Sober optimism and ‘Endgame’ reinterpreted

Steady: “We cannot laugh. It’s funny and hilarious, but we can’t laugh at it like any other comedy,” Garasi director Yudi said of Beckett’s play. (Courtesy of Komunitas Salihara)

The absurdity of human existence is universal as Teater Garasi succesfully showed in their recent performance of Samuel Beckett’s classic play Endgame.

We are all on the Earth and “there’s no cure for that!” as the lame tyrannical narcissist Hamm points out repeatedly in the play — something that holds true in post-Reform Indonesia as well as the work’s late 1950s original European setting.

Teater Garasi, the now established and mature Yogyakarta-based experimental theater company, revisited the satire 15 years after its presentation of the play. The troupe first brought Hamm, Clov, Nagg and Nell to life in 1998, when the country was in a period of change, disruption and euphoria. Back then, the company’s interpretation of the tragicomic play was serious, or in the words of codirector Landung Simatupang, “stingy on laughter”, as they reflected on how Soeharto managed to postpone his downfall for too long.

As hilarity rises in Indonesia’s increasingly absurd democracy — with its celebrity politicians, graft ridden political parties and government inaction on religious violence — Garasi indulged in Beckett’s humor when presenting Endgame this time.

Endgame is a one-act play set in a post-apocalyptic world. Hamm is bound to his wheelchair, ordering around his reluctant servant, Clov, who is so stiff that he is doomed to never sit down.

“Every man has his specialty,” says Hamm. Nagg and Nell, Hamm’s parents who are also immobile, live inside corrugated bins, their limbs lost after a bicycle accident. Outside of their grey shelter awaits death. The four souls are trapped in a game of mundane repetitive acts and conversations with nowhere to turn.

Hamm, played in turns by Garasi director Yudi Ahmad Tajudin and play codirector Gunawan Maryanto, is portrayed as a smug blind tyrant who feels good about himself and his knack of language. Clov, played by Whani Darmawan and Theodorus Christanto, is a simple-minded servant with a speck of defiance. He answers with a straight face to Hamm, but keeps himself bound to his overbearing lmaster. Nagg (Kusworo Bayu Aji and MN. Qomaruddin) is Hamm’s father who has lost the respect of his son and slowly realizes the irrelevance of his overused comic routine. And Nell (Erythrina Baskoro and Arsita Iswardhani) is Hamm’s mother, who finds the tragic essence of comedy before her demise.

Why don’t you kill me asks Hamm of Clov, who replies cooly and automatically: “I don’t have the combination of the cupboard”.

Later Hamm asks again, “Why don’t you finish us? I will give you the combination of the cupboard if you promise to finish me.”

Clov: “I couldn’t finish you”. Hamm: “Then you won’t finish me”.

Each character understands the hilarity of their situation but has lost the will to laugh. As Nell aptly declares: “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that.”

“Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh anymore”.

And indeed, they don’t feel like laughing.

“Don’t we laugh?” asks Hamm. “I don’t feel like it,” Clov answers after a moment of reflection. “Nor do I,” Hamm answers.

Reprise: Teater Garasi, the now established and mature Yogyakarta-based experimental theater company, revisited the Beckett’s satire Endgame 15 years after its first presentation of the play. (Courtesy of Komunitas Salihara)

Reprise: Teater Garasi, the now established and mature Yogyakarta-based experimental theater company, revisited the Beckett’s satire Endgame 15 years after its first presentation of the play. (Courtesy of Komunitas Salihara)

Garasi director Yudi said that the group’s interpretation of the play this year reflected the current situation. The conversations in the play were as funny as the situation the country is facing. “We see the 98’ movement falling into a silly whirpool. Laughing at it would be as if we are cool with this difficult and silly situation,” Yudi said.

“We cannot laugh. It’s funny and hilarious, but we can’t laugh at it like any other comedy,” Yudi said.

The ability to find the humor behind the absurd is what Garasi aimed to achieve through its presentation of Endgame.

Yudi said that he first encountered the script for Endgame in 1992 and was immediately caught by the strength of its dialogue. He struggled to translate the English text to Indonesian between 1992 and 1994.

Garasi performed Endgame in 1998, riding the wave at the end of the regime. This year, Garasi performed Endgame as part of Salihara‘s Helateater festival.

Beckett wrote Endgame in French in 1953 and the play was first performed in London on 1957, titled Fin de Partie. The title referred to the last moves in a chess game, when the end is near but the moves had to be taken anyway. Beckett translated the play from French to English himself.

For this year’s performance, Yudi worked with Jean-Pascal Elbaz, former director of the French Cultural Center in Yogyakarta and producer of Endgame in 1998, in translating the script from French to Indonesian. Yudi said that there are things that are lost and things that are found in every translation.

“In French, there is vous and tu, which give a richer meaning and can be adapted to Indonesian with anda dan kamu. We wouldn’t find that in the English translation,” Yudi said.

Aside from what can be found (or lost) in translation, Garasi succeeded in presenting dark Beckett’s dark comedy. Endgame is a tragedy wrapped in humor wrapped in, to use Yudi’s words, a “sober optimism”. Amid the Indonesia’s everyday insanity, some sobriety is always welcome.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Art and Design | Thu, July 11 2013

Tan Malaka: An opera of absence

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Tan Malaka is a story of absence, mystery and, ultimately, about not knowing. The opera incorporates these themes into its very structure and communicates a subdued feeling of absence.

Throughout the work moments of silence — and the absence of the character for whom the work is named  — gave the audience a sense of incompleteness.

The opera, a collaboration between libretti Goenawan Mohamad and composer Tony Prabowo, was re-staged in Graha Bhakti Budaya (GBB) at the Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural center on April 23.

Tan Malaka was first performed for the public at the Salihara Theater in October. The performance commemorated both Goenawn’s 70th birthday and the 40th anniversary of Tempo, the magazine he co-founded.

The opera began in the pitch black. Then a line of red light traversed the stage from bottom to top. A man came out and stood on top of an ersatz wood platform waving a red flag depicting the hammer and sickle.

The opera tells the story of Tan Malaka, one of the country’s founding father and an international communist activist. He wrote about a potential Indonesian nation in his work Naar de Republiek-Indonesia in 1924 while in Canton, China — well before Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta voiced similar ideas.

Tan however was not present when Sukarno and Hatta proclaimed independence in 1945.

“People say he was in Jakarta those days. However, the young people prepared the proclamation of independence, and he was not there. Tan Malaka did not show even a couple of meters from Jl. Pegangsaan. He was unseen on the Aug. 17. Nobody told him,” Landung Simatupang, the opera’s narrator, said on the stage in the work’s third act.

Nearing the end of the opera, text flashed onto a screen behind the stage read: “Reportedly someone was shot dead. Reportedly Tan Malaka was shot dead. In the Kediri area”.

According to Harry A. Poeze, a historian who has traced Tan’s story for the last 30 years, Tan was shot in Selopanggung, Kediri, in 1949.

Goenawan described the performance as an essay opera — “a form that maybe has never existed before”. The opera does not follow the traditional storytelling conventions, such as a linear plot.

As Goenawan said in the opera’s program notes, the creators wanted to convey the idea that the stage did not represent an illusory reality.

“The stage is the place where reality is processed and the audience is involved in the process of freedom from illusion”.

There is no dialogue in the conventional sense. The actors are storytellers. Without a plot, however, the opera becomes demanding on viewers. It featured neither a crescendo nor resolution in the usual sense.

For some viewers, these muted currents allow for contemplation of the absence of Tan Malaka during the country’s most crucial moments and his mysterious death. For others, it’s a lovely (albeit inadvertent) lullaby.

Nyak Ina “Ubiet” Raseuki and Binu Doddy Sukaman beautifully performed the work’s arias. The sopranos sang short poems about Tan Malaka set to music performed by an orchestra conducted by Josefino Chino Toledo from the Philippines.

Goenawan incorporated into the work the Sumatran folk tale of Malin Kundang, which tells of a son who travels and returns home ungrateful.

Ubit and Binu each sang in turn: “Once there was a mother who heard her son say ‘I came to be seditious’,”. Malin Kundang symbolizes Tan Malaka as the antithesis of the status quo.

Landung replaced Adhi Kurdi who portrayed the narrator in the last version of the work. His strong presence on stage made the audience think of what happened during the time of Tan Malaka’s absence.

.Whani Darmawan played the person behind bars. He tells of the idea of struggle, a metaphor for continuing the revolution despite imprisonment.

The Paragita choir of the University of Indonesia, headed by Aning Katamsi, provided supporting vocals while Yudi Ahmad Tadjudin served as assistant director.

One of the most important elements of the opera was dance. Fitri Setyaningsih’s choreography was slow and silent to the point of meditation. About two dozen dancers from Surakarta represented the common people, miners and refugees, in the opera.

At one scene Fitri drew chalk circles on the stage, representing Tan Malaka’s continuous effort in writing and thus shaping history.

Goenawan and Tony’s opera revives memories of a revolutionary figure whose life ended tragically.

Tan Malaka is immortalized in the opera. As the narrator says:

“I disappear therefore I exist. I am present. Tan Malaka will not die in this story. Maybe that is what I need to say”.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Feature | Sat, May 07 2011

An open heart

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To visit artist Iman Soleh’s house in Ledeng, Bandung, one must walk through an alley even motorcycles cannot pass.

Despite this limited access, his house, located behind the busy public transportation terminal of Ledeng, is the center for community-based theater Celah-celah Langit (CCL), also known as the Ledeng Cultural Center (CCL).

His large front yard, where children can be seen running around while chickens peck the dirt, is where rehearsals for CCL productions take place, including for the recent play Tanah: ode kampung kami (Land; ode to our kampung) presented at Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural center in Cikini, Central Jakarta.

The theater community stages performances there around three to four times a year. Iman said they also hold surveys and perform in different villages to bring art closer to the people.

“I am not against art and cultural spaces but I think that art should come to the people,” he said.

Iman, 47, a seasoned theater player who has joined different theater companies in Japan, France, the Reunion Islands and Australia, said cultural centers should be built near narrow alleyways where people live.

“Even in the most densely populated area… That’s where cultural centers should be built,” he said at Taman Ismail Marzuki recently. Iman was in Jakarta recently to prepare for the play Tanah.

His area in Ledeng has traditionally been an arts and cultural hub, Iman said. The terminal building in Ledeng changed the social landscape there with the communities that grew around it.

However, it isn’t the government that initiated any arts or culture conservation projects there. Iman explained the leader of his neighborhood was a puppet master; not far from his house lived a calung (traditional Sundanese bamboo musical instrument) player, and a bringbrung (traditional Sundanese percussion) player. A traditional Sundanese martial art pencak silat center is located near his house too.

“These rich culture and art communities should not disappear into thin air because they are the ones who bring art closer to the people,” he said. “We are the ones who become snobbish and make barriers because we want it to be representative. I think art should be representative, not the building,” he said.

That is why he opened his house to CCL.

Many have often wondered how his family can retain privacy in his very open home.

“If you want your lives to be beneficial to other people, you have to open your house [to them],” he said.

“Don’t be stingy with what you have if you want to give your life to people.”

During Iman’s childhood, one of his neighbors used to leave a water jug in front of her house for people who were thirsty.

“I would walk pass her house and drink her water and then shout ‘Hatur nuhun bu!’,” he said, which means thank you in Sundanese.

For the play Tanah, 25 people stayed in his living room. “But they are so diligent,” he said. “Learning about art is learning about life. When learning about beauty, the first thing you have to do is learn about cleanliness,” he said.

Iman plans to set up a small library so children can come and read there.

Before the center was called Celah-celah Langit, the place was already a hub for Bandung artists. Iman said poet Acep Zamzam Noor, painter Tisna Sanjaya used to hang out there. It was named Gang Bapak Eni Community, after the name of the street. After the fall of president Soeharto in 1998, the community was called Celah-celah Langit. “Because we can see the sky from the front yard,” Iman said.

A group of international actors from Germany, Brazil, Australia, Japan, in 2007 stayed with CCL for three months in an Indonesia-Australia collaboration between CCL and the Sidetrack performance group.

Their collaboration gave birth to a play called Tangled Garden directed by Brazilian Carlos Gomez.

Iman said he grew up surrounded by the arts in Ledeng. The idea of studying theater came to him when he was studying acting and then directing at the Indonesian Arts College (STSI) — now the Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI). He is currently taking a postgraduate degree at the Jakarta Arts Institute.

He joined the Studi Klub Teater in Bandung and then Teater Kecil headed by Arifin C Noor before travelling around the world.

During his travels, he saw there was a gap between the arts and people in many countries.

“I don’t want Indonesia to be like that,” he said. That is why CCL often performs in villages, to bring art closer to the people he said.

“Art should be representative,” he said. That is why he always starts from facts when creating art.

Iman likes to talk to people around him. After the dawn prayer at the mosque, he goes to the public transportation terminal and has coffee with the buskers there.

“That way we can know what they are worried about,” he said.

CCL is preparing three productions at the moment, including a children’s play, Iman said.

Iman puts these plays together to preserve local art. “Art is the main ingredient in a social world. I don’t want our lives in Ledeng to be dry”.

Iman added that CCL had received support this year from Kelola Foundation, a not-for-profit organization on art and culture, and the Theater Embassy from the Netherlands. “Last year we just managed on our own.”

“The government and the private sector are very stingy. But we don’t need to get upset about this. It’s
OK. If we want to build a community we have to think this way: Forget the existence or absence of  the government. Forget the existence or absence of the private sector. If you can manage on your own, just do it.”

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | People | Wed, May 04 2011

Our land, our people

Powerful voices: Without the help of microphones, the actors rely on the strength of their voices during the performance. Antara/Agus Bebeng
Powerful voices: Without the help of microphones, the actors rely on the strength of their voices during the performance. Antara/Agus Bebeng

The ground beneath our feet is the foundation of our lives. Last Friday night’s performance of community-based theater Celah-celah Langit (CCL) was a poignant representation of how people are losing their life foundations — their home and livelihood — by selling land to greedy property developers.

At Sanggar Baru in Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural space, 15 Central Jakarta actors enacted Tanah: ode kampung kami (Land: ode to our kampung) in a powerful one hour 10 minutes performance.

Accompanied by music from traditional Sundanese musical instruments, the actors told a story through 13 scenes of roaring dialogue and energetic dance moves.

The actors, dressed in black, showed physical and audio strength in their performance. They moved in movements that were slightly acrobatic, showing their bamboo pole skills.

They began the play with a jovial funny scene in which they were enjoying themselves in the fields.

What belongs to the people: Tanah: ode kampung kami (Land: ode to our kampung), a powerful 1 hour 10 minutes play that was presented last weekend at Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) cultural space, delves into the issue of land. Courtesy of Celah-celah Langit

Without the help of microphones, the actors relied on the strength of their voices. Holding dry rice leaves, they talked about the importance of land. The only female actor, Anita Bintang, who played the mother, a metaphor of the land, recited the poem Tanah ode kampung kami: Land is the beginning/in land we exist/we are the land/hurting the land hurts ourselves/pleasing the land pleases ourselves/don’t sell your land/selling the land sells ourselves/selling land sells your mother.

In the next scene, the actors held a big bamboo pole together close to their chests. The mother hung on to the bamboo pole using her arms and legs, outstretched.

The story portrayed two men luring people to sell their land. They told the landowner he could spend the money to go on the haj pilgrimage. “Tell all your neighbors. The whole village can go on the haj and to heaven together,” a land broker said.

One person did not want to sell his land and tried to persuade the others not to sell theirs. But his efforts were to no avail. The mother was surrounded by tall bamboo, representing the buildings and skyscrapers. “My children!,” she cried out.

Each actor then dropped the bamboo poles until they surrounded Anita. She was then lifted up and left to die.
Angry faces: Actors from the Tanah play perform at TIM cultural space in Jakarta last Friday. Antara/Agus Bebeng

The play is an adaptation of the voices of the people of Lembang, Bandung. The hilly area in Bandung has undergone many transformations over the years with many  businesspeople buying up the land there.

Iman Soleh, director of the play and founder of Celah-celah Langit or also known as Ledeng Cultural Center, prepared this production as a theater for development and educational project supported by Kelola Foundation, an NGO for the arts and culture and the Theater Embassy from the Netherlands.

In November 2010, he held a writing workshop with the people of Lembang to determine their opinions on the land issue. These 25 compiled texts were then discussed and adapted into a play.

“Art should always start from facts. If it do not come from facts we are detached from the problems of the people. What good is art when it is detached from the people’s concerns,” he said.

This makes the process of playwriting a long one, but Iman said they just had to be patient. “We talk to them about what they want to convey. ‘I will make art so that your message can be delivered’,” Iman said.

Egbert Wits, the coordinator for theater for development and education from the Theater Embassy, said the production aimed to “give a voice to the people through art”. The workshops of theater for development can give the people new skills such as writing, poetry reading, singing and dancing.

Wits added that theater for development aimed to stimulate dialogue between people about the issues communicated in the play.

Iman added that the story of Lembang was only an aperçu, which fit into the bigger problem of land in general. “Is there land for the people?” he asked. “People come to Jakarta and big cities because they don’t have anything in their villages,” he said.

He pointed out that land rights were given to only a few big companies who claimed they created jobs, while the government did not empower the people with land.

“I ask, do [the companies] guarantee their laborers good welfare? Young people no longer want to be farmers,” Iman said, adding that this was because they could not survive in this trade.

The play is presented in Jakarta, Iman said, because the capital also had its own unique land problems. “There are 1,007 land cases in Jakarta and 125 are unresolved,” he said.

Iman, a theater performer, who has joined various theater groups in Japan, the Philippines, France, Reunion Island and many other countries, founded the CCL community. The CCL creative process takes place in his front yard in Ledeng, Bandung. He witnessed his father’s village in Cigondewah convert from paddy fields into an industrial area. He also saw how the Ledeng public transportation terminal transformed the area into an arts hub.

The area is home to hundreds of university students renting boarding rooms, Ledeng residents, vendors, buskers and children. Iman said they usually performed in villages to bring the art closer to the people. Iman said that most actors in the play were university students.

Tanah will be presented in Jatiwangi as well as Lembang, Bandung.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Entertainment | Wed, May 04 201

Bandung performers to present the story of land

Land is key: The play Tanah, to be presented this Friday at Taman Ismail Marzuki, focuses on the issue of land. Courtesy of Celah-celah Langit
Land is key: The play Tanah, to be presented this Friday at Taman Ismail Marzuki, focuses on the issue of land. Courtesy of Celah-celah Langit

A community-based theater from Bandung will present their play Tanah (Land), which delves into the issue of land at Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) cultural space this Friday night.

The theater community Celah-celah Langit or the Ledeng Cultural Centre, headed by performer Iman Soleh, based in Ledeng, Bandung has been preparing the production of this one hour and 10 minutes show since November 2010.

The play will be open to the public and take place in Sanggar Baru, TIM. Celah-celah Langit opened their première of Tanah in Bandung. After Jakarta, the theater will also perform in Jatiwangi.

The play is part of a theater for development and educational project supported by Kelola Foundation, a not-for profit organization for the arts and culture and Theater Embassy from the Netherlands.

The 13 scenes of the play are based on 25 texts produced by the people of Bandung hilly area in Lembang who have been affected by Lembang’s changing landscape.

Iman said the idea for this play had germinated in Lembang in 2009. With the Netherlands Theatre Embassy and Kelola Foundation, Iman held writing workshops in Lembang to find out the experiences the Lembang people had with the changing of the land.

“The writings were diverse, with diverse language as well. We held continuous discussions around the writings that were collected,” Iman said. “The discussion process was longer than other explorations [for the play],” Iman said.

He added that the story of Lembang was only an apercu, which fit into the bigger problem of land in general. The play is being presented in Jakarta, Iman said, because the capital also has its own unique land problems. “There are 1,007 land cases in Jakarta and 125 of them are unresolved,” he said.

Iman pointed out that 26 people were involved in the production including musicians, costume designers and lighting crew. There are 15 actors in the play.

Bamboo and hay will be prominent theater props to convey a feel of the agrarian life.

“We brought 20 long bamboo poles from Bandung,” he said.

Egbert Wits, the coordinator for theater for development and education from Theater Embassy, said the production aimed to “give voice to the people through art”.

The people can benefit from the production process with new skills such as writing, poetry reading, singing and dancing.

“The people become more confident and become brave in speaking in public,” he said.

Wits added that the theater for development aimed to stimulate a dialogue between people about the issues that was being put forth in the play.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Feature | Fri, April 29 2011

Teater Garasi: Embracing the in-between

Drops of fortune: Actress Hanny Herlina looks up at money falling from the sky. Garasi actors impersonate Tarling-Dangdut performers, who in real life, receive money thrown or given to them by the audience. — Photo by courtesy of Festival Salihara
Drops of fortune: Actress Hanny Herlina looks up at money falling from the sky. Garasi actors impersonate Tarling-Dangdut performers, who in real life, receive money thrown or given to them by the audience. — Photo by courtesy of Festival Salihara

The sight of a big-eared red Teletubby with a Mohawk pushing dangdut singing women on a yellow makeshift boat into a crowd of amused art lovers is bound to create a surreal and absurd image.

So do women performing the traditional tari topeng (mask dance) using plastic masks of robot action heroes to the otherworldly sounds of blipping techno music.

But, these vignettes, part of experimental artist collective Teater Garasi’s latest play Tubuh Ketiga: Pada Perayaan yang Berada di Antara (The Third Body: On Embracing the In-Between), are not mere imaginary visions popping out from the minds of the Yogyakarta-based collective.

Directed by Yudi Ahmad Tajudin who collaborated with members of Teater Garasi, Tubuh Ketiga is an essay in the form of a visual art performance based on observations of Tarling-Dangdut art from the Indramayu community.

A coastal city near the border of Central and West Java, Indramayu is a crossing point between strong Sundanese and Javanese cultural centers; the urban life of Jakarta and sleepy rural village life; an industrial and agricultural area; and tradition and modernity.

Teater Garasi’s Tubuh Ketiga became a tribute to the people who live in the space in between, celebrating the latter’s relaxed openness to different cultures from virtually every direction.

The people from Indramayu have developed their own brand of art namely Tarling-Dangdut, a mixture of electric guitar, percussion, Sundanese flute with gamelan sensibility, combined with India-influenced Dangdut music and even techno sounds created from old chips.

By way of bricolage, Indramayu people take popular culture references and use them as their own. Beyond the tackiness of the performances, Teater Garasi sees a soupçon  of nonchalance in the meeting of different cultures — a refreshing attitude amid some of today’s fear-filled reactions toward change in the form of fundamentalism and chauvinism.

Teater Garasi presented Tubuh Ketiga on Oct. 11 and 12 at Salihara. Like a warm village reception, friends of Garasi formed a line and greeted the audience. Steamed bananas, peanuts and glasses of water were served to spectators, who took their places on the floor, the low-wooden platforms or stood at the back of the theater.

Guitar riffs accompanied poet Gunawan Maryanto, the night’s MC. His singsong voice kept on rolling word after word, until the white curtain located behind a metal bench adorned with fake flowers — and bearing the sign “Congratulations for a new life in the globalization era” — was torn down.

As the curtain fell, the audience saw a painting of the sun setting behind the mountain, rice paddies and factories on screens surrounding Salihara’s black box theater walls. The play about Tarling-Dangdut singer Shanti Revaldi began.

In the 70-minute performance, tari topeng maestro Wangi Indriya danced with Sri Qadariatin, and Hanny Herlina with Theodorus Christanto.

The play featured a varied selection of songs from Kucing Garong (Wild Cat), Mujaer Mundur (Backward Fish) to Bjork’s It’s not up to You.

The most profound moment of the play was Wangi’s singing of the song Rhizomatic while Hanny swayed her hips and mouthed the lyrics as if singing in slow motion. The two women sat on the makeshift boat, while the red Teletubby pushed the boat, slicing into the crowd of people.

Members of Teater Garasi started taking interest in Indramayu two years ago when they produced
Je.ja.lan, a play inspired by street life in Yogyakarta, Jakarta and Indramayu.

“We’re very interested in culture formed through the meeting of different cultures,” Yudi said.
Given Indramayu’s reputation as a crossing point, it was the logical place to go.

Garasi went to Indramayu in April after the harvest to observe the festivities.

“There was an extraordinary social phenomenon. Post-harvest, Indramayu turns into a center of festivals. Everywhere there are stage performances, in which Tarling-Dangdut becomes the main event,” Yudi said.

For Yudi, the people from Indramayu’s relaxed attitude toward different cultures surrounding them is valuable. “They arbitrarily take from here and there and recreate.”

In today’s interconnected world, an individual is no longer a construct of one single culture, which makes the question of identity becomes less important, Yudi added.

“The question is not about identity. The question is not ‘Who am I?’ but ‘What can we create?’” Yudi went on.

“In fact, many cultures construct the ‘I’. The traditional, the modern, the authentic, the alien — they all construct ‘I’, the subject.”

As in Garasi’s Je.ja.lan “dance-theater-cum-theater of images” production, the audience occupied almost the same space as the actors. Spectators were continually interacting with the actors, as the latter would use the entire theater as their stage.

“I place the audience and actors in the same space. The boundaries between stage, actor and audience become blurred,” Yudi said.

“Because, what is important for me in the two works is dialogue, interaction. It’s not the fiction or the art. I’m underlining communication rather than aesthetics. The play is merely a medium, my way to create dialogue on the issue of the idea that is being conveyed,” he said.

Tubuh Ketiga was indeed a fun dialogue.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Art and Design | Mon, October 18 2010