Editorial #01

Uluk Salam

You are now reading the first edition of a seminal journal of various ideas about theater and general performing art in Indonesia. One could sow ideas through numerous fashion: starting from a personal reflection on one’s own as well as other’s experiences, a chat in some coffee stand, a discussion after a rehearsal or performance, to some coverage in the media, and so forth. Among the various alternatives, the print media in form of a journal offers several strategic advantage to the current process of ideas dissemination, especially in documentary and publication. The two functions that the journal you are reading wishes to perform.

It is a known fact that art workers in Indonesia continue rehearsing, performing and discussing, however, most of the times, the ideas generated during the creative process would perish into thin air or be kept inside the mortal mind and body. Perhaps it would not be too harshly to say that the art existence in Indonesia has yet to move far from oral tradition. Verbalization does not altogether mean bad, moreover, considering that any performance is ‘oral’ and lapse in time. Better yet, verbalization (such as written) has its own restraint and likelihood which well again considered in accordance with challenges of time.

The challenges for people in our time are the tempo of life that is becoming more rapid and overwhelming, cramming with the bustles of information, transformation of various segregated roles of political-social-economy, as well as cross-geographical motion. Just like a merry-go-round that turns violently, one event to another is fleeting by without any chance of identification anymore than comprehensive signification. Thus, it becomes questionable: to what extent people (art workers) would still able to solidify the rapidly ever-changing events, and then combine (creative process) it into something (a piece) more comprehensive? The stronger current of life should be contrived. One way is to ‘seize’ the flow of life is by writing it and, of course, reading it. By recording it into writings, all the events and generated ideas could be once again identified, observed or even re-signified. Likewise, it is the writing function as a medium of recording, although not entirely function, that this journal is aiming to present.

Perhaps in reality there are some art workers who individually noted down all the events or creative processes he had gone through. However, the information appears to public often limited to stages or exhibitions, the ‘final’ form of a long creative process (and possibly would continue). During stage performance or exhibition (takes place in a limited space and time), the public is confronted with a tip of an iceberg—while the greater part remains hidden. The parts of ideas and creative process which were sometimes exposed after performances discussions often do not reach the extensive public. It is considerable: whether such tendency could raise the public maturity in appreciating art? Bearing in mind that such maturely appreciation could not be expected from a ready to consume indulgence. For that reason, this journal also intended to act as a media for conveying ideas and creative process to greater public; to mutually share and document all the idea that lies behind the work of art.

Lèbur. That is the name of the journal.
Lèbur is not taken from the French language which toils the prefix: le, it is Maduranese. There, the word lèbur is used to express the Maduranese “essence of aesthetic experience”. Referred through this word, the definitions of amusing, good, beautiful which is prepositionally fixed to forms of art phenomena—from cloth, singing, dance to theater (Bouvier 2002). There are similarly numerous local idioms which could be applied to refer such quality of a performance. Among the Javanese the idioms of ramé, gayêng is commonly used.

In Bekasi, Banten, performers of Topeng Kaleng (literally Can Mask)—a Sundanese performance which stages music, singing, comedy, martial-art and drama—express the success of failure their performance in terms of ‘jadi’ or ‘tidak jadi’ (literally ‘becoming’ or ‘unbecoming. They consider a performance jadi if the performers could make the audience shed tears during tragic scenes, burst into laugh upon the clown’s folly and shoot anger to an antagonist character. The Topeng Kaleng Company boasts its performance success, for example, by telling how the antagonist player became pelting target of the audience–even after the show. That is their definition of ‘jadi’; that is their highest pleasure in art creation.

People might ask: what is becoming and becoming what? It is fair to say that becoming is a moment when the line between playfulness and seriousness, between the art sphere and the daily world; between a playing field and real life space; between the audience and performer, fades, in other word; lebur (literally dissolve), becoming a collective event. Perhaps it is not far off from the definition of ndadi, which is used to call the moment of trance in the Javanese Kuda Kepang performance.

Lèbur, ramé, gayêng, ndadi, and possibly other similar local terms, has wisely taught us that the thing which until now confined within the walls of “art” is actually not merely a matter of artistic— neither should the artistic is understood as simply technical. In reality, the subversions occurred in the ‘modern’ art to break the confining artistic convention could be seen as a move returning to the old wisdom. If the journal selects Lèbur for it’s a name, it is meant for affirming the vision that the journal has chosen, i.e to remove all the partitions which split between art and non-art: between theater and fine art, music, dance, architecture; between art and ritual, political and economy; between traditional, modern and contemporary, between audience and performer, and so forth. Even though this journal focuses on theater, nevertheless it does not pertain solely to it. This journal sees the removal of such partitions is absolutely necessary, at least in the domain of idea –the area which the printed journal would like to facilitate. The connecting roof between each field is performance and performativity, because either art would find itself in its fullest capacity once it is being staged, displayed- in other word, performed to public. Inspired by the aforementioned local terms, the journal also understands that a performance is an event which is becoming. The becoming or unbecoming of a performance takes place when the event is being performed. From this perspective, the journal could be seen as a kind of rehearsal. Where the seeds of performing events are being sowed and nourished, which later on could expectedly be harvested in works of art or appreciations.

Enjoy your reading and your contribution of ideas is highly expected.