Saturday, July 31, 2010

IFTR Congress , Munich, Germany (25-30 August 2010)

Just returned from Munich, Germany, where I attended the Congress of the International Federation of Theatre Research, presenting on the first Indies Art Evening (The Hague, 1916)as a watershed event in the history of cultural internationalism. The basic argument I outlined will be in my book Performing Otherness: Java and Bali on International Stages, 1905-1952 (Palgrave, Nov 2010).

There were only a handful of other papers addressing Southeast Asian theatre and performance.

Barbara Hatley spoke about Yogyakarta's lively contemporary performance activities, including the Pasar Kangen (saying that his both sells and celebrates nostalgia) and the many locally based groups that construct community in a relaxed and happy atmosphere and and connect to a global audience via the www, facebook and so on. She focused particularly on Teater Garasi, and its resistance to essentialism (in Waktu Batu) and presentation of alternatives to Islamic modernism (in Its third major piece, titled Tubuh Ketiga (referencing Homi Bhabha's idea of the third space), is based on Tarling Dangdut in Indramayu. Barbara asked that while the piece nomimally deal with conflicted bodies, will it be received in 'party mode'? Tubuh Ketiga is still in rehearsal so it is difficult to say. It is due to tour Java in the autumn of 2010.

In addition to Barbara's presentation, Monica van der Haagen (formerly Monica Wulff) returned to the subject of her PhD research in the New Scholars Forum to show her performance installation addressing Losari-style topeng, Mata Hari and a deconstruction of colonial film of the Dutch Indies.

In the Asian Theatre working group, Kirstin Pauka discussed the reasons behind the decline of cross-gender performance in randai while Kaori Okado, an ISI Solo trained dancer, discussed her MA thesis topic of langendriyan.

There were also presentations in the conference from Catherine Diamond (on the popular theatres of bangsawan and cai luong), Lim How Ngean (on Malaysian tradition-based choreographer Azanin Ahmad) and meLe Yamomo (on opera in SE Asia).

The big issues of the conference revolved around the large-scale research projects of Erika Fischer-Lichte (on interweaving theatrical cultures) and Chris Balme (on global theatre history). There was much discussion about the use of 'intercultural theatre' and whether this was still a useful rubric for thinking about theatrical productions that combine different styles or forms associated with different cultures. Opinions varied, naturally.

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