Serenaded By Sound And
Shadow – Balinese Rituals
During my visit to Indonesia in 2019, I stayed in Ubud (Bali) for a few weeks doing research on gamelan music.
During this time there was a ceremony almost every day. I attended many different ceremonies, took part in gamelan music classes, met musicians there and recorded a lot of audiovisual material.
I am very grateful to Putu Septa and his family for introducing me to this beautiful for me new world of rich balinese culture and also allowed me to have a look inside of the society, people, art and culture.
I am happy with the lessons learnt there, because they helped me to understand more about the Balinese people, their culture, traditions, music and rituals in an experiential way, being directly involved in the process.
The performing arts of Bali are diverse and complex. Every form of music, dance, drama, and shadow puppetry originated as, or even is, a function of ritual. Even the more contemporary art forms are closely linked to the past. Balinese dance and theatre is spectacular - from lavish costumes to rhythmic eye movements to incredible improvisation by the performers.
Core cultural values are passed on through the arts and are reflected in the stories told and the movements performed.
The main expression of Balinese religion is rituals and festivals where people spend hours making offerings of flowers, food and palm leaf figurines. Daily small offerings called "Canang Sari" containing symbolic food and flowers are placed in temples and shrines around the family compound.
There are countless religious festivals in Bali. Some of those ceremonies can last a week to 10 days. The village prepares for the coming days by cleaning and decorating the temple, preparing large elaborate offerings at home, and preparing the food that will be provided to the priest and musicians during the festival.
The first day leads to crowded streets as throngs of devotees march to the temples in their finest traditional attire, carrying pyramids of food and fruit as offerings on their heads. Days of prayer, music and dancing to entertain the gods.
The purpose of my trip was to learn gamelan instruments and music. But what I really learned on this trip was much more than that. I learned about the culture of Bali, about its people and their customs, traditions, believes, gods, music and their connection.
In Balinese there is an individual cultural understanding of stage presence called taksu. It's about the exchange of energy, based on inner voice and thoughts, between the performer and the audience.
The ritual is only successful if this succeeds.
By taking this up, a completely new approach to the relationship between artists and audience, which is common here, is envisaged.
My research from Balinese ceremony forms is the basis for my new work RITUAL #3. This work represents a format in which not only the performers but also the audience can act actively, following the instructions and thus becoming part of the performance.
The idea behind this project was to create a new kind of art and communication form: it combines elements of theatre, art and music and through the integration of social rituals, everyday objects and modern digitality becomes a place of encounter with sensual perceptions.
The performers interact with each other as well as with the audience, who can also join in during certain parts of the performance. Thereby they can become participants in this unique experience.
RITUAL #3 is a new integrative art form and becomes a place of encounter with sensual perceptions.