Understanding Puppets as Heritage: Performing Objects/Performing Culture
Friday, February 21 | 12:30 – 1:30 pm
Mathers Museum of World Culture
416 N. Indiana Ave, Bloomington, IN 47408
Join MMWC Faculty Research Curator and Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance professor Dr. Jennifer Goodlander as she discussses puppetry as heritage. UNESCO has designated puppetry as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” in several Asian nations, adding to its economic and political relevance. This designation, however, also problematizes the relationship between the tangible objects with the intangible performance. In the museum the objects of performance function as a transatlantic archive of living and changing traditions; likewise the tradition of Asian performance lies within the body and that in order to understand the tradition and how it changes one must engage with the art as performer. In this presentation, Goodlander will explore how the puppet as an object in a museum articulates (past) performances and performs cultural heritage.
The lecture will be free and open to the public.
JENNIFER GOODLANDER is Assistant Professor of Theatre History, Theory, and Literature in IU’s Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. Her research focuses on Asian performance as it intersects with gender studies, ethnography, performance studies, postcolonial theory, visual culture studies, and transnational circuits of performance. Her dissertation, with research funded by a Fulbright Fellowship to Indonesia, focused on women and performance in Bali, especially wayang kulit or shadow puppetry. She is currently revising the dissertation into a book manuscript tentatively called Women in the Shadows: Gender, Puppets, and the Power of Tradition in Bali. Drawing upon her own experience of the practical training and ritual initiation to become a dalang, or puppeteer, coupled with interviews of early women dalangs and leading artists, she argues that “tradition” in Bali must be understood as a system of power that is inextricably linked to gender hierarchy.
Jennifer is interested in unraveling and exploring connections between scholarship and theatrical practice. In New York City and regionally she worked extensively as a director and teacher with a special emphasis on new plays and physically based performance. She combined Asian theatre into innovative productions of The Ghost Sonata, The Bacchae, and others. She was a member of the 2005 Lincoln Center Director’s Lab that focused on new play development and working in collaboration. She often shares her research through performances and lectures at theatres, civic groups, and universities and has performed wayang kulit in NYC, Michigan, Kentucky, Illinois, and Ohio. Jennifer is the Membership and Outreach Coordinator for the Association for Asian Performance (AAP) and Symposium Co-Chair for Practice and Production Symposium of the Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC).
In the 20th century, as world-travel has become more accessible, theatre has experienced an explosion of cross-influences. Artists have shared stories, techniques, and especially aesthetics. This phenomenon of artistic development and sharing is not new – but recently it carries baggage of colonialism, tourism, and differences in economic and political power between “first” and “third” world nations. “Tradition” or “traditional performance” carries a certain value within local and global contexts.
Dr. Jennifer Goodlander’s class, THTR T583: Theatre East/West, examines both Western and Nonwestern performance, and how these performances, and categories of performance, have shaped the practice and teaching of theatre in the 21st century. The categories of Asian performance, intercultural theatre, and tradition each embody a considerable scope of work—it is not the intention of this class to give a comprehensive or complete overview of any of these topics. Rather this class seeks to introduce the student to a variety of performance genres, practices, and debates so that each student will have the tools to do further research and practice. Goals include attempts to:
- Develop an understanding and appreciation of traditional theatre genres in Asia. Our study will focus on aesthetics and story but we will also explore the role that performance plays in Asian cultures.
- Workshop some of the physical and vocal styles used in traditional Asian theatre.
- Examine a variety of theatre artists that are forging companies/productions/systems of training with international aesthetics.
- Understand some of the theoretical models for discussing intercultural theatre practices.
- Investigate the notion of “tradition” and how it relates to performance in contemporary global societies.
- Participate in the debate concerning ethics surrounding intercultural performance.
- Apply our understanding of methods, aesthetics, and theory in papers and creative projects exploring possibilities that emerge when you combine performance traditions from the East and West.
Congratulations to Dr. Jennifer Goodlander, Assistant Professor of Theatre History, Theory, and Literature and recent fellowship recipient in the first round of funding to IU Bloomington faculty from the Mellon Innovating International Research and Teaching Grant Program, funded by $750,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Jennifer plans to use her faculty felllowship to conduct field research in Indonesia and Cambodia in Summer 2013, studying how the arts, especially shadow puppetry, functions in the formation of Southeast Asian national identity.
Dr. Jennifer Goodlander, the newest Assistant Professor of History, Theory, and Literature in the Department of Theatre & Drama is this month’s Featured Spotlight in Inside IU, the online news magazine for faculty and staff at Indiana University Bloomington. According to Bethany Nolan’s intimate profile:
“If you’re lucky, [Jennifer Goodlander] will show you one of the brightly colored and intricately carved puppets she’s mastered use of through her studies of an ancient Balinese art form — wayang kulit, or shadow puppetry. … But watch her give an actual performance, and you’ll only see the puppets through a thin cloth screen. That’s because the show — and all the magnificence of those works of art — is meant for the gods. As part of the human audience, your eyes are allowed to see a mere shadow of the story.”
Goodlander became interested in traditional Balinese shadow puppetry while studying for her doctoral degree on a Fulbright Fellowship in Indonesia. Her research there focused on broadly women and performance, but after trying her hand at the ancient art form, her dissertation project shifted to include her own experience learning wayang kulit. Drawing upon her own experience of the practical training and ritual initiation to become a dalang, or puppeteer, coupled with interviews of early women dalangs and leading artists, she argues in her book manuscript (tentatively titled Women in the Shadows: Gender, Puppets, and the Power of Tradition in Bali) that “tradition” in Bali must be understood as a system of power that is inextricably linked to gender hierarchy.