Distant Memories of the Void

Snippets of the automaton. Video by Emese Csornai.


Distant Memories of the Void is a gamelan music automaton and visual installation, taking the Javanese Gamelan and Shadow Puppet (Wayang) as its starting point. Whereas in the tradition of the Wayang, the puppet master held a one night long performance accompanied by musicians, in this installation we’ll encounter the performing screen of the puppet, the instrument, but no performers. What will an audience find in such a “performance”?

The Gamelan instruments that build the orchestra are here reduced to 21 iron plates, constituting the idealized registers of a melody in the music. The puppet, with no one to perform it, shows itself as figures as images, then disfigures itself in time, making clear of its materiality in face of the performing screen (Kelir), the light, and the shadows with which it traditionally interacts. In the non-existent of the puppeteer (Dhalang), it is the light that creates life for the puppet.

Inspired by an ancient belief from the pre-Hindu Javanese period upon the Great One Void (Sang Hyang Taya), a story unfolds through the narrative of sound and lights. It is primordial yet structured; dense yet empty. A shadow play that unfolds through the perception of its beholder, before the all encompassing shadow finally falls.

Project Page


The work is funded by Initiative Neue Musik Berlin and supported by Haus der Indonesischen Kulturen. We are grateful for the advice given by Ki Sujarwo Joko Prehatin, Elisha Orcarus Allasso, Trinawangwulan Sudarga, Marius Bratoveanu, and Nina Wesemann.

Selected Documentation

Opening of the Installation

The gamelan automaton with audiences during the opening. Photo by Dico Baskoro.

Talk session

The discussion during the closing. From left to right: Adrian Latupeirissa, Emese Csornai, Bilawa Respati, and Taïca Replansky. Photo by Dico Baskoro.


  • Bilawa Ade Respati / Concept and Music
  • Emese Csornai / Visual Concept
  • Adrian Latupeirissa / Technologist
  • Sara Enyingi / Photo
  • John Carlo / Graphic Design
  • Dico Baskoro / Documentation
  • Taïca Replansky / Moderation