Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sabana Grande

I recently participated in a dance choreography piece directed by contemporary choreographer Fitri Setyaningsih, titled Sabana Grande. The piece was developed over the span of three months, with intensive weekend rehearsals in Yogyakarta and Solo. Sabana Grande was inspired by Fitri's experience on a three-month residency in Venezuela, where she witnessed vast expanses of mountains dotted with rocks and cows, invoking a sense of solitude and sleep. Dancers included Retno Sayekti Lawu, Via Rahmatila,Yuni Wahyuning and traditional master dancer Rusini Sidi. The choreography was accompanied by live clarinet, bass guitar and electronic sound, composed by Nadias Rushendro and Bagus Triwayu Utomo. Sabana Grande was performed for the opening of Gedung Salihara on November 11th and 12th, 2008, in Jakarta.

Friday, September 5, 2008

New Visions as a Performer

I've been working on my new manifesto, which is included in this post below. Please note that I've primarily used the word 'performance' as opposed to 'theater'. This is something I'm still mixed on, and sometimes I don't know exactly what to label what I do as. I have, however, chosen performance as opposed to theater because to me it seems to encompass much more. The same with being a 'performer' as opposed to a 'theater artist'. The latter when heard instantly brings images of a stage, spotlights, actors, a director... which I'm not necessarily opposed to, but I don't want to be limited to either. Performer, on the other hand, encompasses so much more. A performer could be a dancer, a street artist, a performance artist, a clown, even a theater artist- all different possible performing arts could be included. This is what I am, I feel. A performer. Please read as follows, my new manifesto, still in the edit process. Please send any comments if you so desire.


· Create performance that is stimulating, sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving, sometimes disturbing, and always honest.
· Create performance that reflects social circumstances of the given society that it is being presented to.
· Create performances that offer opportunities for the audience to be active and involved, not just passive onlookers.
· Break the fourth wall- create open communication between the performers and the audience.
· Always show two sides of something; nothing is black and white, don’t preach but always offer an alternative perspective.
· Strive for absurdity, don’t get stuck on the realistic- create performance that is imaginative, that invites the audience into a different world.
· Use art and performance as ways to link different cultures and ways of thinking.
· Go out of the standard theater arena and bring performance into public spaces, environmental locations, found spaces, unexpected places.
· Keep things simple and specific, no drawn-out emotional or artistically ‘impressive’ moments.
· Find ways to incorporate different forms of art together. Art is not a separated system. It has many different varieties that greatly compliment each other.
· Don’t be shy or afraid; be confident! Go all the way with your ideas and let them shine! You are an artist, anyone is an artist, everyone is an artist! Let new ideas grow until they are flowers blooming for all to enjoy.

Ingredients for a good theater:

1. Physical body
2. Concept
3. Sculpture and visual world; eye candy
4. Music and sound that creates atmosphere
5. An element of surprise, something unexpected
6. Specific characters and clear contrast, or everything the same
7. Collaboration and flexibility between participants with different art backgrounds
8. Openness to learn and grow


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Jatiwangi International Performance Art Festival 2008

Yet another year of participating in the fabulous Jatiwangi International Performance Art Festival. Unfortunately I had to come two days late because of the kemana pun project, and leave a day early because of the village library project (check out my other site: So it's been a very busy past couple of months. But the JAF Festival was really wonderful, and I'm so happy to have had the opportunity to participate, again. Curated this year by Juliana Yasin and Heru Hikayat (who did an excellent job), the JAF Festival was spread across seven villages in Majalengka, West Java, and lasted over the span of nine days. Performance artists from all over the world participated, and countries represented included Thailand, Brazil, Singapore, Australia, United States, Malaysia, Dubai and various locations in Indonesia. All artists were unique and wonderful, and we felt like one big family gathering to laugh, make music, dance, eat and support each other in creating awesome performance pieces. Situated in individual family homes, each artist got a direct taste of life in Indonesia, and instantly felt a 'part of the family', eating meals together and playing with the hundreds of village children nearby. Each artist was also provided with a personal assistant to help them prepare for performance, and I was blessed with the lovely Umi Lutfi, my dear friend and kick-ass assistant. For my own project, I made a film that offered glimpses of the many different activities of people's hands in the surrounding areas of Jatiwangi. These activities included ironing, straightening out bent nails, applying henna design, cooking, playing music, sewing and more. For the performance, I set up the film to be displayed in the JAF rooftile factory (for more info read my past Jatiwangi post from June 2007), candle-lit and everything. In the end of the film, a series of images of many hands together was displayed. At this moment the audience was invited up to stick their hands in mud and leave their own imprints on the pictures reflecting on the projection screen. My hope was that this would invite the audience to focus on their own hands, and also create a sense of 'togetherness' between all audience members. All in all, the project was a success, and I felt really good about it. Additionally, for fun, I also had the chance to dance a Jaipongan mask dance (newer traditional dance style from West Java) with a local JAF member, Anex. We performed following the shadow puppetry performance of my good friend Carrie Morris (see link below), and it was a full audience of local village members and JAF artists and friends. The performance was a big hit, very funny, and in the end audience members came up to join in the dance. A hidden gift of the performance for me was that the sarong in my costume kept falling down in the end. This offered itself as a hilarious mix to the already crazy character, and the chaos of everything left audience members laughing out loud, which is always a key aim in my performances: laughter and enjoyment! So all in all, the festival was fabulous, I had a great time, and if I have the chance to join again in the future, I most definitely will. Thank you to all the organizers at JAF, all the wonderful people in Jatiwangi and surrounding areas, to Juliana and Heru, and all other amazing artists involved! Hope to see you again next year.

Friday, August 15, 2008

kemana pun, the result, or something in that direction

The last two days before our big collaboration performance at Lembaga Indonesia Perancis (French-Indonesian Cultural Center/LIP) was big work. No stage manager, very small budget, difficulty to come to an agreement... We worked two days nonstop from morning until night, preparing installations, figuring out how to position the projector and set the stage, choosing music,and most of all, trying to come to some kind of agreement on what we were going to do for the performance. I remember clearly the last hour before performance, when we were still taping down the screen on our turned-around stage. By that time I was pretty exhausted, struggling with difficult double-tape and hungry. Talks of having some kind of structure had somehow started to move in the right direction, but still with loose ends and possible change at any time. When I look back on it, despite the difficulty and sometimes frustration, I like that our project was always changing and growing. We had no idea what would develop when we started. And we had to keep remembering that any expectations we might have had were not guaranteed to actually be used or develop into anything. It was a really good test on ego, which every artist needs sometimes I think.

We used the entire space at LIP, which I liked. In the garden in the beginning of the show, the audience could wander from performer to performer, who were each in their own individual worlds. I was at the sink, a collage of hundreds of women from sexy anorexic magazines behind me (you know the ones, think Cosmo, Lucky, all the others..), in my ugly teeth mask, big butt and all, trying to look pretty while at the same time bandaging all my toes and other wounds. Eventually over time all performers began to gather and move toward the gallery space, where Koni Herawati, one of the other artists, had created an installation of bamboo and hanging objects. There our individual characters began to emerge into one, we were walking in straight lines through the space (which was a long, narrow space), slowly removing our costumes and hanging them from the bamboo and hanging hooks throughout the space (no, this was not a strip tease and no, we were not naked). Eventually one by one we moved to the door by the auditorium, or theater space, in which the outline of each body was traced on the door before moving into the 'performance' space. In the auditorium, we had reversed the usual use of a stage, so that the audience sat on the open floor space, and we were positioned on the sitting area, which was a series of long stairs going up to the lighting box. On the stairs we had set up a long piece of white cloth, onto which was projected the image of a flowing river which Carrie Morris, another one of the artists, had recorded during our residency. We positioned ourselves on the stairs as if we were sleeping or lounging, no faces pointed directly toward the audience. Over a decent period of time, one by one our mumbling would slowly begin, until the mumbling grew louder and louder and eventually was drained out by the sound of the rushing water. The end. Lights out.

It's a good experience to participate in a collaboration, even if it's difficult. It's also a good experience to feel like you're already booked for a performance but still don't know exactly what you're doing, up to the hour before you're on. Somehow we pulled it off, and I think we managed to put on a pretty good, interesting, unique show. Don't ask me if I had it to do over whether I would agree to participate in the collaboration again. But I probably would. Why not? It was a good experience.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I've just come back from a two-week residency for a current collaboration project I've been involved with since April. The project, involving seven women artists from both Indonesia and abroad, will result in a multidisciplinary performance this coming Thursday, the 31st of July, at the French Indonesian Cultural Center (Lembaga Indonesia Prancis, LIP) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. For more information about this project, please visit this website: I've learned a lot about myself as a performer and my own process during this collaboration, and along with the other artists, faced the difficulties of collaboration. Collaborating isn't easy. Especially when you have seven female artists from different art backgrounds and creative processes. Despite the difficulty, however, this has been an invigorating project. My own theater background has been challenged and given the opportunity to flourish. I thought my character days were over for the time being, but suddenly they've reappeared with more energy than ever. The biggest learning that comes from being involved in a collaboration is being offered different perspectives on how to create and interact amongst artists. Like a mirror, your own methods are reflected back on you, while other methods are presented as new possibilities of ways to explore and create.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"Dari A Sampai Z"

"Dari A Sampai Z" ("From A to Z"), solo exhibition of Sudandyo Widyo Aprilianto (Lilik) on May 31, 2008. Lilik, my boyfriend, had his first big solo exhibition in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. On display were forty-seven artworks on paper and canvas, the majority painted in 2007 and 2008, but with a few included from as early as 2004. Most paintings on paper were made during his six-month residency in America in 2007, and following the earthquake in Yogyakarta on May 27, 2006. The newest paintings experimented with the idea of the 'bottle', and how the bottle can represent the human experience in different contexts. The exhibition was packed with people, including Lilik's family (mother, sister and her two twin daughters), who came all the way from his hometown in northeast Java (five hours away), to participate in the event. The opening event included several bands ranging from reggae, punk and experimental dj music, as well as contemporary shadow puppetry and a traditional-contemporary dance by myself. For my dance I blended a traditional Jaipongan dance (Jaipongan is a newer style of traditional dance from West Java that is quick and variative), with a contemporary character whose personality balanced on the edge of hillbilly and hip-hop. It was a blast! Hurray for Lilik in expressing himself, in being brave to go for his dream in being a painter, and in making work that isn't cheap or boring or just to sell for high prices and put on somebody's wall as an addition to their fancy tv and couches! Yeah for Lilik for believing in the beauty of true artistic expression, and going for it!!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Performance and Adventure at the Top of the Mountain

The Performance Klub in Yogyakarta holds a yearly performance art festival in the surrounding area of Yogyakarta. Last year, it took place in a small village in Bantul, commemorating the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that rocked Yogyakarta in May, 2006. This year, the festival took place at Krinjing Village, high up in the mountains at the edge of Merapi, the volcano that towers over Yogyakarta and central Java. The theme, 'Global Warming, Global Warning', comes at a time when the active discussion of how to take charge of the health of our environment is essential to its survival for future generations. International artists and locals alike gathered together, participating in early-afternoon seminars regarding global warming and ways to save our environment from complete destruction, and afternoon performances reflecting individual and group thoughts about the environment. Coming from a theater background, I'll admit that at times I find "performance art" to be boring- where's the excitement? Where's the beginning, middle and end? What really is performance, and how does performance art encompass that? This year's event was focused on group performance, forcing the typically solo performers to get into a group and collaborate. Ending results ranged, but I found for the most part the majority of performers to be working together but still separately, many of them doing individual actions in a shared space. The few that did work together included members of Taring Padi, who had audience members stick Salon Pas, heated patches, all over their bodies until they were full, yelling out "Panas!" ("Hot!"), "Body Warming!", and with help from the audience then taking those same patches and sticking them to a tree. This was a light-hearted way to link our own bodies to that of the earth, and brought enjoyment to participants all around. Another group, two performance artists from Surabaya and two from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, brought a large stack of tiny mirrors and handed them out to audience members. The audience then followed them up the hill and reflected the sun with their mirrors. This created an effective image, and brought direct relation between the audience members and the sun. On the last night of the festival, a group of thirty performers gathered together at midnight and climbed to the top of the volcano. This twelve-hour, strenuous climb was intense and not easy, a full hands-and-knees event, but once at the top for sunrise, it was stunning, and worth the scrapes and sore legs the following day. Global Warming, how many times do we have to say it's a reality? What is the most effective way to make people think twice about the way they consume, about what they burn and use for transportation? Is performance a good way to communicate these issues? Perhaps it is, and perhaps it isn't. The most important thing, I think, is gathering together as a community and making a true effort to discuss these issues, and take direct actions to address the way we treat our earth. Global Warming, Global Warning!!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Critical Mass, Yogyakarta

Did you know that Indonesia is the third largest producer of CO2 in the environment? You wouldn't be surprised if you set out on one of Java's many busy streets, full of big monster trucks spurting black clouds of exhaust in your face, seas of motorbikes and continuous problems with overpopulation. Environmental issues here are far behind, and most people don't have the same options that more developed countries have to improve their standards of living. Did I mention burning trash? Trash is another big problem in Indonesia- and the problem is that there's nowhere to put it! People throw their trash in the rivers, in the forests, anywhere they can, simply because they have nowhere to put it and not enough education to think twice about the effects of their actions. Many people, coincidentally, end up burning their trash, plastic and all. This, obviously, is also very bad for the environment.

A couple of weeks ago, here in Yogyakarta, we had a critical mass bike ride through the city. A group of almost 200 people, we rode our bikes through busy streets, stopping traffic and aweing people with our colorful costumes and decorated bikes. The message we had was: Think of the environment! Try riding your bicycle for a change! If more people in Indonesia rode their bicycles, not only would the streets be much more peaceful, but the amount of harmful pollution would also reduce. Riding a bicycle as opposed to riding a motorbike or exhaust-filled bus is healthy not only for the environment, but also for the rider! It feels good to be healthy! In Yogyakarta there is a new excitement in the young generation to ride bicycles, and it's becoming a trend. This is good. Young artists are designing their own styles of bikes- from extra-tall bikes to low-riders to bikes with extra large handles or added wheels. Our recent critical mass was inspiring- the variety of riders young and old who joined encouraged both participants and onlookers alike that the possibility of change in environment, for the better, is still possible. Ayo, naik sepeda!!!!! (Come on, let's ride bicycles!)