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Art and Society in Southeast Asia (individual papers)

Saturday 21 March 2015, 1630 – 1830, Lecture Theatre 6

Bilqis Hijjas
MyDance Alliance 

List of Papers:

  • All That Glitters: Craft, Decoration and Queer Aesthetics in the Art of Jakkai Siributr
  • Choreographing Resistance: The Female Body in Acehnese Dance Rehearsals
  • The Importance of Music in Cambodian Traditional Wedding Ceremonies
  • Name Me – A Portrait as Dialogue in the context of the Kelabit’s Name-Changing



Paper 1: All That Glitters: Craft, Decoration and Queer Aesthetics in the Art of Jakkai Siributr

Brian Curtin
Bangkok University

This paper examines the artworks of Jakkai Siributr within the contexts of recent critical debates on the historical and theoretical relationship between craft and visual art and questions of queer aesthetics. Siributr, a Thai artist based in Bangkok and who studied in the US, creates tapestries and installations based on methods of weaving, constructed textiles and embroidery. All That Glitters has two central concerns: to address a lack of critical attention given to the topic of decoration within discourses on craft and visual art and to map how the challenges of Siributr’s art in this respect can be addressed by a queer contextualization of its interest for feminine aesthetics, the politics of marginalized cultural practices and intercultural references. Siributr may be distinguished from many of his international contemporaries who employ craft methods and materials, such as Ghada Amer and Do-Ho Suh, precisely because of his use of the form and rhetoric of the decorative, and thus suggests the extant need to elaborate a substantial context for his works.


Paper 2: Choreographing Resistance: The Female Body in Acehnese Dance Rehearsals

Kimberly Clair

This paper examines the significance of dance rehearsal spaces for Acehnese women seeking opportunities for creative, physical expression. Such opportunities have dwindled since the implementation of Aceh’s Special Autonomy Law in 2001 and the expansion of syariah law in 2009, which have led to greater scrutiny of Acehnese women’s bodies in public space. While Acehnese women are subjected to stigma and punishment for failing to adhere to regulations concerning their manner of dress, comportment on a motorcycle, and displays of “intimacy,” female dancers have also come under attack and in some areas, such as North Aceh, have been banned from public dancing altogether. These kinds of proscriptions not only restrict Acehnese women’s daily movements and physi cal expressions; they also create an environment in which women’s bodies are considered inappropriate, inherently sexualized, and immoral.

Through an analysis of Acehnese dance, I argue that rehearsal spaces, which are typically gender-segregated and judgment-free, offer Acehnese women an opportunity to reconstruct female embodiment in a more positive light. In contrast to performances, in which dancers are expected to perfectly execute a single routine before a discriminating audience, rehearsal spaces allow dancers to experiment with diverse movement vocabularies, to make mistakes, and to collaborate with fellow dancers on multiple possible choreographies. By facilitating a deeper connection with and understanding of one’s body, and by strengthening solidarity and mutual trust among dancers, rehearsal spaces can minimize feelings of self-consciousness, shame, or stigma that have arisen in Acehnese women as a result of Aceh’s conservative policies.


Paper 3: The Importance of Music in Cambodian Traditional Wedding Ceremonies

Francesca Billeri
School Of Oriental and African Studies

This paper presents part of a fieldwork research on traditional Khmer wedding music conducted in Phnom Penh and Takeo province 5 years ago. Wedding is considered to be one of the most important ceremony for the Khmers and it is believed to be of mythical origin. It consists of a succession of rituals which symbolize different aspects of wedding such as eternal union, magical blessing, success, happiness and fertility. Some rituals recall an episode of the myth of Preah Thaung Nieng Niek the first rulers of the kingdom of Cambodia. Even the musical instruments are considered of mythical root as linked to some legends of stringed instruments of Indian origin “pin” which are depicted in the bas-relief of Angkor temples. Through the analysis of traditional wedding song texts and ritual objects emerges the dense and complex Khmer symbolism, cosmology and religious syncretism in which Theravada Buddhism, Hinduism and animistic beliefs live together harmoniously. Khmer wedding music, which is named phleng kar, is the lifeblood of the wedding ceremony since it not only accompanies the wedding rituals but also describes the ritual scene. The meaning of phleng kar text songs is the result of the Khmer popular wisdom and reflects social and cultural values such as the position and duties of women, the spouses’ position in the Khmer society and the passage from adolescence to adulthood. The paper aim is to show the vital role of traditional music within the wedding ceremony context as well as the Khmer society and culture.


Paper 4: Name Me – A Portrait as Dialogue in the context of the Kelabit’s Name-Changing

Angelika Boeck
Independent scholar

The artistic work Name Me (2009) is one result of Portrait as Dialogue, a practice based study of forms of individual representation. Portrait as Dialogue provokes, in different constellations, a dialogue of representation in order to contribute to the expansion of portrait as an art form. Name Me directs our attention to the designation and change of name among the Kelabit, an indigenous population in central Borneo.
My activity is intended as an archive of forms of human representation and an offer of a different view of “portrayal” – in a very wide, as well as a very specific sense of the term. The installations try to bring across attitudes and transitions from the own to the other; to experience the concept of self and other. Through the presentation in the form of an artwork, the exhibition audience is given the opportunity to experience first-hand that the cultural practices belonging to different concepts of identity, offer new ways for the individual to identify themselves, both within their specific cultural system, and through the eyes of others. The Norwegian- American novelist and essayists, Siri Hustvedt (2012:111), expressed this process in terms of the art of writing: “I often see more clearly from somewhere else, as someone else. And in that imagined other, I sometimes find what I may have been hiding from myself.”