This paper is
dedicated to my mentor and friend Saskia Kersenboom, Department of Anthropology,
University of Amsterdam
The primary intention of this paper, although with as its main subject
Balinese textuality, is to present an alternative, organic approach to
the sign, one where the process of semiosis occurs in the the context
of an embedded cultural situation. To do this, I refer to Balinese 'performance'
texts which can not be viewed in terms of the traditional dichotomy which
exists between the definition of 'textuality' supposedly maintained between
literate and oral cultures: the Balinese are neither radically
'oral' by nature nor 'literate'. The way we look at 'texts' has to be
extended in such a way that it is possible for the 'text' to exist in
its Ricoeurian sense on paper (or in the Balinese case, on palm leaves
which are widely referred to as lontar), but also for the textual
model to be able to encompass the dynamic sensuality of performance, a
'meaning' which continually changes depending on the needs of individuals.
In order to understand the sign we have to understand cultural texts which
continually reinscribe a given culture into the present, and at the same
time we have have to examine which means are used to make a text sensual
and organic, functioning to bring the text into the presence of the present,
into the reality of the observer.
In order to realise the approach to the sign and text discussed above,
the following major steps will be transgressed in this paper:
(i) The prevailing Langue/Parole paradigm characteristic of much
semiotic thought regarding the sign and its semiosis is brought into question;
(ii) A third category which accounts for dynamic change in performance
is introduced to extend the duality to a three angled form, allowing and
accounting for the dynamism of individual subjectivity, creating an 'embedded
sign'. This third element is, of course, Langage;
(iii) The term 'text' is redefined as a specific tool used for cultural
perpetuation realised in real space/time environments and in every way
'multi-medial' (combining different forms of media such as language, music
and images) which contrasts with a Ricoeurian approach to text;
(v) The inscribed 'texts' of the Balinese shadow play (Wayang Kulit)
are referred to and viewed in the context of their Lebenswelt:
these texts are demonstrated to function as embedded signs which form
a blue-print for the Balinese sense of selfhood.
(vi) Finally, the dynamic "musical" element is brought into play, one
which touches not only on the musical nature of the texts themselves-an
important significative element for the Balinese in the process of semiosis-but
also the Gendèr Wayang (the musical accompaniment to the shadow
puppet theatre performance) which functions very much to give the performance
dynamic and organic meaning in the context of the performance of the inscribed
'texts'. The music forms a thread between the iconic nature of the ancient
texts and their symbolic reinscription in the present.
It seems remarkable today at the dawn of a new millennium to discover
that Jakobson was busy making rifts in the world of contemporary theory
closer to the beginning of this century. In 1919 he wrote in Moscow that
"the overcoming of statics, the expulsion of the absolute-here is the
essential turn for the new era, the burning question of today" (Jakobson,
quoted in Kersenboom, 1995). Today, at the entrance into a new age, the
third millennium, it seems all the more pertinent, especially considering
that we seem to take have taken very few steps forwards in the theoretical
world (and lots of steps backwards) since Jakobson's daring statement.
The following paragraphs will involve major icons of twentieth century
thought in the field of semiotics, and shall discuss the importance of
transcending many of these icons in order to present a new theoretical
paradigm for a new age. Some alternative suggestions are presented as
to how we can interpret these 'icons' of contemporary thought as a result
of recent multi-disciplinary research.
We are all very familiar with the famous duality presented by the two
terms which were introduced by Saussurian linguistics and developed during
the Tels Quels era: 'Langue' and 'Parole'. These terms have proved
of great importance to the field of semiotics and have formed at the same
time a hard-core epistemological basis for many researchers in the field.
Langue, on the one hand, represents a complete system in which
all the rules are neatly contained, a type of transcendental truth to
which each of us has access but can never individually express. This is
a truth which constantly eludes true expression because of the imperfection
of the human being and his speech acts. Langue (or 'Competence')
is the goal of Chomsky's "Universal Grammar" theory and ultimately of
Western science in general, and can also be seen as being the foundation
point of structuralism. Then we have on the other hand Parole,
the imperfect realisation, which in terms of linguistics could simply
be described as an incomplete realisation of Langue. According
to linguistics and (empirical) science, by exploring enough instances
of Parole we can come to some sort of conclusion about the true
nature of Langue. So where is the individual, the subjective self,
the ego who literally creates the world by reinscribing the past in the
present? In terms of Langue and Parole, this is unaccounted
for. But at the same time we are forgetting a third term introduced by
Saussure: Langage. With this term Saussure does attempt to encompass
this aspect of human understanding, although he and his successors lacked
the epistemological foundation to develop this area. The traditional and
simplistic interpretation is that Langage can be defined as a combination
of Langue (the system) and Parole (all possible expressions),
creating an enormous totality, one which Saussure shied away from it because
he lacked the theoretical methods to approach its totality. In the context
of this paper an extended interpretation shall be discussed.
If we take a look at the diagram below, we can see the famous and elusive
third element of the triangle: Langage. We can begin by describing
Langage as the 'phenomenological ground' which is open to the individual
during the process of semiosis. Langage is not actually a 'thing',
an iconic figure to which we ascribe meaning, but is actually a potentiality,
an array of possibilities which we as individuals have open to us in a
dynamic spatial/temporal context. It is literally the infinitely wide-range
of significative possibilities open to the individual, and was logically
avoided by Saussure who preferred to view it from within the safe terrain
of Langue and Parole. In this model, then, an individual
makes an utterance or performs a ritual act: he/she chooses from a 'pool'
of possibilities available thanks to the Langue-like communication
system, and then brings it into reality into the form of Parole,
a single imperfect realisation of Langue's purity. It is thanks
to Langage that the individual is able to subscribe his or her
own meanings to this speech or performative act in the context in which
the action itself takes place. i.e. environmental circumstances can change
the meaning of an individual utterance.
The next step in this short journey is to bring Peirce into the main-action,
the man who attempted in his own special way to form a truly universally
applicable phenomenological theory for understanding reality; a new language
for science which would get us closer to the 'real' truth. His notion
was that although 'reality' itself was essentially unfathomable, we attempt
to get closer to it by creating signs. Like the model described above,
his model was also divided into (a complex series of) trichotomies. It
was Peirce's basic idea that our understanding of reality is based on
our ability to represent it: this was quite revolutionary for its time,
and continues to influence science by providing a universally applicable
scientific language, a similar goal longed for by Hüsserl. Unfortunately
in terms of this study our interest in Peirce's work stops after introducing
his famous sign trilogy: ICON, INDEX and SYMBOL, as illustrated in the
diagram below. Peirce's longing to get to the 'real' reality by attempting
to create a pure language of icons moved him over the edge of phenomenology
to problematic essentialism. Post Merleau-Pontian philosophy has demonstrated
clearly that reality-or our conception of reality (through human culture)-can
not simply be divided into a number of different universal categories:
it is a far more dynamic and complex system which can only be worked towards
by turning to other disciplines. Many contemporary theorists can provide
us with some new insights which transcend Peirce's and Saussure's epistemological
limitations. Frank Smith, renown for his work as a psycholinguist and
pedagogical theorist, presented a remarkable theory in which the brain
is viewed as an "artist - as a creator of experience for itself" (Smith,
1985: 195). which forms a 'theory of the world', one that is in a constant
state of dynamic change, adjusting and updating itself to cope with a
changing environment. According to Smith, "Fantasy is not reality manipulated;
reality is a fantasy constrained by the objective world" (Smith, 1985:
200). In other words, reality is but a fantasy, an individual creation,
and usually one which works and is common to a cultural group, especially
if they have common 'objective' sources which they can use to base this
understanding. Saskia Kersenboom, herself a linguistic anthropologist,
can also provide us with an interesting approach: she sees human culture
as a performing art, based on the conception that "all that we can achieve
and know" (Kersenboom, 1996) is what we can experience on the human 'stage'
of cultural experience and in real space-time environments. Everything
beyond that stage is not provided for in by our culture, and the only
way we can perceive that darkness is by giving it a form which fits into
our pattern of understanding, one provided to us by our culture. Both
these approaches distance us from a quest towards an attainment of transcendental,
universally true knowledge, placing us clearly in the dynamism of the
individual's learning experience, reacting and interacting with his/her
environment in order to create a theory for understanding the world, and
testing these theories by "throwing them at the world" in the form
of human performance.
With these insights as a foundation, I would like to draw your attention
to Jakobson's (rather unconventional and certainly most applicable in
the context of this work) interpretation of Peirce's work. Jakobson refers
to his famous sign three angled form in a temporal context. He sees the
ICON as something which represents the 'past', and the INDEX as something
which represents (re-presents?) the present. The SYMBOL, however, is not
a time based factor, but a 'loi-cadre' or as I have interpreted it, a
'rule-frame', or even better, a 'frame of reference'.
"A l'opposé de l'indice comme de l'icône,
suivant la théorie de Peirce, le symbole n'est pas un objet, mais seulement
une loi-cadre qui donne lieu à différantes applications contextuelles
de fait, les occurrences"(Jakobson, 1980: 91).
This is a reference system that provides us with choices, with
a potentiality for individual interpretation which makes the act of the
'performance' of a 'text' so much more a dynamic, creative process for
all involved parties. The analogy is clear: as illustrated in the diagram
below, according to Jakobson the staticity we connect to the past can
only have meaning when it is brought into the present by way of the performance
(Parole), the indexical nature of the sign, and that it
is only according to the individual's dynamic symbolic interpretation
at a given moment that a text can have a meaning: in many cases, especially
in non-literate cultures or cultures with 'partially' literate texts such
as the Balinese, a text isn't considered to have a meaning until it is
brought into life through performance. I shall from now on refer to this
approach to the sign as the 'embedded' approach.
To make this model all the more clear I would like to present a particularly
exciting example from the hand of Kersenboom herself.[2 ] This particular
example involves a cultural sign, in this case the Virgin Mary, as realised
in a particular 'embedded' Russian Orthodox context. In a given church,
the picture of the Virgin Mary is the ICON: thanks to cultural texts such
as the Bible, and the iconic extension of strong western media such as
film, literature and television, our society presents us with a strong
iconic image of what the Virgin Mary signifies, even if we never consciously
think about it. As part of an act of worship, a woman lights a candle
and places it in front of the image. The lighting of the candle is a ritual
act, one which functions to bring the iconic meaning of the sign to fruition,
which in this case comes to bear as the "Milk of Human Kindness." Because
it is a symbolic potentiality there are many different possibilities:
another example could be "the Eternal Mother" or "the Purity of Womanhood,"
or whichever meaning the individual may symbolically apply to the sign.
Through performing (in terms of Jakobson's interpretation of Peirce) an
'indexical' act, the worshipper triggers the symbolic potentialities dormant
in her very phenomenological being, and in this way brings into the present
a sense of self-hood which has been made very much her own in the process
The lesson is simple: how do we understand reality? By creating signs.
How do we substantiate this reality? By testing our signs, often in the
form of performative, indexical acts committed in a dynamic space/time
context. How do we test our signs? By literally "throwing them into the
world to see if they work" (to quote Kersenboom's own words)[3 ] in a
Smithian sense, to test our "theories of the world" by comparing the objectively
sensed reality with our symbolic conception of it. This performance is
the ritual act of discovering, of learning, something we as individuals
have done since the moment we were born and will do until the moment we
This model is unique perhaps because of its ability to encompass cultural
change. The world is always in a constant state of change anyway, and
for signs to retain an embedded cultural value the icons are constantly
updated so that they can be brought into the present by indexical methods
which suit our new approach to knowledge (including sensuous knowledge),
and which can still provide us with 'symbolic' satisfaction. In terms
of our example, however, the iconic nature of the image of the Virgin
Mary has in many cases and places not been able to change quick enough
to keep up with the rapidly changing nature of our own culture: its indexical
realisation does not provide the symbolic opportunities it used to. This
has resulted in the abandonment of traditional forms of ritual/religious
expression, leading us to new epistemologies which are far distant from
the old ones, and thus a lot less people go church than in the past.
The Balinese culture, in contrast, have a cultural system in which one
can find a dynamic approach to their 'texts', one which has allowed much
more religious adaption to take place. The Sanskrit term 'Desa Kala Patra'
is of particular significance here, as it is one which has been appropriate
by the Balinese. Like our model of the sign, the Balinese notion of 'meaning'
is dependent on where and when the event takes place, in other words,
the signification of the sign depends on a temporal and spatial context.
Translated from Sanskrit, Desa refers to 'region' (space), Kala
refers to time and Patra to 'vessel', which can be seen as the
impersonation of a given act in a given context. According to the Balinese,
the meaning of something could change depending on when it happens, where
it happens and by whom, suggesting that they have a model which is much
more conducive to socio-cultural change. It is also forms part of a Lebenswelt
which continues to frustrate western theoreticians and practitioners who
attempt to analyse their culture and are searching for 'truths' in terms
of a western epistemological model. The ability of the Balinese to adapt
their 'signs' to cultural change shall become clear in the remaining section
of this paper.
With the conception of the 'embedded sign' in mind, I believe that we
have the theoretical facilities to approach the expression of a cultural
text, although it is first important to clarify in further detail
the approach to text which forms the foundation of much western thought,
present in the work of two important French theoreticians, Ricoeur and
Barthes. Each of them have presented opposing interpretations for this
ambiguous term. Ricoeur, for example, starts by defining a text as being
simply "any discourse fixed by writing" (Ricoeur, 1981: 145). He suggests
further that there is a deep distinction between the role of the 'writer'
and the 'reader'. When the writer lifts his pen, the text becomes divorced
from the writer and is "free to enter into relation with all the other
texts which come to take place of the circumstantial reality referred
to by living speech" (Ricoeur, 1981: 145-149). The reader, then, when
reading the text takes it from its Langue-like state, retaining
no sensual connection with the author or the act of writing itself. Here
the relation of the text to its creation seems to be obliterated, which
is problematic in terms of a Balinese sense of meaning because it is only
in a texts 'reinscription' in the present that it is considered to have
any meaning. Texts don't even have 'authors': they are largely anonymous.
After each performance, the texts have been literally 'written' again
in a new and dynamic context. Barthes, in comparison to Ricoeur,
finds an interesting comparison between a [completed literary] 'work'
and a 'text', concepts which according to him contrast highly. The notion
of 'work' seems to refer better to Ricoeur's conception of 'text' in that
it is written, completed discourse, an object which fixes knowledge into
a permanent form: "the work is a fragment of substance, occupying a part
of the space of books (in a library for example)." He sees the approach
to the 'work' as something which has to be transcended in western theory,
and provides in its place a dynamic new meaning to the concept of text:
"the Text is experienced only in an activity of production" (Barthes,
1977: 157). This notion of Text, where Barthes envisages it as
something in motion which encompasses more than just its literal contents,
seeing it even as being "radically symbolic," (Barthes, 1977: 158)
referring to the "stereographic plurality of its weave of signifiers"
(Barthes, 1977: 159). Here Barthes refers to text in its original etymological
sense, as it relates to its original Latin signification: texere
means 'weave', from which the English word 'textile has also evolved (Sykes,
1976: 1197). Contemporary research into non-western cultures has developed
this further and clearly demonstrated that it is simply not possible to
view 'texts' as static 'works' in a Barthian sense, but as dynamic 'processes'
actualised in temporal/spatial contexts. This is of course particularly
applicable to Balinese performance texts.
Kersenboom has demonstrated in her work (Kersenboom. 1995) that
Tamil 'texts' which have been written-or rather inscribed-on leaves known
as 'oleh' actually play the primary role of being memory aids to complex
multi-medial performance acts, and not the complete literary 'works' themselves
as has been incorrectly presupposed by many western scholars (according
to Kersenboom). The meaning of the text has to be applied to a particular
space time environment, and the actual single fixed interpretation which
is longed for by western scholarship is not possible because-referring
again to the Sanskrit Desa Kala Patra analogy-the meaning of the
texts change just as the culture changes. The Balinese also have their
written texts: according to Zurbuchen Old Javanese poems, treatises and
didactic works which were written in central Java during the 9th century,
were brought to Bali to be studied and copied onto palm-leaf manuscripts
(Zurbuchen, 1987: 14). Zurbuchen provides us with further insight: "The
writing materials used down to the present in this tradition are specially
prepared leaves (ran) of the tal palm (hence the words rontal
and lontar, describing manuscripts), into which letters are cut
using a small, pointed blade" (Zurbuchen, 1987: 43). Like their Javanese
forefathers, the texts were inscribed and reinscribed, which resulted
naturally in gradual change, and were also used as a basis for an entire
performance tradition, one which will be elucidated further in this paper.
The Balinese, like the Tamils, have an existing 'literary tradition' made
up of these written texts, but Zurbuchen goes further in saying that we
as Europeans "need to have a clearer understanding of how the biases of
Western literary studies have coloured our understanding of 'literariness'
as it exists for the Balinese" (Zurbuchen, 1987: 25) and has objected
to the fact that western scholars have "persistently chosen not to look
at performance and contextual aspects of literature in Bali" (Zurbuchen,
1987: 23). According to her, "our understanding of the terms "'literature'
and 'text'" must "extend beyond the margins of the typographically fixed
page and permit the values of sound in verbal art, the oral/aural
literary mode, to dwell alongside our dominant visual orientation
towards literature" (Zurbuchen, 1987: 23). In the cases of both Tamil
and Balinese inscribed literature, the knowledge implicit in the texts
is obviously transferred in a far more complex form than simply through
accessing an objective, transcendent pool of textual knowledge; this is
dynamic, sensuous knowledge. At this stage I would like to make a proposal:
cultural texts are little more than tools which members of a culture
can employ to help form their 'theory of the world', providing a sort
of blueprint for reality. Thanks to such texts we are able to probe into
that dark space beyond the 'stage of human performance', in other words
we are able to explore the phenomenological ground which our culture provides
us with by using these texts as tools of experiential understanding.
This is particularly true for the so-called lontars which are actually
the texts used in Balinese Wayang Kulit (shadow-puppet theatre).
Again in comparison to Ricoeur's image of the 'text' as being distant
from a particular time and place, the Balinese see the textual transferal
of knowledge quite differently. For us, the sign in a text has a meaning
behind it which we ascribe to it. To the Balinese, however, there is no
such distinction. The word itself-or the sound of the utterance of the
word-contains an almost 'magical' power in the sense of performative speech
acts (see Tambiah, 1985: 17-59). According to Lansing, Balinese texts
are not in actual fact 'read', but 'sounded': he has created a theory
for the 'sounding' of Balinese texts which is embedded in a different
concept of textuality, one in which words and music have power in their
own right. This is further demonstrated by the two different forms of
Wayang Kulit which both play an important role in Balinese life.
The lesser-known form performed during the day known as Wayang Lemah
is particularly interesting because the dalang is used almost purely
for ritual functions. In this case, there is not often even an audience
to watch the action: the performance of the text has a ritual function
which is designed for the gods. In this case, it is obvious that the 'meaning'
implicit in the words is so strong that it doesn't even have to be heard
by an audience for it to have meaning: the meaning is implicit in the
very act of its performance. The better known form, performed at night,
is Wayang Peteng where an audience comes with the specific purpose
of participating in a Wayang Kulit performance. Here there is a
story to be told, even though a particularly new meaning may be attributed
to it. It is this form of Wayang Kulit which will be discussed
in the latter part of this paper.
"The sounding of the texts brings written order into the world, displaying
the logos which lies beyond the illusions of mundane existence. Obviously,
for this to be effective the stories told must bear an important resemblance
to events in the lives of the hearers, or audience. Consequently, it is
one of the distinguishing characteristics of serious Balinese drama, shadow
theatre (wayang), or other soundings of the texts that the performers
must not decide on the story to be told until they have assessed the needs
of the audience" (Zurbuchen, 1987: 39).
In the fragment above Balinese performance texts are demonstrated to differ
from our own written forms because they are naturally thought to retain
such a moment of the presence in each new interpretation. The Balinese
have developed complex systems for 'reading' or 'sounding' their texts.
The obvious example is of course the Wayang Kulit performance itself,
where the dalang brings ancient Balinese, Javanese and Sanskrit
texts to life by presenting them in a form which is understandable by
the Balinese audience. He achieves this by having the texts spoken by
the higher caste royal or godly characters brought into the present by
using particularly unique 'clown'-type characters known as parekan
who seem to be able to move freely between the discourses and time-frames
of the gods and royal figures, and the audience, translating this information
into a language the audience can understand and also interacting with
the texts in a particularly unique way, providing extra signification.
The language the texts are translated into is usually one of the forms
of Balinese, although these characters have also been known to speak Indonesian
and English depending on contents of the audience. The method the Balinese
have developed for their dalangs to learn these ancient texts is
particularly interesting and is significant to this discussion. In Bali,
the complex rigidity of social-life is well-known and discussed by many
researchers and scholars. Lansing, in an earlier work, discusses the Balinese
notion of kaikêt (Lansing, 1974: 1) which can be interpreted as
being 'tied' in a complex system of families, groups, clubs and unions,
and it is only by being kaikêt that one can be human: the greatest
Balinese fear is to be banished from their village and to lose this complex
system of connections.
Outside the family, one of the smallest units of connection is the 'club'
or seka. There are seka for almost everything from cleaning
the street to playing gamelan, although the seka which is of particular
significance here is known as sekehe bebasan. It is in such a group
that the ancient Balinese texts are 'read' or 'sounded' (as Lansing would
refer to it). When a man has reached a certain age where he is considered
to have reached a stage where he should take a greater interest in learning
about and perpetuating his culture, he joins such a club. According to
Hobart, men are "still considered responsible for the perpetuation of
the cultural heritage. Particularly as they grow older, men become increasingly
concerned with philosophical, religious and literary matters" (Hobart,
1987: 185) A group of men get together and discuss the 'meaning' of certain
of the famous Lontar texts which have been inherited from Java,
although attention is paid not only to the 'literal' meaning, but also
to the sounds of the words themselves: the words are not considered to
be 'read' correctly if they have not been 'intoned' in the right fashion:
here returns the notion of meaning being embedded in the action of recital.
Below is an interesting passage from Lansing's work in this regard:
"A reader intones a line from the text, which may have to be repeated
if he strays from the correct metrical pattern. Next, another reader will
propose a spontaneous translation into modern colloquial Balinese. Once
the 'meaning' has been tacitly agreed on by all those present, the first
reader chants the next line" (Lansing, 1983: 79).
Such a recital of the Balinese texts is the basis for the dalang's
ability to bring the meaning of the performance to the audience not only
through the literal content of the 'text', but through the complex weave
of sound, music and theatricality which is so characteristic of Wayang
Kulit performance. Not only is the programme accompanied by 'music'
(the Gendèr Wayang repertoire), but the text itself is also of
a musical nature. It is interesting to note that it is at these sekehe
bebasan meetings that the dalang learns the texts he will later
interpret into his complex multi-medial performance.
During a Wayang Kulit performance which involves the explication
of certain ancient texts, the audience is subjected to much more than
simply words. As a result of the orchestration of the media, they "are
affected by the patterns of meaning conveyed by the various dramatic components"
(Hobart, 1987). The parekan, or clown characters mentioned above
play a similar role to the other readers in the sekehe bebasan who
provide spontaneous translations of the text. The dalang, however,
provides a particular depth to the parekan, who are the characters
responsible for linking the textual nature of the performance with the
symbolic necessities of the audience. A Balinese audience can be very
critical if the dalang does not provide them with a good performance,
in other words one which provides them with symbolic potential for expression
in their own lives or significance to the particular ritual context for
which the dalang has been summoned. The parekan are responsible
for uniting all the media involved, bringing a variety of musical and
textual levels into unison in such a way that the audience is provided
with extra levels of signification. No performance of Wayang Kulit,
of course, is ever quite the same: we can refer here once again to the
Sanskrit phrase Desa, Kala, Patra.
These texts, therefore, are clearly complex tools, forming blueprints
for the Balinese sense of selfhood. Their symbolic and indexical status
are in a constant process of adaptation according to the rapid changes
that occur in the contemporary world. Although taken from ancient Indian
and Javanese epics, these texts are "ingeniously modified and adapted
to fit the Balinese context" (Hobart, 1987: 16). The Balinese use images,
characters, sounds and melodies as a constant source of reference, and
these symbols are considered to be of high educational value: young people
are always encouraged to go and see performances. Hobart states in her
important work on the subject that the characters and events which take
place are used as blueprints for the Balinese understanding of experience,
meaning that the enactment of wayang performance texts presents
an epistemological basis for the Balinese. In the Balinese language they
even have words which refer to the characters in the drama, words which
exemplify particularly admirable or undesirable characteristics. An example
is the verb sekai Dursana, which means " to be like Dursana" or
in other words to have all the bad qualities of the prince, implying that
the person to whom the word is referring is bad-tempered and unfriendly
(Hobart, 1987: 187). Wayang symbolism is also used to refer to
things outside the Balinese Habitus in the sense meant by Bourdieu
 in that the Balinese bring foreign objects into their scope of understanding,
into the field of textuality which is familiar to their Lebenswelt,
by attributing to them characteristics from Wayang characters
or symbolism. An example from Hobart's book elucidates this 'inscription
of external elements into a common textuality' particularly well:
"In the course of my fieldwork, a large, hairy, pink-faced Australian
came to my village. His movements were ungainly and he seemed to look
down on others. One of a group of villagers passing by instantly applied
the following epithet to him: dageg Dèlem, proud and pompous like
Dèlem, the Korawa servant. So the villagers' experience of the
foreigner was aired and pooled. As an unknown entity he also posed a threat
which was neutralised once he was incorporated into a framework which
all comprehended and shared" (Hobart, 1987: 188).
Balinese texts, realised in a dynamic spatial/temporal context, are complex
meaning bearing systems which are very much tied up with a sensual poetics,
a notion of meaning directly connected with the dynamics of the performance
of ritual acts. Although the texts are 'written' in that they are recorded
on palm-leaf manuscripts, the Balinese culture itself can certainly not
be defined as being 'radically literate' as we could view our own culture
because of the varying contexts in which the texts are used. Gender
Wayang performance, certainly the most important vehicle for the perpetuation
of Balinese culture, is in a continuous state of inscription and reinscription
of these texts into the present. The factor which makes these texts so
much part of the present is the multi-medial performance forms adopted.
Firstly we can refer to the musical nature of the texts, but secondly
to the indexical function of the music, which literally directs the attention
of the gods and the audience to the performance, making it very much a
part of the presence of the present, an organic nowness implicit in musical
performance, making it tangible and sensuous. If texts are the tools we
use to explore that space which exists in the dark area beyond the
stage of our human performance, as Kersenboom might say, then music
is the closest we may get to reaching that ineffable extreme, an area
unaccountable for in other communication systems but necessary for our
understanding of the organic nature of our existence as beings alive on
the world at this moment. I would like to end this paper by referring
to a particularly interesting quotation from a major work by Lansing,
one which refers to this element of our musical experience of the world:
"Music is never merely ornamental, it is an integral part of the process
by which the boundaries between the words are made permeable. The sounds
of powerful words are mingled with the flow of music, which has the power
to shape and bend time itself, in the minds of the hearers. The flow of
sounds creates a tempo, a perceived rhythm of time. Thus as the texts
are sounded, performers and even members of the audience are caught up
in the flow, experiencing sounds to which they fit their movements, their
thoughts, and ultimately, perhaps, their whole perception. Obviously this
is not only a Balinese phenomenon; it is the common human experience of
music" (Lansing, 1983: 88-89).
 These notes were taken from Lectures given by Dr. Saskia Kersenboom
in the 1995-1996 academic year at the University of Amsterdam: The
Multi-Medial Text .
 The unconscious logic of social practice, or the epistemological foundation
for textual acts, see Bourdieu 1990.
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JAKOBSON, R. 1980. "Le Temps dans la Systématique
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KERSENBOOM, S. 1996. "Anthropology as Performance", ETNOFOOR - varia lectiones.
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