My classmate Matthew Rader recently sent me a shameless plug to his and Pamela Reed’s appearance on the PBS Off Book episode on Animated GIFs. The popular image file format, which can loop images into short animations, has survived over 25 years of internet memes and artists continue to innovate with the medium. It’s nice to know that PBS approached my colleagues for expertise on new media such as the GIF, and more importantly that they pronounce it correctly (like the peanut butter).
And speaking of shameless plugs, we are mere days away from the biggest event I’ve ever had the privilege to work on. My orchestra, Gamelan Kusuma Laras, is hosting a Javanese Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet theatre) featuring Ki Purbo Asmoro and his troupe Mayangkara for a one night only event at the Asia Society. Tickets have sold out, but the Asia Society crew has agreed to webcast the entire event, allowing for viewers from across the world to watch the performance live. The show starts Friday, March 16, at 7:40, and the livestream is available through this link: https://asiasociety.org/live.
It’s hard to believe I met Ki Purbo last August, on a sleepless night in the middle of nowhere, Java. I watched him entrance his audience with a combination of subtle movements and well-timed action, manipulating the filigree of his puppet’s shadows to reflect the full spectrum of human and non-human emotion. Only now, as we have been rehearsing the music to accompany his performance, do I begin to understand the contemporary direction he takes his craft. But Ki Purbo takes very certain steps to make sure that his modern take on this traditional work does not breach the definition of traditional art. It’s all a matter of framing.
This is a concept I’m struggling with right now in school. I’m feeling pressured to decide on which market I’d like to promote my services to after I graduate. So far it has been trial and error. For instance, I realize from the last few months that I’m not fit for the admirable role of an arts manager. As for making art, I don’t quite know if my skin is thick enough to endure the trials and tribulation that would lead to becoming a featured artist on Art21. There is a lovely performative aspect of teaching that I enjoy, but I’m not sure if I’m quite experienced enough to instruct anyone on anything.
Meanwhile, I’m going to force myself to focus on Friday’s performance and to continue working on my thesis. They’re welcome distractions from this Kierkegaardian battle against labels. And for the rest of you math nerds out there, I wish you a very happy Pi day.