The Panel Discussions are intended as critically analytical and theorised reflections on contemporary performance and practice in relation to two broad overarching themes, namely the contemporary and the experimental. Presenters, having at one time or another worked with Jit on performance-making are invited to reflect on their notions of contemporaneity and experimentalism, drawing on ideas and experiences that link to their working relationship with Jit and/or aspects of contemporary Malaysian theatre. Each speaker will be allocated 15-20 minutes for their talk, followed by a ten-minute response from the Respondent and then a discussion with the audience.
Panel Presentation #1 engages with issues of contemporary performance, and frames of construction, reconstruction and deconstruction that often underpin the practice and process of practitioners engaged in expressing and contesting aspects of contemporaneity. It is meant to highlight the challenges and conflicts that arise in making theatre that grapples with persistent shift and liquidity, insistent in its ambiguity and rhizomatic enactments of difference, while drawing heavily on history, tradition, memory and myth as localising and indigenising resources that also characterise the relationship with contemporariness.
Panel Presentation #2 analyses the work of artistic experimentation, with particular emphasis on how performances that embrace the interdisciplinary and intercultural develop interconnections across boundaries that are then rendered porous and shifting, opening new spaces and experiences for apprehending and affecting culture. The session is meant to examine why and in what ways these complex attempts to refashion cultural imagining through experimental juxtaposition and intersection, continue to inform the ongoing work of practitioners interested in devising and innovating new tropes for performance, even as reductive and narrow frames continue to plague global frames of culture.
The Workshop Dialogues foreground the critical practices of artists who experiment and collaborate with performers and fellow-artists in the making of contemporary performance. They invite practitioners to identify and showcase specific working methods and strategies of performance making that underline their principles of practice, and facilitate a short workshop in which conference participants can experience a glimpse of the approaches they have developed and the possibilities thereby created. Each artist is allocated 45 minutes to briefly articulate a method or strategy, and then conduct a short workshop that demonstrates the practice discussed. This is then followed by a discussion with the conference participants.
Workshop Dialogue #1 looks at the process/practice of deconstruction and reconstruction, following on from the Panel Discussion earlier in the day. Performance as a site for alternative imaginings is filled with opportunities to relook the ordinary and rethink norms, as a critical response to passive consumption and dominant forms. Marion D’Cruz (choreographer-performer) and Chee Sek Thim (director-performer) have initiated a range of improvisational approaches to performance-making, including those that are text-based, movement-based and music-based, to complicate the scope of contemporary performance in ways that defy definition. Having collaborated with Jit on diverse projects, D’Cruz and Chee were important collaborators whose current practice may reflect convergences and divergences, shared ideals and conflicting philosophies, which inflect and refract current insights on Jit’s performance practice.
Workshop Dialogue #2 looks at how when choices are made to engage with juxtapositions of culture, form, politics, aesthetics, ideology and history in the arts, this emphasises and interrogates the value of overlap and intersection in artistic vision and experience. Examining how performance projects that are located within community settings and designed to elicit/reflect multiple vocabularies of expression from a particular site, the session showcases particular methods developed by the artists to facilitate critical dialogue and engaged art in non-conventional performance spaces. Janet Pillai and Mark Teh, theatre directors, educators and cultural workers, have been critically influenced by the thinking and practice of Jit through observation, conversation and research. Their work can be seen as tangentially linked to Jit’s, and this session aims to understand these convergences and divergences within a critical frame.
The Story Dialogue sessions are created to provide space for practitioners to tell stories and narrate events that critically reflect their experience of collaborating and experimenting with Krishen Jit. Presenters will be asked to identify and tell 3 or 4 stories within 10-15 minutes, that characterise their perceptions and understanding of Krishen’s work process, articulating how these moments exemplify the impact of their working relationship. These marked moments, be they of quirky incidents or lengthy conversations, inspired moments in rehearsal or tensions of disagreement, constitute a significant part of Jit’s performance practice, in which relationships with collaborators was crucial to the artistic process he engendered.
The Story Dialogue sessions also generate an opportunity for other conference participants to share their stories about Jit during the open dialogue, and thus add layer upon layer to the shared memory of knowing and working with Jit. Having these conversations within a public setting makes available to those who were not part of Jit’s career, a body of ideas and knowledges that is often exclusive to those who had close ties with him. As such it gives access to younger theatre students and theatre makers who did not have the opportunity of collaborating with Jit, and allows for those who did to consider their memories and stories in relation to others.