About the Speaker
Dr Miguel Escobar Varela, Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore; and Academic Advisor, Digital Scholarship, NUS Libraries
About the Webinar
Wayang kulit (Javanese shadow theatre) is one of the oldest and most respected performance traditions in Java. It is also a form that has been the target of government intervention, most notably during Suharto’s New Order (1966-1998) where workshops were held to determine the appropriate messages and aesthetics of the form. Due to its preeminence in the performing arts discourse in Indonesia, wayang is also a site of artistic contention, and many experimental theatre companies, such as Teater Garasi, actively reject wayang for its feudal values and antiquated conventions. Its elevation to the status of a national form does not sit well with non-Javanese audiences and artists either. These critical attitudes have not been lost on the practitioners of wayang kulit, and several dalangs (puppet masters) have been making widely experimental, controversial interventions in wayang in the past 20 years. The range of these attitudes must be read against the complex political history of attempts to co-opt, resist and re-imagine wayang. This talk is based on conversations with artists who hold a wide range of ideas on what wayang kontemporer should aspire to – both politically and aesthetically. The multifaceted landscape of contemporary wayang practice and discourse offers insight into the complex politics of contemporary artistic practice in Indonesia.