they had to take whatever the chance coming at them.

Having trained for the past three months, they did not rely that much on anyone else to do the preparation. John’s sound experiment, for instance, was developed through self-observation of his surrounding, while Karim said that, unlike other mainstream jazz events, here they were more involved in setting the stage and doing the sound check.

The performers are more concentrated to their respective works performed in the much segmented event such as Jazz Buzz Salihara.

John, an IKJ graduate in percussion, and the drummer of the pop-retro band the White Shoes and the Couple’s Company, said the most interesting part of playing in this event was the hunt for items to be made rhythm instruments and to be used to exploring new dimension.

Karim, on the other hand, told that collaboration led to unexpected findings such as in Mirak Div. Having applauded John as a knowledgeable musician with his background and experience, Karim is definitely not new in the world of experimentation. He is a member of contemporary jazz band Tomorrow Ensemble People.

After all. their aim is only to prove that they could compose an alternative music experience to audience of Jazz Buzz Salihara 2018.

Although John admitted that there are less listeners in the country for this kind of experimental music compared to pop or electronic, but it is in the lesser number where he sees the opportunity.

When asked about the challenge and opportunity, Karim, who obtained master’s degree in Prince Claus Conservatorium, Netherlands, has less worry about the level of reception among the Indonesian audience, as he is convinced there are a lot more who can appreciate the different style in music.

But he attributed the challenge to the key players of the local music industry whom he perceive as a little too hostile to experimental music like what they have worked on.

“I am more concerned with those people up there who keep on making notion that the listeners are not ready for this kind of music, or that a certain style fits only to a certain audience, and so on,” he added.

On stage, Karim and John seemed to have played for their own, whereas actually they both play a collaborative, complex composition. Karim’s synthesizer created the deep ambience, amplified with the dim stage, a proof of a good lighting work. As he improvised and switched between his keyboard, organ, and grand piano, John scratched his drum, and later on created a diminishing effect of echo by using his drum stick.

Their composition create a sense of solitude, but also raucous with the use of unlikely sound inducing items, such as duct tape, kerecekan tukang patri (street smith worker’s tool), toys, ping-pong balls. Even he was seen pedaling bicycle to bring out the sound of chain gear.

Just when they showed a piano drum interaction in a more rhythmic sense, suddenly they continued with another eerily sound experiment, and progressed to traditional Indian arrangements and rhythm, perhaps influenced by John’s long period of practicing tabla in Indian Cultural Center. It is all a well-planned experimental performance.


The upcoming 2018 Jazz Buzz Salihara

Jazz Buzz Salihara 2018 posterJazz Buzz is an annual music program by Komunitas Salihara since 2012 that highlights the contemporary compositions seldom heard in any regular concerts. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the music festival which runs from 17 February until 25 February 2018. To see more of their schedule, please click the Jazz Buzz Salihara 2017 banner found in think archipelago website. 

Whereas Jazz Sans Frontiéres II gave the opportunity for experimental rock jazz by Imanissimo, solo instrumental composition by Arief Winanda with his set of Marimba, and a capella by Cinconotas, the upcoming Jazz Sans Frontiéres III continues to give the opportunity to jazz musicians who dare to surpass the mainstream genre, such as the progressive and contemporary bands Trodon, Trio Ligro, and the collaborative works in Mirak Div duo, and the uncharted experimentation of Dewa Budjana.

Trodon produce progressive rock jazz pieces by taking the inspiration from, as contrast as it sounds, video game sound elements and European classics such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Gustav Holst, Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy. Their performance display all the complexities of the unique combination.

The contemporary rock jazz of Trio Ligro is influenced by Mahavishnu Orchestra and the works of composer Olivier Messiaen. The ever wild improvisation reflects their solidity in maintaining the formation since their inception in 2004: Agam Hamzah on guitar, Adi Darmawan on bass, and Gusti Hendi on drum.

Rare collaborative works

This year Jazz Buzz Salihara presents Mirak Div, the result of fruitful collaboration by the retro pop band White Shoes and The Couples Company percussionist John Navid, and fusion jazz group Tomorrow People Ensemble pianist Adra Karim.  Together, they bring a wide spectrum of musical styles in their keyboard and percussion repertoire.

Dewa Budjana is set to perform a completely new arrangements of both his old and new tunes, bringing a string quartet, vibraphone, and electric drum as he seeks out the possibilities he never played before in his fulfilling musical career.

Below are the 2018 Jazz Buzz Salihara lineups and schedule:

  • Trio Ligro, Saturday, 17 February 2018, 8PM
  • Dewa Budjana, Sunday, 18 February 2018, 8PM
  • Mirak Div (Adra Karim and John Navid), Saturday, 24 February 2018, 8PM
  • Trodon, Sunday, 25 February 2018, 8PM

Ticket price for public sees an increase of IDR25,000 compared to last year, but still a great deal for what it has to offer.

  • IDR100,000 (public)
  • IDR50,000 (students)

The politics tower

Bangunan UMNO

As the name suggests, the glass-facade, 40-storey Bangunan UMNO is the headquarters of Malaysia’s largest political party, the United Malays National Organization, remaining in power since the nation birth in 1957. They lead a coalition called Barisan Nasional consisting of mainly three parties, the other two being the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), against some smaller opposition parties.

The country holds a multi-party system, but the coalition has always been enjoying landslide victories throughout time, to the extent where some, within the party, has voiced concern over the absolutism that hardly gets in check.

UMNO’s towering power

“90% majority (vote) is too strong. We need opposition to remind us if we are making mistakes. When you are not opposed you think everything you do is right,” said former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in 2005.

Prime minister succession in his country had all come from UMNO. He was the fourth, and the longest serving.

Democratic or not, all countries have each of their own predominant political organization, but few have a party akin to Malaysia’s that could stay in power uncontested since the birth of the nation.

And among those few, none have the privilege to build a stoic headquarters 175 meters tall which is arguably the world’s tallest building that conspicuously bears the name of a political organization, not to mention the future plan to develop a super bloc PWTC KL housing luxury hotel, convention center, and a 70-storey skyscraper to mark 70 years of age for UMNO by 2020.

Opened in 1985 for mainly commercial-use, Bangunan UMNO is also called the Dato Onn Tower, named after the party founder Dato Onn Jaafar.

The Communist Party of China certainly has the land and all the resources to flaunt grandiose headquarters as they did when they came to power by building a central government office that also houses the ruling communist party office to be bigger than the Forbidden City. However, they did not come close to construct skyscrapers or a business district at the city center and put the letter CPC on top of it.

Its neighbor Indonesia was once ruled by a party whose power went uncontested for 32 years. Having had bolstered an image as the initiator of the country’s economic development, yet they did not construct Golkar Tower whatsoever. Instead, their new office complex showcases an interesting design.

But there are similar instances elsewhere to compare.

High-rise party headquarters

Ušće Tower, built in 1964, remained the tallest building in Serbian capital Belgrade to date. It was home to the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, the country’s communist party. Its supreme political status made it an airstrike target by NATO forces during the Balkan crisis in the late 90’s, despite of no strategic value. Several years later it underwent a revamp to add a shopping mall, thus restored the prime sense of modernity at the city center.

Named also after a leading political figure, Metzudat Ze’ev is an example of a high-rise office for political party in Israel, Likud. Ze’ev Jabotinsky was central in the 60’s Revisionist Zionism, a movement that sees a unified territory of Israel as opposed to the Arab-Jewish States of Palestine. Among the tallest building in 1963 at 60 meters high, it is now one of the oldest buildings in Tel Aviv, and remained a home for Likud-affiliated movement centers, institute, and museums, while the rest other space leased for private businesses.

Too high to afford

In the same year, London also saw the completion of Millbank Tower, an 118 meters building that housed the countries’ Labour and Conservative parties, although this was merely coincidental. The general function for office use subjected the parties to rents which steadily rises to the point where Labour party decided to vacate its headquarters a decade ago due to high annual rents. The United Nations soon followed suit.

In 2013, the ruling political party in Uganda constructed a 27-floor tower to house the National Resistance Movement headquarters in the capital Kampala. The ruling president helped raise funds to build the USD12.5 million Movement House by a hundred thousand of party members donation, and other means he initiated. It will become a mixed-use high-rise structure accommodating retail space, financial, office, and other leisure amenities.

Dancing the sound of laborious work in Helatari Salihara 2017

webbanner-2017-mei-helatari-think archipelagoHelatari Salihara 2017 is Komunitas Salihara’s regular dance event held in Teater Salihara, Jakarta. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the event which runs from 8 until 18 June 2017. To see more of their schedule, please click the Jazz Buzz Salihara 2017 banner found in think archipelago website.

Photograph by Witjak Widhi Cahya, courtesy of Komunitas Salihara

The sounds axe, saw, knife, sandpaper and brush to make a traditional wood mask set the atmosphere for the choreographer Katia Engel’s latest work in Indonesia, From Starting to Cut the Wood. It conveys the process of the mask making process and its relation to the materials and work tools, which was interpreted by a solo dancer.

Ari Ersandi’s exploration and his response to the role character of a mask artisan was one of the most breathtaking performances at the Helatari Salihara 2017.

It began with a recorded voice by the seasoned mask artisan, “When I make a mask, first I choose the wood, second I cut the wood and thrid I choose what character I want to make.”

Another line from the same voice slipped into the middle, “When I paint I make two layers. I usually use red, blue, yellow and white and add for decoration an little bit of gold.”

Photograph by Witjak Widhi Cahya, courtesy of Komunitas Salihara

At the closing scene, the real mask artisan behind the voice showed up and continued his work in front of the audience. A life time dedication to a work of precision as represented in this case by the artist not only resulted in high craftmanship, but also made the work itself a spiritual journey.

From Starting to Cut the Wood is a dance based focusing on auditory sense created by wood mask carving, accompanied by the spoken words, and apparently with an influence of the choreographer, the frequent use of projected quotes by names such as:

‘Work is the fundamental condition of human life, and this to such an extent that in a certain way we have to say: it has created human mankind.’ – Friedrich Engels.

‘What is ahead of us, is the perspective of a working society, which is out of work-the only activity which it is still capable of. What could be more disastrous?’ – Hannah Arendt.

‘A mask is not what it represents, but what it transforms, and what it chooses not to represent.’ – Claude-Levi Strauss.

Katia Engel’s works

The sounds blend with the carver’s spoken words. Katia Engel creates performance works, installations, videos, photographs, and documentary films. She studied dance at Dance Institute Bremen and Laban-Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies New York.

Her works have been presented at many events, such as International Film Festival (Singapore), International Dance Festival Tokyo/Yokohama (Japan) and at Akademie der Künste (Berlin).

In 2012 Katia started producing dance work in Indonesia. As a choreographer and artistic director, she collaborated with former members of Gumarang Sakti Dance Company in the works of Tanah Air (2012) and In Between (2014), featured at the Indonesian Dance Festival Jakarta in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

An addition to her latest production in Indonesia is the documentary movie Barabah about the Indonesian choreographer Hoerijah Adam, screened at the Indonesian Dance Festival 2016.

Dance film performance in the streets of south Jakarta

webbanner-2017-mei-helatari-think archipelagoHelatari Salihara 2017 is Komunitas Salihara’s regular dance event held in Teater Salihara, Jakarta. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the event which runs from 8 until 18 June 2017. To see more of their schedule, please click the Jazz Buzz Salihara 2017 banner found in think archipelago website.

The interaction between dancers, people on the streets, cinematographer, and a technology-savvy all in real time presents an art-technology work of the choreographer Yola Yulfianti in a dance film performance, a bold idea that poses challenges in not only the unfamiliarity of the new medium, but also in the country’s current mobile data infrastructure.

Angkot is the Melting Pot uses live streaming to highlight the city transportation in Jakarta. For Yola, the Jakarta’s ubiquitous public minivan (angkot) suggests the physical closeness of the passengers crammed inside, but in the awkwardness of a heterogeneous society.

She also tempted to raise the impact of app-based transportation to the drivers that eats up a huge share of customers this traditional public transportation is so dependent on.

The two dancers in a public minivan started performing all the way from Pasar Minggu to Galeri Salihara, where it hosted the Helatari Salihara 2017. While several times being dangerous to perform in the boisterous afternoon streets, they intuitively responded to the circumstances, the angkot, the shops, the intersection, the city itself.

Technology makes possible

The 30 minutes street dance performance was captured by the camera phone, transmitted to the gallery and projected live at Galeri Salihara.

Despite lagging due to low quality mobile data connection, the audio visual artist Patrick Hartono said it was expected that he was half satisfied with the first trial at D-1.


Choreographer Yola Yulfianti and Cinematographer Purbo Wahyono talks to the press during rehearsal at Galeri Salihara, 17 June 2017

He admitted that the case would have been different in a more developed parts of the world, but he clinged to another view that art should not be affected by the perfect result, but more importantly, the clear evidence of the process.

Yola said that she had encountered the streets of Jakarta such as Kampung Melayu or Kwitang ever since 2009, and collected the observations in numerous places for the future basis of her subsequent works.

She added that the medium to implement her idea depends much on the technological possibility. Harnessing it would bring her works to the scope of audience an ordinary show cannot possibly reach, that is the people on the streets where the dance takes place, the audience sitting in the art venue, and the internet users stumbling across video sites such as youtube while browsing.

The purpose of this work is to explore the complexity of the city, about how to read the city and then write the city into a work and bring humanitarian interaction. The process of artistic research does not focus on mainstream art products and terminology.

Dance in social environment

Not a product of a work of dance or a film product but about experience in the realities of urban life. The ability of the body as a medium of expression relates to other mediums, producing work that grows organically born just as the process of extracting ideas.

As for the expression it becomes a total expression, the sensitivity of being a dancer through the digging of the media of digital technology revealing the symptoms of the city’s social environment.

Angkot is the Melting Pot is inspired by daily experiences when riding on Jakarta’s urban public transport, or angkot. Inside the public minivan, the distance between bodies seems negligible and yet so foreign.

About Yuli Yulfianti

Yola Yulfianti is a dancer and choreographer who graduated from Jakarta Institute of Arts. She received the Pearl Award at Dance Film International in Berlin in 2009. She also received Hibah Cipta Perempuan from Yayasan Kelola in 2014. Previous creations include Salma: A Little Escape (2013), Update Status (2013) dan I Think. . .Tonk (2014).