Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Indonesia Performing Arts Mart

I attended the fifth Indonesia Performing Arts Mart in Solo from 3 to 6 June 2009 as a 'presenter' and was charged with giving some closing remarks on behalf of the group of presenters. Below is the speech I delivered. Pictured above is IPAM presenter Keiko Murakami, director of the Japan Gamelan Music Association of Tokyo, singing with the Hotel Sahid Jaya's lobby gamelan gadhon.

I would like to thank the organisers of IPAM for inviting me to give some closing remarks. We have seen a remarkable range of new work over the last days. More importantly, perhaps, we have had the chance to meet the artists who made this work, and others around them. In the Seminar Global Creative-Industry Opportunities in honor of Indonesia Performing Arts Mart we heard from Marie Pangestu and Professor Sri Hastanto about issues confronting the creative industries today. Presenters have also gone on trips to see the Hindu-Buddhist remains and the living traditional cultures, in order to better contextualise the world of Indonesian performing arts.

We have seen 21 performances, including both fringe shows and showcases, from Java, Sumatra, Maluku and Sulawesi. Speaking to curator Ratna Riantiarno, I learned that there were some 75 groups that applied to this year’s IPAM. The curatorial team did their best to insure that a variety of work would be seen. Curator berusaha supaya representative. Many of these shows have been folklorico – very loose glosses on traditional art forms that have lived in communities for hundreds of years. Courtship dances and sacred rituals have been packaged for mass consumption. Some of these shows are very slick and will appeal, no doubt, to certain international audiences. We have also seen a few examples of lively folk performance that retain authenticity, charm and energy – I think here especially of Calung Kaulan by Calung Banyumasan Mudha Utama. More interesting, to me, have been the many shows we have viewed that draw their techniques and forms from tradition, but have reinterpreted them for the contemporary world. Many of the presenters were greatly impressed, for example, by Rantau Berbisik by Nan Jombang Padang, which brought an entirely new understanding of the traditional plate dance; and the juxtaposition of spinning tops and bedhaya like grace in Eno’s “Samparan: Moving Space” held a unique fascination. The dynamic rhythms funky harmonies of Sonoseni demonstrated that this ensemble is one of Indonesia’s best neo-ethnic groups going. And while the verbal play and physical comedy of Sahita is hard to follow for those not strongly versed in Javanese culture and language, the intimate communication they created with the Teater Kecil ISI audience could be missed by nobody.

One of the points that came through in the seminar and conversations is that creative industries is not about product but about process. One presenter told me that she was looking for shows to bring to her country, but with the hope that she will be later able to engage their creators in long-term bi- and multi-national projects. The shows offered for her in IPAM are thus not the end of a search, but rather an introduction or a calling card to future collaboration.

We can only hope that this presenter’s desires will be thought about in relation to future IPAM. There has been a worrying tendency for the nation of Indonesia to claim exclusive rights to so-called intellectual property, resulting in strife between Malaysia and Indonesia. Speaking as an historian of Indonesian performing arts I can say that the traditions here are not exclusively Indonesian property, but rather instantiations of long-term processes of exchange and influence. Suandi from the Black Arts Alliance, who spoke at the IPAM seminar, put this beautifully when she said ‘your drum is my drum.’ And few of us present will forget the wonderful moment when Keiko Murakami, director of the Japan Gamelan Music Association of Tokyo, sang along with the gamelan gadhon in the Hotel Sahid Jaya lobby. We hope that future IPAM will present opportunities for further exchange and growth in an open, non-competitive spirit of cooperation. Congratulations to IPAM and thank you.

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