Wayang and Its Doubles: Javanese Puppet Theatre, Television and the Internet

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Shortlisted for the EuroSEAS Humanities Book Prize 2021.

by Jan Mrazek

Much has been said about how Javanese puppet theatre, wayang kulit, richly reflects the Javanese world, and how changes and tensions in performance practice mirror those in culture and society. For decades, television has been as intensely part of the Javanese world as wayang. This book explores the ways two complex media and modes of being, seeing and fantasizing, with their different cultures, coexist and meet, and haunt or invade each other. It is what a Javanese commentator calls a “difficult marriage”: intimate on the one hand, deeply alienating on the other, institutionalized yet at the same time mercurial and shifting.

This encounter is explored on many levels: from performance aesthetics and the technicalities of television production, to issues of time, space, light, place, and movement, to audience experience of live and televised performances, to the collaboration and struggle between performers and television producers. Central to the book are personal perspectives and experiences, as well as Javanese discussions surrounding the interaction between wayang and television and their cultures.

They are brought into a conversation with reflections on media and technology by writers such as Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jacques Derrida, Paul Virilio, and James Siegel. Wayang’s relationship with television is considered in the context of the theatre’s intercourse with older and newer media, including electricity, radio, audio- and video-recording, the internet and social media. 

"Professor Jan Mrazek’s new book Wayang and Its Doubles is timely, original, and brilliant in its conceptualization…This book is an eye-opener for scholars of Cultural Studies as well as scholars of Indonesia." - Laurie Sears

Jan Mrázek, the author of Phenomenology of a Puppet Theatre: Contemplations on the Art of Contemporary Javanese Wayang Kulit, is associate professor at the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, and the founding director of the Singa Nglaras Gamelan Ensemble.

Publication Year: 2019
400pp / 229 x 152mm 39 b/w images
ISBN: 978-981-4722-95-7
NUS Press