Moving Stasis

Performance of Moving Stasis. Source: soydivision documentation.

When one hits the noble Gong Ageng, it signifies at least three different events: (1) the start of a musical piece, (2) the end/start of a musical cycle, and (3) the end of a musical piece. The music of the Gamelan repeats its musical cycle. Its repetition is, however, not repetitive. It changes in each repetition, so subtle and soft: a moving stasis.

When the Dalang (puppet master) listened that the Gong sounds after the end of the Ouverture to a Wayang (shadow puppet) performance, the Dalang would start reciting the stories, and the all-night ritual begins. The puppets are us, the stories are our own. We, the characters in such stories, embark on a certain journey. In many stories, we find ourselves staying in one place for a very long time or sometimes forever.

Why do we do such things? We should listen closely to the storyteller. Sometimes it is a quest for a better future. In other times it is a story of exile. In between, there are also tales of love, conquest for glory, and pilgrimage of personal perfection. Some of the heroes, tragically, are simply looking for a place to die.

In all of these stories they fight. Conflict comes when they face the challenge of climate and the environment of the new place. Those who came from the sea might have to face the fierce mountain. An honest villager would have to deal with complex city dwellers. And what about those foreign cultures, the local rulers, the people of the new land? They demand that the heroes take heed to their regulations and customs. Some of the heroes adapt, either willingly or not. Some of them stay hidden in the dark, in disguise.

In every story such as these, we would listen also on how they survive. What drives them so? What is their strategy? Do they achieve what they seek? To their stories we dissolve ourselves until, finally, the Gong Ageng sounds for the last time, the Dalang stop the recitation, and we realize that a new cycle of the day begins. The ritual has ended but our life starts. The challenge of bureaucracy, personal adaptation to new cultures, conflicts arising from the clash of values, urbanization, and industrialization: are not these also the ones that the heroes in the Wayang also faced?

In Moving Stasis, we invite the audience to have faith in the Dalang in telling their stories. While watching the “puppets” act, the music accompanies. The audience may reflect on themselves, on their own story. The Indonesian word “tinggal” has an interesting meaning. One meaning is that of “staying”. The other one is that of “leaving”. In the long tradition of “merantau” (voluntary journey or migration), one, indeed, left something behind during their stay in the foreign land.


Rostock, 25 January 2020 #essay #nurhin

Program note to Moving Stasis. Art performance with light installation, electronic music, and improvisational theater. In collaboration with Nindya Nareswari, Jan K., Ariel William Orah, and Morgan “Memeshift”. Motif Wein, Berlin.