February 19th: A talk by Kathy Foley: Tangible Intangibles: Heritage and Performance in Bordered Worlds.

The PSWG blog this week presents a curated series of responses to Kathy Foley’s talk, titled Tangible Intangibles: Heritage and Performance in Bordered Worlds. Kathy has selected for us an iconic object of performance (in this case, a set of photographs) around which her work has crystallized. By ‘objects of performance’ we mean things which embody, depict, surrogate, reflect, describe or resonate with a performance in the past and which constitute the focus of our critical attention. They could be films, audio recordings, clothes, anecdotes, buildings, gestures and so on- in short, objects by which we know the presence- or disappearance- of a performance.

Of the selected images, she writes:

“Here are two images from Mak Yong, a southeast Asian female dance form which seems to be going gender straight as a result of current efforts to preserve it. The question is why with modernization female forms tend not to be preserved with the females doing the male roles, but male forms (consider Kabuki, Noh) are successful and “more artistic” than the female genres. When “heritage” hits the modern proscenium stage is it heritage or just the next evolution of various forms and how can genres be made “national icons” without such modifications which suit contemporary mores and political polemics?”

Mak Yong Male Dancers

Mak Yong Female Dancers