Flat puppets on an empty screen, stories in the round Imagining space in wayang kulit and the worlds beyond

Bernard Arps

Abstract


The puppets are flat, the screen against which they are placed and moved is white and devoid of scenery. In what kinds of space do the stories of the classical shadow-play of Java, Bali, Lombok, and the Malay world unfold despite this double flatness? How do performers use not only puppets and screen but also music and language to bring space into being? What must spectators know and do to make sense of these storytelling techniques? As a contribution to the narratological study of the multimodal making of storyworlds, I demonstrate that wayang kulit caters for different degrees of interpretive competence, which yield different understandings of the space that wayang portrays. An expert way of apprehending space requires seeing beyond the screen, puppets, and silhouettes, or even looking away from them. At the same time the peculiar ways of narrating space in wayang point to a deeply felt spatiality in real-life contexts as well.

Keywords


Space; spatial affect; spatiality; worldmaking; multimodal storytelling; narratology; philology of performance; Southeast Asian studies; shadow puppetry

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References


Audio material

Nasib AR, H. L. s.a. Perang Demis; Wayang kulit Gema Rinjani, Gerung Lobar. S.l.: Sri Record. (Three C-60 audio cassettes.)

Taram with Karawitan Setya Budi directed by Taram. s.a. Gatut Koco Popo; Wayang kulit Banyumasan. S.l.: Hiba Record. (Seven C-60 audio cassettes.)

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Video material

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17510/wacana.v17i3.455

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