Aung Min: Myanmar Art Critic & Bourriaud’s Altermodern

“Politics unites oppositions. Art does the similar thing. But the ways of uniting are different. Politics provide rivalry and temporary unification, whereas art leads friendly, peaceful and perma-cohesion.”

Aung Min
Beyond Pressure I catalog
Essay: Performance Art Events in Yangon Streets
December 5th, 2008

Nyein Chan Su Public Performance “On the Road” 1997 Photo Courtesy of NCS
One thing that I attempted while researching was to avoid politics. Of course, when speaking of anything to do with Myanmar, this proves rather impossible. But I knew that if I went down that road, there was no turning back. I intend to explore this topic further with this very blog, exposing the parallels between works of art and acts of defiance, not to mention the scope of politics and the effects on the lives of artists. Aung Min’s quote and the following by Nicolas Bourriaud were the first that began to frame my thoughts on the matter of art, politics and Myanmar.
“…a [work] consists of a significant network whose interrelationships the artists elaborates and whose progression in time and space he or she controls…”
“…as they follow the receding perspectives in history and geography, works of art trace lines in a globalised space that now extends to time; history, the last continent to be explored, can be traversed like a territory…”
Before I move toward politics, I had to understand and explore the contemporary. I wanted to identify historic details, relevant or irrelevant. I did it to fulfill my own selfish desire to learn. I also did it to make sure that personal and cultural histories were not ignored or forgotten in my particular body of work.
Is it my place to do so? Not really. As my loving and highly critical friend Htoo would say, I am a slave to the white person’s version of epistemological art history. Perhaps. One must start somewhere. And I started with the question: why are so many of the artists working in Myanmar today so comfortable with public performance art? Why stray so far from their modern painters that came before them and in many ways, taught them so much?
The following few entries will explore what I attempted to with limited resources. If you are reading this blog with any interest or research purposes, then you already know what I discovered years ago. There are little to no books published in English on Myanmar contemporary art or its history. What exists is an almost “tourist” view of the traditional arts of Myanmar. Puppets, dance, street performance, Nat Festivals, theatre, movies, comedy, etc. There I began my search which took me a little further from my original interests but which nonetheless revealed some connections that still resonate with me today.

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