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Pandemic challenges festival organizers to rethink performance art

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta  /  Thu, November 19, 2020  /  03:29 pm
Pandemic challenges festival organizers to rethink performance art

A dancer performs “Sujha”, part of the Gugus Bagong 2020 virtual arts event hosted by the Padepokan Seni Bagong Kussudiardja (PSBK) arts center in Yogyakarta from Wednesday to Saturday. (

The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked many aspects of life, including art.

As a result of the global pandemic, artists today must present their work virtually to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The biennial Gugus Bagong performance art festival, which was initiated by Padepokan Seni Bagong Kussudiardja (PSBK) in 2018, is no exception.

After considering calling the program off this year, the organizer eventually decided to press on with the festival with several changes, including going virtual to avoid crowds.

Bagong Kussudiardja Foundation executive director Jeannie Park said they had the responsibility to create space for art dialogue and meetings, allowing people to interact with one another.

“During this pandemic, the responsibility is even greater because everyone is isolated. So, we’ve agreed to have a digital transformation, something that we just have to do. This is a learning point,” she said.

The cocurator of the festival’s performance program, Shohifur Ridho’i, said that Gugus Bagong 2020, which is being held virtually from Nov. 18 to 21, did not respond to the pandemic specifically but that the outbreak had influenced the operation of the festival.

“This makes us rethink the meaning of performance arts these days,” Ridho’i said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

He was referring to the way the festival is presenting performances, allowing audiences to watch from their homes.

He added that the festival now had to involve cinematic touches – the mediation of cameras – because all the performances were taped to be aired later on its website.

Taking “Transition” as its main theme, the festival is presenting three programs during the four-day event from Wednesday to Saturday. They are “Rubik”, “Mozaik”, and “Pranala”.

“Rubik” presents art and live-streamed discussions on each of the works, involving artists, curators and cinematographers.  

“Mozaik” presents webinars on various topics related to performance arts, while “Pranala” is an archive-based visual presentation. “Rubik” will present four performances.

On its opening day on Wednesday, the event showcased “Dialogia Dapur”, which featured Ela Mutiara (dance), Muhammad Tahta Gilang Anfasya Nasution (fine art), Surya Ahadianur (music) and Syamsul Arifin (theater).

“Sujha”, featuring choreographer Eka Lutfi Febriantono, was presented on Thursday, followed by “Dari Pagi Menuju Pagi” on Friday, featuring Chesa Selasa (fashion design), Hana Medita (dance), Mathori Brilyan (theater), and Rangga Aji Purnama (music). 

On its closing day on Saturday, the event is set to showcase Sophiyah’s “In Transit: It’s time to Redo”.

“They are all the work of young artists, born in the 90s, who have been invited to participate in the festival because they are growing and are in the process of seeking in the context of creating,” Ridho’i said.

The festival’s person-in-charge, Teguh Hari Prasetyo, said Gugus Bagong 2020 wanted to emphasize elements that people had often neglected through the three programs.

“What is called a show is actually not just what is presented on stage but also the presence of the audience as well as the process backstage. All of these parts form the integral parts of a performance,” he said. (swa)

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