Japanese Journal of Cultural Anthropology
Online ISSN : 2424-0516
Print ISSN : 1349-0648
ISSN-L : 1349-0648
Temporal Face and Temporal Body : Balinese Masked Dance Drama as an Assemblage of Humans and Material Things(<Special Theme>Anthropologizing Moving Assemblages)
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2011 Volume 76 Issue 1 Pages 11-32


Recent anthropological studies on material culture have questioned conventional analytical frameworks that presume that material is always an object for human subjects. In masked performances, an actor tries to be someone else by submitting him/herself to a mask, which is a material object. In such moments, the relation between an actor and a mask is something that cannot be reduced to subject-object opposition. This study describes the Balinese masked dance drama topeng as an assemblage of human and materials. It examines some of the characteristics of that assemblage, and points out the mutual and dynamic qualities in the relation between an actor and a mask. In addition, the paper examines some important effects of the materiality of masks on that assemblage. By drawing attention to how the mask works as a material and physical thing, this study sheds light on some of the characteristics of the human-material relationship. After making a quick review of previous studies of topeng in chapter 2, the paper explains the setting and overall process of topeng performances in chapter 3. Topeng performances are held during a ritual. It uses no script or stage props. Assembling at the site are a few actors, their masks, musical instruments, a group of musicians and the audience. Also, the actor invokes invisible spirits in his mask, or invites them to the mask. Those humans and non-humans-or visible and invisible beings-interact and form the topeng performance. In chapter 4, I analyze the topeng performance in more detail, especially focusing on the interaction between the actor and masks. A previous study discussed the fact that an actor gains a kind of dual consciousness, in which he/she manipulates the mask while being manipulated by that mask [COLDIRON 2004]. However, the relation between a mask and an actor is more flexible and dynamic. A mask sometimes functions as a material object, while at other times it behaves as something more than an object. Likewise, a topeng actor shows puppet-like behavior [cf BELO 1977; COLDIRON 2004], subjecting him/herself to the mask, its character, music, or dance form, while sometimes-especially in comic scenes-unveiling the personal identity behind the mask, or even uncovering and emphasizing the material aspect of the mask. In addition, in the last scene, the social status of the actor recedes further. The actor and the mask, as a "temporal body" and a "temporal face," become a pure conduit of supernatural power of the legendary figure called Sidakarya. This paper also discusses other human and non-human participants in that dynamic assemblage, such as musicians, the audience, and supernatural beings. The interaction between an actor and musicians, the recursive relation between the deities and masks and people, and the behavior of the mercurial audience all make the assemblage emergent, transient, and somehow fragile. After the performance, the audience and gamelan players leave, ending the assemblage. However, the masks, brought back to the actor's home, continue to exist, and are taken care of by the actor or related people. Chapter 5 briefly examines the offstage long-term assemblage, consisting of the masks and the surrounding people. By looking at that enduring assemblage, we understand that masks are not static but rather evolving entities. A mask and its performance with the owner (actor) change. By being repeatedly used for topeng performances, consecrated, and constantly receiving offerings, a mask accumulates its enchanting and spiritual power. Through physical changes across the ages, or by accident, a mask also obtains a new face. The combination of mask and actor is not static either. For example, a mask may be borrowed by another actor, or inherited by the actor's child or grandchild, and used from generation to generation. Therefore, in a sense, an actor is a "temporal body" for a

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2011 Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology
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