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Teater Garasi's new studio, seeking alternative paths

Bambang Muryanto

The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta  /  Thu, January 18, 2018  /  09:05 am
Teater Garasi's new studio, seeking alternative paths

Just relax: Ferial Afiff presents Refreshing, which features four online masseuses who massage their clients. The performance reminds people to regularly get some relaxation. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)

This New Year brings a new studio for Teater Garasi (Garasi Performance Institute), which is located in Nitiprayan art village, Yogyakarta. The troupe has renovated its rear storehouse into a new studio measuring 8 meters by 7 m to further support the theater group’s new artistic achievements.

Set up in 1993, Teater Garasi has been one of Indonesia’s major theater troupes. In 2013, the Netherlands Prince Claus Fund granted the Prince Claus Award to this group for its innovative work, celebrating Indonesian pluralism and promoting performance art in Southeast Asia.

Teater Garasi director Yudi Ahmad Tajudin said the new studio’s construction was funded by the Creative Economic Agency (Bekraf). 

“Bekraf has a program for revitalization of creative art infrastructure and facilities. Our proposal was accepted,” he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

The launch of the studio is celebrated with a thanksgiving week themed Buka Studio, 7 Hari 7 Malam Jalan Tikus (Studio Opening, 7 Days and Nights on Rat Tracks), lasting from Jan. 14 to 20, which Yudi described as a very important moment in the troupe’s journey for novel artistic attainments. 

“Rat tracks are the curatorial language for this event,” he said. 

He said the term refers to alternative roads that are valued for how they solve the problem of road congestion, thus representing the creativity of citizens. 

“This becomes the orientation of Teater Garasi, which chooses alternative roads after traveling the main highway in our 24-year history,” he added. 

Contemplating: Transgender artist Tamara Pertamina performs Untitled.Contemplating: Transgender artist Tamara Pertamina performs Untitled. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)

The program features performances, dances, a book launch, theater and musical shows. Among the participating artists are Lucia Neti Cahyani with yoga, Simamat with short films, Paksi Raras Alit with macapatan (Javanese poetry recitation) and dance performances by Fitridancework, Arie Dwianto and Sutrianingsih. Yogyakarta-based band Melancholic Bitch is set to wrap up the program. 

Tari gedruk topeng ireng, an energetic dance performed by Nitiprayan artists wearing Native American-like headdresses and stomping their feet, opened the ceremony on Jan. 14, followed by kenduri  (ritual feast) and prayers to express gratitude and ask for protection.

In the evening, the 69 Performance Club from Forum Menteng presented Out of the Penal Colony: The Partisan Edition, with the accompaniment of Anna Marly’s song, “Complainte du Partisan.”

Inspired by Franz Kafka’s short story, Penal Colony, the show reminded men of how they are controlled by the media. 

“It’s our fourth appearance after staging it in Belgium, Prague and Geneva,” said Otty Widasari from the club.

Ferial Afiff’s performance, Refreshing, came next in a more relaxed way by featuring four online masseuses who were massaging their clients. While they were acting, an overhead projector screen displayed beautiful coastal scenery, making it look like it took place by the beach along with music therapy.

The evening performances were closed with Untitled by Tamara Pertamina, a transgender artist. Tamara, in her long dress and wearing high-heeled shoes, entered the stage, showed off her thighs and took a seat. After remaining there for 10 minutes, she stood up and exited. The action was also shown on a screen to depict transgender life in reality and in the media.

“I want people to speculate with their own thoughts,” she said in a discussion session. 

Tamara said her daily life constituted a performance amid an increasingly conservative society. “They say I’m not normal, but I have no problem with my life,” she said at the closing session of the night, discussing performance art on the theater stage. 

The new studio program also highlighted the launch of a poetry book by Gunawan Maryanto of Teater Garasi, titled Kembang Sepasang (A Pair of Flowers), on Jan. 15. The poet and short story writer said in Javanese culture, the book title refers to families having twin female children. 

“My book tries to reinterpret the Javanese view of children,” he said. 

Reviewing the book, poet Joko Pinurbo said a writer of poetry should have a command of the culture to which he or she belongs to be able to process words from the local culture for the enrichment of vocabulary of the Indonesian language.

“I see Gunawan’s work as macapat in Javanese culture, which should be read many times to grasp its meaning,” added Pinurbo. 

Yudi Ahmad Tajudin said the art activities and discussions could broaden the horizon of Teater Garasi’s 11 actors and the other artists taking part. 

“Performing art has minimum infrastructure with no room for criticism. This is an attempt to introduce an environment with a share in the creation of works of art,” he said. 

Yudi voiced conviction that the absence of professional theater art in Indonesia could just revolutionize the effort of amateurs working on the basis of their love of the artistic world. 

“We don’t know what we’ll achieve because we set no targets, which makes us even more passionate,” he added.

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