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"Ancestral Shades": The Arti Foundation and the Practice of Pelestarian in Contemporary Bali

From: Asian Theatre Journal
Volume 28, Number 1, Spring 2011
pp. 67-103 | 10.1353/atj.2011.0012

Abstract

Abstract:

In 1999 the Arti Foundation, under the creative leadership of Kadek Suardana, staged an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth in the classical Balinese dance-drama form of gambuh. The production signaled the foundation's intent to actively engage with classical forms of Balinese performing arts as a means of stimulating interest in their ongoing survival. The foundation was established and staged Gambuh Macbeth within a context of a discourse exhorting Balinese to preserve their heritage, in particular those classical forms such as gambuh perceived to be in danger of disappearing. This discourse of preservation (pelestarian) has come to encapsulate a sense of the past as representing demise or loss and a concomitant imperative to intervene to ensure that forms do not die out. At an official level the discourse has tended to be somewhat programmatic and based on a static sense of pelestarian as "museumification." My concern in this article is to explore the implications of such a discourse for artistic production in Bali. In particular, how it can impose constraints upon choreographers, composers, and dramaturgs seeking to create modern Balinese performing arts that resonate with a wider public surrounded by a surfeit of traditional forms. I argue that the Arti Foundation and the production of Gambuh Macbeth offer insight into the potential of pelestarian that offers a creative model for reinvigorating traditional forms in Bali.



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