Digital Dalang

by Ali Agus Ardie


Digital Dalang: Shadows Out of Time is an immersive and interactive shadow puppet theatre that will debut at Burning Man 2018. It unifies traditional and modern storytelling techniques—Indonesian Wayang Kulit shadow puppets and digital projection mapping.

History of the Project

Wayang kulit is a traditional shadow puppet practice found in Indonesian culture. In a wayang kulit performance, the Dalang (shadow artist) manipulates carved leather figures between the a lamp and the screen to bring the shadows to life. Replacing the traditional oil lamp with a digital projector as the light source and the leather puppets with pattern-recognized laser-cut metal puppets will add an additional layer of liveliness to the shadows. With computer-generated visuals and sound elements, today’s digital mapping systems allow us to further express the beauty of this art form in new and previously unexplored ways.

American-born Indonesian multimedia artist (and veteran burner) Ali Agus Ardie is fulfilling a decade-long dream of building an art installation inspired by the culture of his home land. After 3 years of planning and assembling a talented team of digital artists, builders, craftsmen and programmers across three continents, Digital Dalang is ready to make its journey from the tropics of Indonesia to the deserts of Black Rock.

Conceptual/Thematic Elements

Wayang Kulit, flat marionettes, are the symbols of Hindu-Indonesian mythology of early times. The exclusion of a third dimension to the puppets is no accident. Its absence provides ground for thoughtful reflection on the concept of time and the shadows of our ancestors.

Digital Dalang will conceptualize the implied, yet traditionally hidden, third dimension of the Wayang performance and simulate the spiritual experience of the Dalang through visual effects and sound overlaid on the shadows of this ancient form of puppetry.

Execution of Project

The metal stage--fabricated, built, and transported by a team in Texas--will mimic the delicately-handcrafted puppets themselves. It will serve as a frame to display the puppets and cast its own shadow, along with the Wayang’s, on the Playa during the day.

As we transition into night, the screen will be drawn and the puppets will come alive as our visual team from Indonesia intricately maps out lights, sound, and visuals atop the dancing shadows. Participants can either view the spectacle from a seat near the warmth of a fire or experience the magic of performing as a Dalang puppeteer on the opposite side of the screen.

How the Funds Will Be Used

Digital Dalang receive an honoraria grant from the Burning Man Organization, but this is not enough to bring this piece to life. An estimated goal of $20,000 more is needed to cover necessary supplies, equipment and transportation from Indonesia to Nevada. The goal of this project is to reconnect us with our collective heritage through past and present storytelling techniques and to support the struggling cultural arts of Indonesia.

Although our team is donating their time and energy to make this project a realization, we plan to give back to the community by outsourcing Indonesian craftsmen to collaborate with us on the traditional elements of this project’s design. These talented artisans make less than half the American minimum wage. By hiring them and providing a wage that acknowledges their true worth, we will help traditional arts flourish for years to come.

If we hit our target of $20,000, not only will we be able to make a cultural contribution-- we will be able to execute the project sound elements and produce our interactive augmented reality app. Designed by Indonesian programmers, the app will interactively showcase our perk items and act as a digital encyclopedia, educating users on the ancient Hindu folklore of Wayang Kulit.

Any additional funding will be used to further promote the mission of this project and donated to nonprofits, including the Rainforest Pavilion - an Indonesian and International DJ charity run by the JoyCollective, whose mission is to raise awareness for the world’s tropical rainforests. All of their proceeds go directly to a project dedicated to preserving and protecting natural rainforest land and educational facilities headed by VividKalimantan

Ali Agus Ardie - Project Creator

Ali is an American born, Indonesian, multimedia artist, builder and event producer. When he isn’t building sculptures and puppets you can occasionally catch him on the DJ circuit in Asia and Mexico under the moniker Ali From Bali.

Gato (Latex) Susilo - Audio/Visual Lead

Gato currently owns and operates an IT company in Indonesia specializing in app development and programing. He is an accomplished electronic music producer and DJ with an underground all-vinyl radio station in Jakarta. He has produced interactive visual displays for numerous events all over Asia, including Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand.

Jacob Breeden - Build Lead

Jacob is a husband and the father of three crazy, amazing, and beautiful daughters. He is a working builder, sculptor, painter, and entrepreneur with over 17 years of experience in the world of fine art. He was recently named to the newly formed City Board for Beautification and Public Art and currently installing multiple outdoor works in the Amarillo area and working towards his fourth Burning Man project.

Dan Zwink - Engineering Lead


By day, Dan Zwinck works as a COO and VP of Engineering for a small critical-infrastructure security firm. Personally, he and his wife operate a small farm outside of Amarillo, TX where they raise fowl, grow vegetables and cultivate happiness. Dan is also a builder, a fabricator, a dreamer – from large art installations to custom vehicles of all shapes and sizes.

Halim Ardie - LNT Lead

Halim has been DJing and creating events in Bali for more than four years, where he has worked on projects like the Rainforest Pavilion and Club Conscious, which enlists DJs to play for charity. He is also part of the weekly beach cleanup in Bali, which cleans a popular strip of beach every Tuesday in Berawa, as apart of the Canggu Beach Cleanup Crew.

We thank you, terima kasih (literally translated to: receive giveness from you), in supporting us in our journey of cultural conservation.