Conference Panels

DISENTANGLING THE CREATIVE PROCESS: KNOWLEDGE AND VALUE(S) IN CREATIVE PERFORMANCE

Co-convenor: Monika Winarnita (contact person), Anthropology, Australian National University, and affiliate, La Trobe University
Email: monika.winarnita@anu.edu.au
Co-convenor: Max Richter, Anthropology, Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University
Email: Max.Richter@monash.edu
Co-convenor: Sandra Bader, Anthropology, Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University
Email: sandra.bader@monash.edu

Creative performance, including dance, music, performance art and installation art (interactive work), is particularly sensitive to knowledge and value/s. Globalisation influences knowledge and value/s associated with the “creativity” of performance, but how? We need to unpack our understandings of “creativity”. To what extent can attention to aesthetics explain the creative process? How do transnational and transcultural flows affect knowledge and value/s that are placed on creativity and certain aesthetic tastes and messages? How are audience engagement and inter-subjectivity part of the creative process of performance? This panel reflects critically on and problematizes universal concepts of creativity, and seeks to challenge dichotomous categories such as individual/collective, culture/nature, and innovation/imitation. Contributions are welcome that reach beyond an understanding of creativity as associated with individual agency and take the socio-cultural context of the collective into account, query the idea of creativity being located in culture as well as nature, and seek to understand creativity not only as defined by measures of convention-breaking innovation, but also by imitation, mimesis and replication. Further, we encourage papers which explore the socio-cultural fields in which creativity is embedded and discuss inter-subjectivity and aesthetics in the creative process within these fields.

We welcome papers on any location, and particularly encourage papers with examples from Southeast Asia and/or Australia.

  • SESSION 1     Room: 1.29 SOC SCI     Wed 6/7/2011     Time: 11.00-12.30     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: The Degeneracy of the Creative Process: the diverse musical structures and movement repertoires of West Sumatran and Afro-Bahian fight-dancing
      • Paul H. Mason, Macquarie University
    • Paper 2: Kalango 'Craziness' Creative Performance in the Podu rituals of Wakabubak megalithic villages, West Sumba, Indonesia
      • Tuti Gunawan, and David Mitchell, Monash University
    • Paper 3: Intersubjectivity in the performance of Acehnese song-dance genres with body percussion
      • Margaret Kartomi, Monash University
  • SESSION 2     Room: 1.29 SOC SCI     Wed 6/7/2011     Time: 13.30-15.00     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: The creative process of a Perth Indonesian migrant women Hindu epic Ramayana dance drama
      • Monika Winarnita, The Australian National University
    • Paper 2: Creativity in Performance: Aesthetic Experiences in Dangdut Performances in Rural West Java
      • Sandra Bader, Monash University
  • SESSION 3     Room: 1.29 SOC SCI     Wed 6/7/2011     Time: 15.30-17.00     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: Running in circles: Value struggles and the contradictions of political performance in the Bandung DIY hardcore scene
      • Sean Martin-Iverson, The University of Western Australia
    • Paper 2: Jazz Rasa Jogja: Creative performances in Yogyakarta Jazz Communities
      • Oki Rahadianto Sutopo, Gadjah Mada University
    • Paper 3: Forest, Rural and Urban Musical Markers in South and Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
      • Max Richter, Monash University
  • SESSION 4     Room: 1.29 SOC SCI     Thurs 7/7/2011     Time: 11.00-12.30     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: Social Recognition and Dance Amongst Saibai Islanders (Torres Strait)
      • Richard Davis, The University of Western Australia
    • Paper 2: Creative causality: values, aesthetics and perceptions of past, present and future in Altai Urianghai social singing, Duut Soum, Mongolia
      • Rebekah Plueckhahn, The Australian National University
    • Paper 3: Australian hip hop culture and the establishment of Tongan identity within it
      • Elizabeth Rebecca Betz, La Trobe University

    SESSION 1 (90 mins)

    Chair: Sandra Bader

    Paper 1: The Degeneracy of the Creative Process: the diverse musical structures and movement repertoires of West Sumatran and Afro-Bahian fight-dancing

    Paul H. Mason, Macquarie University

    Models of creativity in psychology are based on generative processes. However, a reformulation of the concept of degeneracy suggests creativity is a degenerative process. The study of degeneracy has been detached from the social sciences because of the negative associations the term attracted during the 19th and 20th century. A neutral definition of degeneracy was introduced to biology from physics in 1954 and refers to the structural diversity underlying functional similarity. This concept has proven insightful for genetics, immunology, neuroimaging, and evolutionary systems modelling. In biological systems, the loss of a genetic component can be compensated by redundant elements (the presence of other identical components), or by degenerate elements (structurally different components that perform the same function). In a biological system, degeneracy can be determined by deleting an element and observing if its deletion is accommodated by a net-flux of the system. At the cultural level, degeneracy can be ethically determined by comparing the different structures a single community manifests at different times or through a cross-cultural comparison of two different but contemporaneous societies that manifest structurally different but functionally similar activity with respect to context. Performances of fight-dancing during annual ceremonies in Salvador da Bahia and West Sumatra are considered as evidence of degeneracy at the cultural level. Brazilian and Indonesian fight-dancing exhibit different musical and movement structures, but fulfill similar functional roles within specific cultural contexts. Degeneracy, once characterised at the cultural level, is a potent analytical tool that assists an understanding of creativity and human diversity.

    Paper 2: Kalango 'Craziness' Creative Performance in the Podu rituals of Wakabubak megalithic villages, West Sumba, Indonesia

    Tuti Gunawan and David Mitchell, Monash University

    The Podu rituals are held every year in the megalithic villages around the town of Waikabubak in West Sumba, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia. They are an unusual example of a traditional ritual which is flourishing and attracting new audiences at a time and place in which many other traditions are declining or being abandoned altogether. We made video recordings of highlights of the climactic day called kalango or 'craziness'. This comes at the end of a month of prohibition of all other celebrations, including funerals, weddings and anything that might detract from the sacredness of Podu. Kalango involves a series of dancing, singing and drumming performances in and around the sacred space in centre of the village. A circle of megalithic tombstones provides both a grandstand for the audience, and props for dare-devil leaping from one tombstone to another. Several levels of creativity could be identified. Competitive creativity is on display in individual performances as young men and women compete to show who can present the most ferocious male war-dances and the most elegant femininity. Transgressive creativity appears in gender-reversal dancing and other rule-breaking behaviour that is allowed only on this day - with some braver individuals always ready to test just how far they can go. Perhaps most important of all is entrepreneurial creativity that allows for greater inclusivity. This revival of ancient rituals depends on a re-interpretation of their meaning to make them acceptable to followers of the modern religions. The participation of Christian Sumbanese and visitors from outside Sumba is a new source of respect and legitimacy.

    Paper 3: Intersubjectivity in the performance of Acehnese song-dance genres with body percussion

    Margaret Kartomi, Monash University

    For the groups of male or female artists who perform them, Acehnese song-dances with body percussion are quintessentially communal expressions of physical and emotional intimacy with each other, of male or female traits, and of constructs of Acehnese identity. Depending on a group's choice of song texts, they are also expressions of religious devotion or secular experiences, or a combination of the two. The artists' creativity is embedded in their communal view of the world, based on their mix of Muslim beliefs and vestiges of indigenous religion. This paper investigates how relational issues between individual artists in the group are communicated verbally before and non-verbally during a rehearsal or a performance. Their creative intersubjectivity, or shared subjective states, lies in their intimate physical and emotional contact with each other as they perform the genres' strenuous body exercises, dance movements, body percussion and songs with the required artistic elegance and grace. The dances are designed for performance either in standing (dong) or sitting (duek) - actually kneeling - position. On the one hand the creativity of the group lies in its choice - by verbal communication - of texts, melodies, dance routines and body percussion episodes, which imposes a unique structure on each resulting performance, and on the other by their modes of non-verbal communication at a very fast pace during the course of the performance. The standing dances are male seudati agam and female seudati inong and pho, and the sitting dances are female meuseukat and male or female ratoh duek.

    This presentation includes a live dance performance

    Discussant: Richard Davis

    SESSION 2 (90 mins)

    Chair: Paul Mason

    Paper 1: The creative process of a Perth Indonesian migrant women Hindu epic Ramayana dance drama

    Monika Winarnita, The Australian National University

    Anthropological literature on migrant dance performances has discussed the trans-national/cultural flows of knowledge and aesthetic values affecting the creative process of individual/collective performance. This paper explores tensions in the dichotomous category of individual/collective in the social process of creativity; as shown in a migrant dance group's (Perth Indonesian women) interpretation of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Guided by a five minute Spanish-Indonesian soundtrack of Balinese 'Kecak' found in Holland, members of the group danced individual characters to perform the Ramayana as a collective. They perform their characters according to their individual dance backgrounds which include Javanese, Balinese, Sundanese ethnic folk / classical training, or international belly dancing styles. Some members were also inspired by two earlier dance performances in Perth, both of which showed trans-national/cultural flows of knowledge and aesthetic values. The first performance was a Balinese version of the Ramayana (colonial origins) at the Perth Indonesian Independence day celebration. This version had religious Hindu ritualistic elements, including a trance dance exorcism Kecak and was danced together with Indonesian consulate staff. The performance's objective was to heal community rift in the wake of the 'terrorist' Bali Bombings of 2002 and 2005. Secondly, some members' inspiration of Ramayana comes from invited Perth Royal Festival performance of national choreographer Guruh Sukarno Putra, popular in the 80s-90s New Order era, with his glamorous aesthetic of modern Indonesian dances. Drawing on the collective trans-national/cultural knowledge and aesthetic experiences, the dance group performs their self-proclaimed 'exotic' version of Ramayana, at Australian 'multicultural' events around Perth.

    This presentation includes a live dance performance

    Paper 2: Creativity in Performance: Aesthetic Experiences in Dangdut Performances in Rural West Java

    Sandra Bader, Monash University

    Sensuous female performers have long been a prominent and integral feature of Javanese culture. On stage, performers dance and interact with men (at dangdut performances also with women) and their costumes and demeanour are often sexually suggestive. Within the last few decades these singer-dancers have become the subject of fierce criticism by conservative religious groups and media institutions in Indonesia. They have been scorned as immoral and indecent, particularly rural dangdut performers have been under-fire for being obscene and unaesthetic. In this paper I challenge the essentialistic perspective about sensuous female performers and argue that the intersubjective relationships between performers and audience and amongst audience members create a space for aesthetic experiences. Challenging dichotomies such as performer/audience and space/place I explore the aesthetic values and experiences which are created through the agency of the actors on stage. Space is understood in de Certeau's sense of a 'practiced place' (1984), relating 'place' and 'space' rather than opposing it. It is what is practiced and produced through interaction by the performers and the audience. The stage at tarling-dangdut performances becomes such a 'practiced place' where the creative processes and intersubjective relationships of performers and audience are often experienced as pleasant and desirable moments  as aesthetic experiences.

    This presentation includes a live performance

    Discussant: Margaret Kartomi

    SESSION 3 (90 mins)

    Chair: Monika Winarnita

    Paper 1: Running in circles: Value struggles and the contradictions of political performance in the Bandung DIY hardcore scene

    Sean Martin-Iverson, The University of Western Australia

    The city of Bandung, Indonesia is home to a significant hardcore punk scene; within this scene, a small community of bands strive to uphold anti-commercial 'Do It Yourself' principles, organising independent hardcore shows 'by the kids, for the kids'. Inspired by global DIY hardcore practices, but grounded in the local scene, these shows are organised and experienced as displays of community solidarity and autonomy from the capitalist market. DIY hardcore performances explicitly challenge the divide between performer and audience; as collectively-organised and participatory events, they can be regarded as collaborative practices of music-making or 'musicking' (Small 1998). Through their hardcore shows, the DIY kids seek to express and realise alternative social values of autonomy (kemandirian) and community (komunitas). These values are symbolised by the 'circle pit', a form of punk dancing that expresses both social cohesion and playful disorder. DIY hardcore performances thus reflect their anti-capitalist politics and their desires for another way of life. However, this potential for social creativity is limited by the aestheticisation of performance, as their political project risks being reduced to a dramatic spectacle of resistance. While the value struggles of DIY hardcore cannot be fully reduced to either an aesthetic mode of expression or a political discourse, they remain entangled in the contradictions of the commodity form.

    Paper 2: Jazz Rasa Jogja: Creative performances in Yogyakarta Jazz Communities

    Oki Rahadianto Sutopo, Gadjah Mada University

    There are a limited number of studies about jazz in Indonesia. These studies are either more focused on jazz consumers (Irawati, 1992; Sudrajat, 2003), Indonesian jazz during the New Order Regime (Mulyadi, 1999) or commodification of jazz in Indonesia (Nugroho, 2003). My paper will examine the creative aspect of jazz performances and how globalization affects the knowledge and values in them. Focusing on jazz communities in Yogyakarta, this paper explores their creative performances; especially on the process of negotiation between global and local knowledge/values in their jazz performances from 2007 on wards. This is illustrated in the annual event called Ngayogjazz and jam sessions called Jazz Mben Senen (Every Monday Jazz). Jazz performances that are usually more oriented to American standard jazz (based on text-book jazz), academic oriented (jazz sekolahan) and played in elite places (hotel, restaurant etc), are challenged in these events by local knowledge/values such as angkringan (Jogja's traditional stall), javanesse traditional songs, plesetan (javanesse jokes from mataram tradition) and the rural context (Bantul as a site to perform). The process of negotiation between global and local knowledge/values in Ngayogjazz and Jazz Mben Senen (Every Monday Jazz) shows an effort by the Yogyakarta jazz community to keep their performances within its social and cultural context (Ferianto, 2010). This research is based on my participation as a member of the Yogyakarta jazz community from 2005 on wards, as well as through interview and participant observation during my thesis, from 2008 to 2010.

    Paper 3: Forest, Rural and Urban Musical Markers in South and Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

    Max Richter, Monash University

    This paper is part of a multi-sited ethnographic study of Indonesia's newly autonomous regions focusing on multiculturalism and people's spatial expressions of identity through local, translocal, regional, national and global or cosmopolitan cultural phenomena. By engaging with global/local debates and their national-level critiques (e.g. Biddle and Knights, 2007), as well as established identity categories such as gender, class and ethnicity, the study examines and compares popular- and intellectual-level activities across a number of regional locations and contexts. The present paper engages Borneo-related literature and recorded music with experiential accounts of recent visits to Banjarmasin City and to Palangka Raya and its surrounds. Musical genres observed include madihin, panting, reog ponorogo, dangdut and house in their ceremonial and/or recreational settings. The paper may also refer to other cases, in particular my earlier research on 'street' (jalanan), 'mixed essences' (campursari) and other musics and their spatial associations in Yogyakarta. The overarching aim is to identify forest, rural, urban and/or other spatial musical markers in musical performances and their contexts and interpretations, and through this to explore and interrogate dichotomies such as insider/outsider, individual composer/community voice, and forest/village symbolism in relation to musical expression and more broadly the negotiation of cultural difference.

    Discussant: Paul Mason

    SESSION 4 (90 mins)

    Chair: Sean Martin Iverson

    Paper 1: Social Recognition and Dance Amongst Saibai Islanders (Torres Strait)

    Richard Davis, The University of Western Australia

    Saibai Islander men in the northwest of Torres Strait and the mainland Australian city of Cairns seek recognition and renown through dance. In particular men seek recognition for the successful introduction of original ideas in dance performances and in doing so create for themselves particular configurations of selfhood. In recent discussions of indigenous intellectual property rights creativity is treated as communal with little recognition of the specific social processes in which creativity is embedded. Drawing briefly on this literature I explore how Saibaian men, through their creation of original choreography and associated aspects of dance, are also simultaneously creating themselves. To construct this argument I interpret Foucault's work on authorship as an instance of a specific kind of recognition, particularly in relation to time, and it's relationship to creativity. In ethnographic terms the simultaneous creation of ideas and the self that are present in Saibaian dance are made possible by a dynamic system of affiliation and adoption. Against this background of relatedness men achieve durable renown through innovations in style, but while renown is durable it is not equated to exclusive control over the creation. Codifying creativity and intellectual property misunderstands how creating something is part of how social relationships and self-identity is generated.

    Paper 2: Creative causality: values, aesthetics and perceptions of past, present and future in Altai Urianghai social singing, Duut Soum, Mongolia

    Rebekah Plueckhahn, The Australian National University

    Singing, amongst the Altai Urianghai people of the rural mountain district of Duut Soum, Khovd Province, Mongolia is a multi-valued creative process - one that is encouraged often, and spans social, artistic and ritual areas of life. Now 20 years past 70 years of communist administration, and in an era of locally discussed social change, perceived cultural loss and an uncertain environmental future, residents of this mobile pastoralist area simultaneously negotiate varying interlocking value systems of which singing is now a part. During an Altai Urianghai wedding ceremony, held in Duut in 2010, this negotiation was made strikingly apparent. Drawing from participant observation of this wedding ceremony, discussions with wedding participants, and ongoing observations drawn from doctoral fieldwork, this paper will examine the role of singing within this context. I will explore how through the act of collective singing, negotiations and fusions were made between perceptions of 'authentic' Altai Urianghai songs, popular songs, the gendered roles of wedding participants, communist and contemporary experiences and Altai Urianghai identity. I will explore how aesthetic preferences, the ability to 'sing well' was considered most important, where singing formed a collective, creative process aimed at sonically blending the material and immaterial worlds in order to ensure a good future. I will propose that this causal role of sound and song underpins an Altai Urianghai form of and motivation for creative process. In this context, aesthetic imperatives, perceptions of place, time and prophecy underpins this form of collective song performance.

    Paper 3: Australian hip hop culture and the establishment of Tongan identity within it

    Elizabeth Rebecca Betz, La Trobe University

    Australia's Hip Hop underground is often associated with migrants and socio-economically marginalized people, leading marginalization to become a keyword for Hip Hop. As poor as these communities seem economically, they engage in substantial creative processes, with many young people partaking in Hip Hop through communal events that focus on individuals as well as collectives. During these events, past experiences, knowledge and values fuse with innovative ideas, expressions and aesthetics in Hip Hop performances. My paper explores these creative fusions by looking at Hip Hop in the Tongan communities in Australia. I discuss artists such as Koolism, who tell personal stories of migration and provide images of Tongan families. Such artists are combining their life in Australia with their Tongan upbringing and culture. Their performances bind generations together, as they jointly celebrate the performances of brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and friends. The seemingly youth focused culture brings families together to express their creativity or engage as audiences to support loved ones. My paper also looks at another example of the expression of a Tongan identity through MASSIVE, which is Australia´s first hip hop choir. MASSIVE focuses on cultural diversity by combining traditional elements from all of the performers' cultures including the Tongan culture. I argue that the events at which artists like Koolism or MASSIVE perform transfer knowledge and values within creative performances.

    Discussant: Max Richter