(P61) Streaming the Tradition: Court and Grassroots Performing Arts in Yogyakarta during the Pandemic


Single Panel


Session 1
Wed 09:00-10:30 K12 | 2.03


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Present-day Java maintains a remarkable variety of traditional performing arts that are still alive and practiced today. Theatrical and musical, puppet and trance performances are held for various occasions, from national and religious holidays to family celebrations. Even during the pandemic, when large social gatherings were restricted, traditional performers did not abandon their vocation and employed internet and variousstreaming platforms (mainly Facebook, YouTube and Instagram) to share their art, creatively express their longing for the things going back to normal, but also address the issues directly connected to the pandemic.

While the use of social media for advertising (and, occasionally, streaming) traditional performances (on both court and village levels) was not entirely unprecedented, the circumstances of 2020 have clearly contributed to the significant acceleration of this trend. Following it, this panel aims to bring together scholars researching traditional arts in the Special Region of Yogyakarta who were forced by the pandemic to move their research into virtual space. In the era known as jaman now (‘the time of now’), many wayang kulit puppeteers have already started to adopt live streaming on their personal YouTube channels or in cooperation with other channels with the aim of reaching larger audiences. Especially during the pandemic, some of the most famous dalangs went a step further by inventing new formats such as wayang elektrik and wayang climen to meet the new demand for online performances and to gain ‘followers’. Increased use of social media has reached even the ‘highest sphere’ of Javanese culture – the court
arts. Court dance and gamelan sessions as well as ‘backstage’ documentaries have become fertile grounds for promoting the use of masks and sanitary protocols thanks to the Instagram visibility of the Yogyanese royal family. Even in case of jathilan trance dance, which in the past might have been a target of criticism for its chaotic and unruly nature, the emphasis on compliance with the new health rules has come to the fore, with face coverings, sanitizer bottles and disinfectant sprayers occasionally replacing traditional props and attributes.

Collectively, this panel’s presentations intend to outline how performing traditions with different historical, cultural and even class connotations enter the common leveled playing field of the Web and search for their place and strategy in this mostly uncharted territory