Aesthetic and The City in Journal Of Moment Arts 2003

Yudi Ahmad Tajudin

 

Show no fear! The city is a collective life. If anyone chooses another design of life, see it as the other part of our soul. Everyone is free to have an imagination, and each is free to express it too. Do not seek the quality result of the expression, but view its independence side as a collective responsibility, as the stronghold of existence, power, wisdom and beauty. Public space as a field in which various politic activity of signifying took course generally marked by a galore of icons, which stored the message imposing common principles of order, establishment, to guarantee the proceedings of the citizen’s daily activities. Public space becomes the main representation which shows the face, quality or culture of a city. Journal of moment arts places its vision to the city public’s space in viewing performing art as a representation of public culture[1]. 

 

On the 20th to 25th of October 2003, an art event was being held in Makassar, a festival of some kind treasured with so many notable things: Journal of Moment Arts (JOMA) 2003. The event which also boast itself as the outdoor art forum takes place every once a year since 2000 and is one of the regular program held by Sanggar Merah Putih -an art institution known by the public of art outside Makassar as a theater group, despite the fact that since its founding in 1978 the organization has also facilitated other interest of art and activities: music, fine art, dance and literature. The text written above is an excerpt taken from JOMA 2003 information flyers which explains the vision of the annual art forum- whose context in performing art may well be considered as rarities. Perhaps it was the same text written on the flyers –I first read it in an invitation sent via e-mail by the organizer– that had drawn me to attend the event. Mostly because JOMA 2003 had chosen and offered the outdoor as a focus in exploring the art(ist)’s articulation and  statement concerning the quality of social life in public space. In a stronger sense, on another section in the leaflet, Sanggar Merah Putih Makassar wrote (one of) the forum’s objective as attempts of reclaiming the city public space as a collective living space through performing art[2].  And that’s how it is, after reading those texts, there were many things that came to  my attention. One of my greatest interests is to see how participating artists in JOMA 2003 –mostly working in the field of performing art (see box)—responding to the forum’s proposal. Furthermore, what are the risks being exposed to the artists when creating at the outdoor[3]? Is it only technical risk or would it be a more any substantial one that  involves the aesthetic and format of art which occurs at the outdoor? Provided that each space possess its own limitation which attributes and suggests forms of  the expression that can be created inside it? And the public space, as many time implied in the excerpt above, is a signifying politic contestation field (often materialized in violent manner) over what is allowed and not, what is decent and obsolete, added to other normative binary categories, which will filter and select other forms of relations and the social occurrence within. And so that’s how it is, the certain amount of curiosity which later came across the journal’s concern, Le’Bur, to observe and to note how Sanggar Merah Putih Makassar organized an art event which focuses itself on the outdoor.  Then I went there, to the city which was earlier, under the New Order called Ujung Pandang. The old city which on the 17th well-known as a great trading port century, is now becoming more openly confident and refurbishing itself continuously, following the spirit of local autonomy currently a trend in Indonesia. One policy is by changing the name of the economic axis in eastern part of Indonesia back to its old one: Makassar. And the certitude effect of a more autonomous port city, which had actually built an intensive contact with the outside world through 15th to 16th century, has also influenced its sphere of art. Since the major social change in the political and economic order of the amazingly centralized in Java, Orde Baru,  occurredin the late 90’s, several art events, which called for participation from artists all  across the country, were held in Makassar. In year…a group of Makassar artist, with the initiative and support from cultural networker from Solo, Halim HD, held an art event namely Makassar Art Forum (MAF). The art forum akin to non-competition festival had succeeded in engaging many Indonesian artists participations from various disciplines who came to the city and enlivened it with works and interesting discussions of Indonesian art. MAF continued for … and held for the last time on….

Apart from that, during this last few years in Makassar, a productive communication has been constructed between artist and local government, one of which facilitated by Badan Koordinasi Kesenian Indonesia- BKKI (literally, Coordinating Body of Indonesian Art). Formed by the local authority, the institution based in Societet de Harmonie art complex (a center for Makassar artists from various disciplines to gather and practice their activities) is quite successful in bridging Makkasar artists’ interest with the government. One of BKKI’s achievements is in facilitating communication between Sanggar Merah Putih and Makassar branch office of the Department of Culture and Tourism, which later became the key sponsor for JOMA 2003 and put the outdoor art forum to their program agenda.

That is how the Makassar field of art exposes itself. And this text is my testimonial notes on JOMA 2003.

 

The Violated Public Space and Cross Fertilization of Tradition

It was around 6 in the morning, 20 October 2003. The first sunray has just fell over Fort Rotterdam, a military site abandoned by the Dutch colonial, it was a another world, poles apart from my mundane one. The morning was damp yet the air was not too vicious.   Fortunately I was never used to waking up that early. I was there, when the day was about to be ready to unfold itself, and joined the 6 other[4] JOMA participants from outside Makassar, which had arrived and stayed in this 20th century built  building complex, as JOMA 2003  was about to begin.

A shortwhile after, from one of the corner of the historical conservation building is still lingered with a thick stench of the past, I could hear a sound of kendang drumming in fast beat, a distinct Makassar thump followed by the screaming pui-pui, a traditional blowing instrument. Then Ridwan Aco, a Makassar choreographer who is also one of the officials in Sanggar Merah Putih, walked out from one of the door belongs to the dingy building. He was wearing an all black traditional costume, with yellowish headband. Followed by other artists and JOMA organizers (all wearing bugis traditional sarong) walking closely behind him. Some of them were carrying trays of offerings. One of the Liasons Officer also gave us, the 6 participants from outside Makassar, some bugis sarong to wear. We joined the others after we had learned how to wear the sarong. Thus began my first encounter with JOMA 2003. In an exotic kind of way.

The crowd did not march very far. Outside Fort Rotterdam, after a short walk crossing the road cordoning the front part of the fort, the group stopped in a parking area of a small beach known as Biring Kassi. Numerous boats in different sizes were harbored in a small port which is marked by a wooden bridge extending to the sea. While at the corner of the parking lot which also functioned as a plaza stands still a memorial statue, together with some kiosks and food stalls lining at the distance ahead and several huts of small cafes on the other side; all that composed a landscape commonly found in many tourist spots in Indonesia. Noisy and rackety. And it is exactly that spot, the  public space where citizens of Makassar spend their time off and enjoy the sundown. Further, into the sea Ridwan Aco cast two pieces of cloth each colored in red and white, and a tray full of offerings (four-colored rice, eggs, banana leaves, flower essence,) with a pile of wet clay which had been prepared before. The kendang was drummed without stopping, and the pui-pui continued piercing the air with its tone, and all the participants and organizers of JOMA 2003 came out from their earlier formation and mingled with the audience which had just appeared. The spontaneous audience- without prior invitation nor knowledge of the performance- included becak drivers, warung owners who about to open their kiosks, a few men riding motorbikes who were stopping their vehicles. All people who might have been interested with the unusual view on their mundane morning. Afterwards Ridwan Aco began his performance. All the requirements had been fulfilled; the field game had been formed, audience had been created and attention had been grasped.

Several young men which are members of the organizing committee then dispersed and handed out flyers containing information about JOMA 2003 and the concept of the ongoing performance to the audience. I had learned from the flyers that the performance was intended as a ritual. A ceremony. In Makassar language they called it: appanaung ri je’ne ritual (literally, offering to the sea). While based on the information that I had received from Shinta Febriany, coordinator of JOMA 2003, explained that it was a sea purification ceremony.

So, I watched it. And I discovered the fact that: as a performance which was intended to be a ritual, what Ridwan Aco did was vaguely recognized by his audience. I realized that after having heard a faint conversation coming from the spontaneous audience who were watching the performance. “What is this performance?” someone asked.” I don’t know what kind of game this is” someone else replied. A man with a distinct Bugisnese countenance, still from the becak where he was sitting said:”He looks like a kajang[5] people. His entire outfit is black. Perhaps this is a kajang ceremony”.

Some elements that Aco was using in his performance; costume, nonstop music background, the spreading of ritual offerings, were familiar to the audience (this explains the reason why the Bugisnese identified the performance as a ceremony, although he had failed to recognized what was the nature of the ceremony). However, the way Aco was moving his body, taking off his outfit and smearing his body with clay and breaking the glass is an unusual element and movement and as if it was deriving from a whole different tradition. Perhaps only to the final part of the performance that audience could really relate themselves.  The part when Richard Aco walked into the sea to cast the tray of offering he was carrying. This part could also usually be seen in one of the procession of larungan or labuhan, aceremonial tradition of the Javanese coastline. And to finalize his performance, he asked some of us from the invited participants of JOMA 2003 to release the rest of the trays. That was how the performance intended as a ritual took place. Apart from being recognized or not, to some audience the performance might have helped them to escape from their mundane morning.

From the performativity of JOMA 2003 which had put the ceremony of sea purification as its opening performance, the signification which later came to mind is that: the sixth day outdoor art event has based itself upon the assumption that there is something polluted in the public space. Such as the sea whose existence is vital to those living in the coastal city like Makassar, so does the public space. And it is just like  the sea as well, that the public space is now getting more and more polluted by the oppressive economic and political interest. So, the ritual performance appanaung ri je’ne then becoming a metaphor which narrated that JOMA 2003 is an art forum which was intended (expected) as some sort of a purification ceremony for the public space in Makassar. Such assumption and expectation could also be read from the description of JOMA 2003 vision and objective which I quoted at the beginning of the text. The assumption and expectation which presence I had repeatedly spotted in most of the performances held during the event.  Even this was reaffirmed by the closing performance of JOMA 2003 when Arman Dewanti ( Sanggar Merah Putih former leader who also precursor of the event) in his performance, he asked the audience and some of JOMA 2003 participants to shave his head. In Java the hair cutting ceremony such as this is related to the cosmology of ruwatan tradition: a tradition which believes that certain misfortune and tragedy which many times afflicted someone or a community is prompted by an impure spiritual condition. And the tradition of ruwatan ceremony is an effort to restore and cleanse the spiritual impurity, so that all the misfortune and tragedy could be stopped and repelled.

Another thing could be perceived from the performativity of most performances held during JOMA 2003 is the usage of various elements which refers to forms of idiom of art and/or traditional ceremony. I had this confirmed as well as the background  information when Shinta Febriany explained to me that such ceremonies seen in  Ridwan Aco and Arman performances are still frequently performed by Makassar people[6], including its artists. This was proved to be significant information as later it helped me in appreciating and perceiving the performances. Yet this does not mean that the performances created/ done by most of the Makassar artists were merely reproducing the already existing form of traditional art. In many cases, the performances created by the artists coming from the port city is actually a cross fertilization[7] of traditional art; a frame work or a method of creation which operates through the mechanism of obtaining and appropriating the existing form and idiom, whether it is from the same field (such as performing art) or different one (traditional ritual or ceremony). Next, these form and idiom is established and rearranged in different context and narration.

I have seen similar aesthetical framework in the performances made by Simon Abdul Murad (theater), Anchu Batara (musician), Ahmad Azul (painter) and Ibu Andi Ummu Tunru (dancer and choreographer), to mention the names of some Makassar artists involved in JOMA.  Related method could also be found in a performance by Agung Wibowo, JOMA 2003 participant from Semarang.  One of the form of interaction with the environment and Makassar tradition, the young theatrical from Semarang invited Makassar traditional musician’s involvement in his creation, matching to references of Javanese traditional art performances such as Kuda Lumping or Jaran Kepang. A dancer from Solo, Fitri Setyaningsih had also used similar method and elements with Agung’s in her dancing performance which explored Jathilan vocabularies accompanied by Makassar traditional music.

In Ani Satriani’s performance, on JOMA second day in Losari Beach, the cross-fertillization method used by the dancer-cum-actress from Makassar was being operated through the use of Pakarena dance vocabularies. The classic and traditional palace dance, resembling the bedhaya in Javanese tradition, was arranged by Ani in a narration that tells about the marginalized tradition (along with its particular values) in its tough contestation with the mass culture idioms which bear different values and lifestyle. At least, that was the impression I captured seeing the performance entitled good night. Around 7 pm, wearing the traditional costume Baju Bodo[8], the young dancer was treading along the cliff wall which confined Losari Beach for a while before taking a pause and then danced the Pakarena by herself, accompanied with traditional instruments drummed by three musicians. She continued dancing until a certain moment when she halted to strip her Baju Bodho  and revealing more clothes that she was already wearing beneath, this time  in a contemporary style wore by women of her age : jeans and t-shirt. Simultaneously the music changed its course adjusting to the change. The kendang beat, earlier drummed in traditional music pattern was transformed to the musical rhythm of melayu. So did the pui’-pui’ which then sang the melody often heard in dangdut music. From this event Ani Satriani was like disclosing the fact of her being one of the ordinary young women in this noisy country, who fethisize the music which is now boosted by the vertical image mobilization, caused by audio visual media construction. Regarding the Baju Bodho she had worn before and the Pakarena she had danced, are perhaps merely some sort of nostalgia fixed on her through her parents and the society she lives in; while contrary she does not really have enough reason to move in such slow rhythm. Nostalgia over something she was once told as glorifying in the irreversible past. Nostalgia which perhaps was born out of the anxiety surfacing amidst the Indonesian post-colonial society after being exposed to the unstoppable stream of information and mediatized culture. The stream of information and media is quickly changing the outlook of the culture and surroundings of their daily life.

After enjoying herself dancing for sometime, Ani Satriani closed her performance with a romantic scene: one of the musician approached and asked her to sit intimately next to him while watching at the open sea. A scene commonly found along the shoreline which fringes the city addressing itself as “the living room of Eastern Indonesia”.  The beach which no longer allows street vendors to open their stalls in the vicinity, yet gazes in awe to the numerous billboards boisterously offering modern product and lifestyle.

I did not know for sure what the dancer was trying to communicate. Maybe she just wanted to tell stories to the sea so dearly to her (since nearly all along the performance she kept facing the sea, thus making the audience behind her facing the same thing). A sad story of how young generation loses interest in traditional art. The Baju Bodho she was previously wearing, the dance she performed earlier, is a part of something outdated and no longer hip. Hence, she preferred to strip layers of traditional outfit (just like the metaphors of sophistication form and formal aesthetics in traditional art) and put on the same clothing identical to friends of her age. She also favored dangdut dancing which now dominating most of the TV programs that she daily consumed, giving her the opportunity to meet a man and court with him.

But where was exactly her position then? Was she proposing some sort of criticism in the performance that she had designed and acted in? Or she was only conveying a narration which we have repeatedly heard before? I wouldn’t have known. All I know that some of the audience was having some laugh while watching Ani telling her narration to the sea. It looked as if they were affirming or even celebrating it. One question that crossed my mind, however, is whether the dancer who is also one of the actresses of Teater Kita Makassar had the chance to glimpse the audience response as I had then? If one of the focused visions in the outdoor art forum was interaction (see box for the transcript of Arman Dewanti–ed). Isn’t response from the audience supposed to be one of the significant elements for improving the aesthetic being created?

By stating this I do not intend to underline that interaction can solely be defined when there is a reciprocal and direct communication between the performer and  audience.  Because interaction might as well finds its form in virtually one-sided communication, such as the onstage performing art which generally takes place indoor. In many cases, audience’s response which remain silence (or on the contrary moving uncomfortably) in the dark auditorium is actually indicating perceptive activities which occurs inside their mind. In turn this form of response would become a feedback which provides subsequent stimulation to the onstage performer’s acting. Perhaps we could describe the latter method as abstract interaction. Interaction which operates through abstraction. Inside one’s mind. Nonetheless, it is interaction. And referring to  Ani Satriani’s performance, I can imagine that the theme which she had put as a platform and format of aesthetics which she had offered would perhaps be more interesting if  only she had given  her audience more access to enter and engage actively in the performance. Likewise what I discovered, with its own contradiction, in the performance of Arifin Manggau.

Located in an elementary school yard in Botolempangan Street Makassar, one day before Ani Satriani held her performance on October 20, the young Makassar composer did a cross-fertilization on kentongan music which could still be found in the traditional culture of Makassar and other community in Indonesia. Kentongan music in the cosmology of traditional music relates to efforts of upholding community’s vigilance against certain threat of danger. Arifin Manggau then expanded the vigilance concept in his performance held in the spacious school yard. In the flyers distributed by the organizers he explained his performance concept:”alert to politic, religion, law, environment, education etc. But, we need to be more alert ourselves and future generation”.

On the performance designed by Arifin, I saw an interaction model in its immediate form and accessible for audience engagement, as they had even taken part creating the performance. Since it began, the performance has already constituted the target audience which would be invited to actively involve, i.e students of the elementary school, in its process of creating. And the target, to those who were not one of the students and not aware of the details projected in Arifin’s performance, has appeared flawless. Opened with a procession done by a group of less than 10   performers, they walked into the school yard while sounding the kentongan in a simple beat, soon enough the students who had just finished their class began to stare at them. At first with a puzzled look. But once the performers dispersed and gave the bamboo musical instrument to the students who have been loaded with curriculum day by day, they immediately accept it and sounded it as they like. They were even dancing in amusing gestures. As if those children had found their long lost playing field, which for a moment could set them free from schooling routines as  its curriculum mostly restrains their natural expression as children. Some of the parents who came to pick them up at school seem to be bothered by the rather impulsive event. However some of them were laughing while watching their child’s activity.

One remarkable thing taken from the above performance, I think, was when Arifin had succeeded in placing the artist as a facilitator in the creating process of an art work. By handing out the full control of the kentongan instrument to the students, Arifin and other performers has strategically submitted the performance’s aesthetic to be extended and reproduced according to their interpretation. In those particular moments, artists were no longer the single ruler over the aesthetic. And art has truly become a collective celebration. A ceremony. Unfortunately, the musician who graduated from the Music Faculty of Universitas Negeri Makassar considered his performance as a fiasco. In an informal discussion, he expressed his disappointment came forward as the performance did not go as he planned it to be. Actually, he said, the performance was to be acted from inside classrooms, where he would have taught the students some drumming pattern and type from the composition that he had already prepared. However the headmaster of SD Mangkurat did not allow it, justifying that the students were too tired after attending school all day. So the performance was demonstrated under no other options. And Arifin could not appreciate such change. He felt disappointed.

 

The Outdoor and Risks of Interaction or Where Should the Aesthetic Be Placed?

In some of the performances held in the earlier days of JOMA 2003, I had seen some sort of tensions and risks faced by the artists in their performing format which is exposed to audience interaction in its creation. Tensions and risks which in fact are carried through interaction practices alike.  Since is it not true that the audience always stands inside their own aesthetic preference and interpreting position thus more often lay outside the artist’s expectation? Hence, when they were being invited, even to be involved in the work created, I supposed, the concept and scheme which had been arranged by the artist would soon be confronted with the audience’s taste and interpretation, which highly could be contrary with the projection founded. Verily such risks and tensions would always be encountered by artists when he/she enters the outdoor, whether it is in the very sense of location or in the aesthetical[9] frame. This comes to the outdoor character, as one of the form for public space, which required more fluid and open limitations and relation pattern than, for example, those found on stages or in displaying room- indoor. Such character and situation would put the event inside in more exposure to intervention. And inside the open public space, such intervention could barge in anytime, from a particular individual or a group of community who was affected annoyed, or formal institution which base itself on claims of being the keeper of stability and authority,–such as the police or local authority (in Arifin case is the headmaster) or even the audience who is attracted to participate.

At this point, I see a whole different and fundamental problem; how the aesthetic supposed to be approach and operates in the concept and format of the art at the outdoor[10] as it is exposed to interaction?

And so it was, concerns of interaction and protest over the aesthetics of the outdoor (location) becomes the specter during the entire performance held during JOMA 2003. Such concerns that subsequently flourished into an interesting discourse and prompted further discussions among participants. It was reflected, for example, in a spontaneous discussion (unscheduled in the program) which was partaken by most of the participants and organizers of JOMA 2003, as well as other Makassar artist, on….  in one corner of  Fort Rotterdam complex. In the discussion which was initiated by Afrizal Malna (attending as an observer and documentarist of JOMA 2003) a varying interpretation and perspective from the participants came forward, over the ideas and format of the art (which occurred) at the outdoor.

Besides the perspective which only perceives the outdoor as a site for presenting certain form of art (meaning there is no significant difference and implication with the indoor), other interpretation and perspective also came forward during the discussion. For one, Halim HD, referring to the popular theatre practices done by many theater person/group in Yogyakarta between the 70’s and 80’s, suggested that perspective of the outdoor aesthetic should be more bound to the purpose of serving public as part of the social problems resolution efforts. In such aesthetical view, following the “pedagogy of the oppressed” paradigm introduced by Paulo Freire, artists should no longer inflate their ego as the subject of creation. They supposed to seat themselves as facilitators for certain society to articulate their social problem, the society which happened to be the audience as well as the creator to the art at issue[11]. Afrizal Malna pointed out another interpretation, viewing that artists have should moved beyond problematization of  the aesthetic once they enter the outdoor and be more attentive to the quality concerns of  the subsisting society in the public space. In a more provocative term, he even declared the death of the aesthetic which has now has lost its relevance.

As a matter of fact such immense gap in interpretation and standpoint, between the participating artists in JOMA 2003 could be traced down to their performance activities. Such as the one reflected in the performance I had witnessed and noted down.

“Everyone is a friend who I can ask to play with me in the small space which had been and would be built, individually or collectively. We could enter this small space, settle there, and live inside it with our own way suiting our own biography. This small room could interact with the others and could possibly enter a larger universe.All this is for you honey. For you,honey…” 

The text is quoted from a performance concept formulated by Asia Ramli Prapanca (director of Teater Kita Makassar) inscribed in the flyers which were distributed during the event. The performance entitled “ Aku Bermain di Ruang Kecil Ini” (literally, I Play Inside this Little Space”) according to my journal, managed to adequately represent the potentialities of the outdoor as an optional performing space which also set out from the aspiration to construct a more accessible interaction.

In the performance, the theatre director who always comes up with outrageous and surprising visual idioms in his works following his intensive acquaintance with Bugisnese and Makassar tradition, especially those relating to remedial rituals, began by unfurling a red ribbon from the memorial statue at Birring Kassi beach parking area into the façade of the lining small cafes which later became as the main area for the performance. The 5cm wide ribbon marked the area which was functionalized as an open arena for the game. At one edge of the ribbon, which was tied exactly to  the center of the plaza that stands in front of the small cafés lining up adjacent to  the shoreline, Asia put a pack of costumes and properties originated from his previous theater performances. He put those clothes and properties there so that anyone who is interested to come and play in his performance can use of it. A group of traditional musician, together with some actress from Teater Kita Makassar  moved along the red ribbon while pounding the music in a fast rhythm[12].. Further they paused at the end of the ribbon while continued playing the music throughout the performance. Asia Ramli then stood at the center of the plaza, wearing a black bugis sarong, and then demonstrated how to wear  large sarong in many ways.  At the corner, just next to the musicians, several actresses from Teater Kita Makassar started to dance, responding to the music freely. Some of the artist and JOMA 2003 observers sitting at the different corner were seen laughing while watching Asia Ramli in his pose. Then Asia removed his sarong, and with only wearing a pair of shorts and women’s underwear on, he took a plastic flower pot  (which was also filled with plastic flowers) and put it on the top of his head like wearing a weird hat. Afterwards, he danced in comical moves. Then the audience started to arrive arriving, stood or sat around the arena.

Just as the audience, within the next few moments  responds began to escalate;  a man in a traditional hat but wearing a casual outfit took a volley ball which was laying there and asked another man to play volley ball with him, using the red ribbon as net, then the musician played some music while assembling a formation in a military-style but in an erratic way; a group of artists and JOMA 2003 participants who previously laughing at Ramli’s conduct then moved their table, chair and some glasses of beer which they were drinking in to the arena and resumed their afternoon drinks ritual, another man carrying a roll of weaved mat from nowhere walked to the center of the arena to cut the red ribbon and tied it to the mat which he then dragged back and forth; a young man strode and ran around the arena on his otopet  (a kind of skate-board but with a controlling stick), another one picked up the costume and property shaped like a giant sickle and wore them so he became like someone with a sickle head; someone else wearing a sarong across his chest, black pants and a bamboo hat like the one used by fishermen, hauled up a bough of wood which he found lying in the waste; Kathrina Wvetrich and Fitri Setyaningsih timidly at first, entered  the arena and danced; interacting with Asia Ramli who that time carried a fish trawl made of weaved bamboo  mostly used by the fishermen; while Bahar Merdu, a director from Makassar’s Petta Puang Theater, wearing some women’s clothes, went into the arena and performed a dangdut dancing; and numerous forms of response with its own wild imagination and excitement then spread out to the entire arena of the plaza measuring more than 100m2.

Therefore the performance initiated by Asia Ramli was transformed into a kind of open carnival, a kind of uncurrated festival, and celebrated “only” games and interaction between each personnel involved. A carnival which presented itself as the “market” of expression and an opened dialogue with different interpretation and articulation yet without negating each other. A  heterotopia.  And the audience was free to choose which expression, whose little space, that came to their attention. Or they could also accept it as a whole, noisy as it was, yet oddly arranging an ensemble of collective jouisance. Just like a party in which each person is free to choose its form and celebratory reasons.

As seen in the quoted text above, the performance designed by one of the most standing director in the  ‘anging mamiri’ city was “simply” offering anyone to partake in “playing” thus constructing another interaction. Asia Ramli did not propose other theme except an invitation to such game.  The little space implied in the concept formulation is the space which is owned, created and entered autonomously and unrestrainedly by each person. And it was in the number of little spaces presented by each individual that interacts and constructs the performance entirely. While Asia Ramli himself, unlike Arifin, since the beginning was “only” initiating and facilitating the performance, who later, just like everyone else entered and played in his little space and all together constructing interaction with other’s game in their own little spaces.

While watching the little spaces created in Asia Ramli’s performance, a line came to my mind:

“performative societies in the contemporary world are found particularly where democracy and capitalism meet. In such societies performance has gained a new kind of potency because multy-party democracy weaves ideological conflict visibly into the very fabric of society. It follows that, especially in highly mediatized societies, the performative becomes a major element in the continous negotiations of power and authority.” (baz Kershaw, 1999:13)

One more performance which performativity had provoked an intensive discussion was instigated by a performance made by AGS Dwipayana. The performance designed and performed by the director of Teater Tetas Jakarta selected one of the buildings in Fort Rotterdam as its location. Precisely  in a building which is made out of ruins :with no roof and only a pair of concrete columns in  the terrace part added to the four walls which still stand solidly despite its fading color. In that particular open air space, Aji (the name everyone has been calling the writer-director) held a performance which exposed his private issues (in Dwipayana’s word: a personal biography revealed to public) by calling all JOMA 2003 participants and organizers to jointly cook chicken porridge and eat it. In the performance occurred in the midday of 23 October, there is no other audience except some JOMA participants and organizers who in turn went inside to help Aji preparing the porridge.

During the cooking process, Aji narrated a monologue about his being a widower with one child. As if he was sharing his stories and sadness after being separated with his young son, who loves the chicken porridge that he always prepared every morning. The middle age guy also revealed his unfortunate relationship with his former wife and how it broke his heart after one day, when he was in another city to attend an art event, he accidentally, came across with the woman who is now remarried with someone else. At the encounter, he said while stirring the kettle or piling fire wood at the stove, he could not restrain his emotion and went into a fight with the couple. He even hit the woman’s husband. And all of us who watched the performance were touched after listening to his heartbreaking monologue.

And then the porridge was cooked. When we began to take the chicken porridge from the kettle, all of a sudden a police car drove in to the block and stopped right nearby. Five man in a police uniform came out of their vehicle and approached us. They explained that they were looking for a man named Agung Satiadji who last night committed an abuse to his former wife’s husband. Based on the information they had received, Agung Santiadji is one of the artists who was performing in Fort Rotterdam. All of us went nervous. Most stayed in silence, confused after hearing how identical the police information was to the monologue we had previously heard.

We haven’t got the chance to eat the porridge when the policemen, after checking our identity one by one, found the man that they were searching for, no other but AGS Dwipayana; Agung Setiadji is his real name as it was written in his identification papers. The harrowing situation intensified when we saw Aji was taken by the policemen in handcuffs. In the middle of the commotion, suddenly Yanto Lehonzo climbed a chair and read Aji’s poem entitled bubur ayam (literally chicken porridge). But the policemen continued pushing Aji into the car and then exited Fort Rotterdam. We stayed quiet for a moment, trying to figure out what just had happened. No one knew for sure.

And the awkward quietness was broken after the police vehicle reentered the vicinity and Aji came out of it hands free with a big smile on his face. The policemen also gave a friendly look and not as tensed as before. Soon enough we realized that the arrest was a  part of the performance that Aji had already prepared, somehow, he managed to lend a hand from the group of police. We were laughing and swearing afterwards. Then we shook hands with the policemen for their excellent performance.  Afterwards we all ate the chicken porridge which we had prepared.

Both cases above represents two kind of different interpretation and approach regarding interaction and performance aesthetic (at the) outdoor. In Asia Ramli’s performance, the performance aesthetic remains available and as if totally submitted to game (improvisational) of each persons involved and interaction which was created among them. As an artist he was not a center anymore. He was only taking part as the creation facilitator. The manifestation of the facilitating part was done by means of preparing space, music, costume and several other properties for performing. Such as mentioned before, the objects which he had prepared could be perceived and approached with any given interpretation to anyone who is interested to his invitation. Such design made the performance, I think, ready and open to any outside intervention, for almost immediately such an opened aesthetical frame would include any intervention to the performance structure. In other words: becoming a part of the performance. In most extreme example: police or the local authority could unexpectedly come and break the performance on reasons of disturbing peace. Immediately, the arrival and breaking event become a part of the performance which performativity could be perceived as a form of signifying power contestation over the acceptable ethics and aesthetics.

Unfortunately such event did not happen. What had really happened was “no more than” a moving scene: an old woman all in her ragged clothes body replied to Asia Ramli invition to enter the arena. Then Katrina Wvetrich also created an interaction with the old lady; by hugging her and asking her to dance. At least 4 other women then came to join and created a simple dance together in a circle. While other performance participants who were joyously playing in their “little spaces” continued to play inside their own spaces and interactions. The touching scene occurred for some time and ended when Kathrina covered the old lady with a piece of gold colored cloth that she was carrying and hugged her tightly one last time. And as if there was a contact which greeted all participants, the scene became a grand finale for the carnival which was boisterous yet touching. At the backdrop the sun had set, perfectly hid below the horizon.

While in AGS Dwipayana’s performance, artist was still the core of creation.The method operated through a strictly designed and planned aesthetic created by the director. Nevertheless, what made Aji’s performance unique is that it was so carefully designed so it was still exposed to interaction. As an example we could see that when several artists one at a time helped to cook the chicken porridge. Even when Asia Ramli entered and stirred the kettle (while wearing the kettle top to cover his head from the sun) he responded Aji who was at that time sharing his grievances, saying “Don’t be so sad Aji, Come on don’t be sad…” (I wondered if it was only my imagination or the sturdy guy actually had tears on his eyes)

The most interesting part from the performance that was designed by Aji is when everyone (correction: almost all, as JOMA coordinator has turned out to be earlier informed about the planned performance design) who watched the performance got carried away by the arrival and arrest scene. On that time, the design which Aji made had succeeded in “captivating” and placed the audience inside the performance structure.

Another form and approach offered by the aesthetic of the outdoor could also be found in the performance of Zulkifli Pagessa  from Palu, Central Sulawesi. The artist-cum-theatrical who graduated architecture education explored urban idioms and problems. In his performance he problematized how city plan and its inhabitility are no longer friendly nor care to social concerns. The concept was materialized in the performativity: at exactly noon, the artist from Palu walked barefooted on one of the street at the city center of Makassar. With only wearing two pieces of black plastic he greeted people passing by while offering a plate with a beef liver on it which he bought from the market and said: “This is my conscience. Care to eat it?”

Unlike the two performances mentioned before, he translated the forum’s interaction concept approaching the ‘audience’ (citizen) on the street. And ready or not, the audience was frontally offered by a form of thought through the plate of conscience on how  the city is becoming more and more hostile to the marginalized people. On this case, the artist had intentionally intervened public. Likewise, such interaction method could also be found on the salesman/girl who many times intrudes our private peace with their visit and offerings. And like the door-to-door selling method, sometimes the method could bring a rewarding result; some consumers are actually attracted and buying the products offered. Perhaps Zulkifli Pagessa’s performance also experienced the same thing.

 

Closing Note

Apart from the universe of difference that came to light as to how the outdoor, interaction and esthetic were identified, I believed that JOMA 2003 has succeeded in becoming a forum which lay an open space for exploring the possibilities of performance articulation form (in) the outdoor. The different interpretation and perspective once receiving their articulation, whether in the formulation of ideas or work, has in fact built a rich and valuable discourse. Moreover, if Sanggar Merah Putih Makassar as the organizer continues to improve the management performance of this remarkable event in concurrence with their efforts, so as to Makassar artists’, to seek out strategic steps in accomplishing the objectives of JOMA which they had lined out; reclaiming the city public space as a collective living space. Since it is on the last two subjects, the organizing performance and strategy for reclaiming the city public space, which as I noted are still blotched with several problems.

First, such as seen in how the performance schedules were repeatedly changed. Each day there was a revision on the schedule which had been handed out on the first day of the event. Although in JOMA 2003 this incidence did not turn into a big problem since there was a good interaction between participants and JOMA organizer, but the question remains: How much  longer will such working format, despite its being founded on cordialities, continue to put aside certain performance defects in organizing the event that intends to involve more artists. In the mean time, the interaction that was built among JOMA 2003 participants deserves some credits, because disregarding the debate concerning whether the performances created have succeeded in building good interaction with public, interaction among the participants themselves has exposed its concreteness: the spontaneous collaborations during the performance creation and informal warm companionship has accessed the possibilities for future creative interaction. Yet still, certain matters in the management performance need its own focusing.

Meanwhile, about the manifesting strategy of JOMA 2003 main objective which aimed at reentering and claiming back the city public space as a collective living space, it would be hard to imagine that it can be achieved in a short range of time. However it is through its objective, I believed, which made the art event forum just as important. As well as efforts to extend networks by inviting involvement from artists and other cultural and social institutions, which shares relevance and commitment on problems constituted by city development, perhaps could make it more possible. And so it is.

 

[1] The text is written in JOMA 2003 information brochures which were distributed to audience who happened to watch the performance made by participating artists. This brochure was also attached to the email invitation that I received.

[2] Detailed information on JOMA 2003 vision and objective could be seen in the box  in page

[3] In this whole body text you will find that the use of the phrase of public space and outdoor  keeps  changing and switching places, to point out a more or less similar meaning. Of course, difference and categorical differentiation between the two spatial terms does exist and could be done, but I choose not to do it since in the context of JOMA  (arranged by the organizer) both terms are used variably  without categorical separation.

[4]Halim HD (Solo), Zulkifli Pagessa (Palu), Yanto Lehonzo (Jakarta), AGS Arya Dipayana (Jakarta), Katharina Wvethrich (Swiss) dan Fitri Setyaningsih (Solo).

[5] Kajang is one of the sub-ethnic in South Sulawesi, without major difference of population with the other ethnic.  ‘Orang Kajang’,  the name that Makassar people gave them, lives in an isolated area, such as Badui community in West Jave. Their leader is called Ammatoa and considered as sacred. In daily life, and especially in traditional ceremony, most of the people wear black outfit.

[6] The name Makassar people refers to the entire ethnic groups which assemble the society living on the city. Four others ethic groups which claims as native living in the city is Bugis, Makassar, Toraja.

[7] Form and idiom of the performance took or inspired by other existing form somewhere else, in this sense traditional art realm and  set it in different context.

[8] A traditional costume which is also wore for Pakarena dancing.

[9] The distinction on the outdoor became a discourse even since the previous JOMA. Check box for Arman Dewanti interview in this journal.

[10] As an interesting comparison,  a form movement in fine art has been flourishing since late 90’s in Yogyakarta led by a group of young artists from Apotik Komik. Motorised by Samuel Indratma, the phenomenal manifestation of the movement called “ Public fine art” could be seen in… mural projects which occurred in ….. The painting project of Yogya city’s wall  which was soiled with graffiti and promotion posters had received warm response from it citizen. Some kampong community and high school students by their own initiative also painted the empty walls in surrounding area. I think the movement initiated by Apotik Komik could be the perfect example of how the concept of interaction between art and public, and its surrounding is interpreted.

[11] Such as the one found in practices of  popular theatre which are growing in Latin America. In Asia, the theater practice which based itself on the Paulo Freire’s philosophy of popular education) flourished in Philippine, especially under Marcos government and India.  During the early 70’sseveral authors and theatricus in Indonesia joined the workshops of popular theater held by PETA (Philipine Education and Theatre Association). Including , Ariel Heryanto, Emha Ainun Najib, Simon Hate and…  Since then, the concept and method of popular theater has been flourishing and used in programs for deconstructing the “silenced society” which have been done by many non governmental organizations in Indonesia. For further readings:

[12] In  my notes, the traditional music delivered in of the Makassar artists’ performance are similar, with the same instrument and musicians.