Daily Accounts – Myanmar – August 2010
August 4, 2010
Arrive 2 PM. In touch previously with Po Po, Zoncy, Thwe Thwe, Chaw Ei, Phyu Mon, Mrat, Wah Nu and Tun Win Aung, Htoo, Moe Satt, Nyein Way… Alerted the troops, set up appointments. Settled in.
August 5, 2010
Casual “interview” with TWA and WN at their home. DID NOT RECORD. Pann Nu is encouraged to draw on the walls. Sat on the floor and spoke about art. WN father has lung cancer and we began to speak of his health and his former profession as a feature film director. The mother was a producer. There were many arguments between her parents over creative work or actors cast and she was therefore turned off from making plot-driven films. She wanted to make visual work, based upon the experience of filmmaking and the image, color, light and concept rather than work with a film crew and screenplays. She studied music in school, following in the creative footsteps of her parents and her grandfather. TWA jokes that she is the third generation artist. WN is influenced by Myanmar comics, yet is eager to stray from the “creativity for entertainment” genre. She begins painting and eventually moves to video and installation, often combining the two. She does not perform but believes that the IDEA is more important than the medium.
TWA studied painting and was a painter from 1994-2001. He read about installation art in a magazine, sometime in the 90s, but realized that his audience would not receive it well. He stuck to painting for some time before branching out and trying installation. Something was missing from painting which he satisfied working on a bigger, more complex scale. He also enjoyed the social aspect of installation and performance. He says that he and Po Po were friends at this time and he knew of Po Po’s experience with performance but they never spoke of such things – he’s not sure why. He says that Myanmar people often think there are only two types of art – political and monastic/daily life paintings. But, he says, there are more than 2 choices.
I asked the two of them if contemporary performance art has anything to do with the traditional theatre of Myanmar. A flat “NO.” Neither believe in the Nats.
Same Day, 4:30 PM NEW ZERO ART SPACE
Met with Thwe Thwe and Aye Ko. Arranged to meet later to discuss more. Also met Shein, a photographer who will begin a residency with a Filipino painter, Marlon. They will combine their photo and painting in some way or another. I asked him about the Nat Festival outside Mandalay. He went there last year to photograph. I asked him if it has any connection to artists today and he said no. I asked him whether he believed and he said no. I asked him “Why don’t artists believe in Nats?” He replied, “I think we believe in ourselves.”
Aye Ko and Thwe Thwe (his protégé it seems) left for the airport. I watched the video Myanmar Nippon – a collection of performances by various Myanmar artists while I waited for Htoo, a writer and translator and friend, who I met and stayed in touch with since I met him in December 2009 at Beyond Pressure. He arrived and we fell easily into conversation about what the hell it is I am planning to write about. He agreed that the traditional art is a bit of a stretch, and most people liken their interest to reading and researching photocopied books and things they could get their hands on from the outside. Most interestingly we touched on the following:
– Nationalism and the Collective Identity and Soul – perpetuated by a conversation about how self-involved artists are. These questions of identity are taken on by artists as an introspective arm of their artwork.
– Aung Min’s book on the modern to contemporary movement in Myanmar. Specifically a piece by San Min in 1982. A self-proclaimed installation, consisting of a hyper-real painting of a Chinese food stall, in front of which he set up food and sat at the opening – titled “Food Stall.” Performance? Not intentionally, but it may have planted some seeds and could be seen as the earliest attempt at audience/bodily involvement and action. Now to find out, who attended this exhibit and where can I find them? (possible connection is the Thai artist who made pad thai in the gallery or Amanda Heng working to bring community together).
– Htoo also mentions that Po Po has stated in interviews that he writes for everyone, not just the reader. Can it be applied to performance? Performance is not only for the artists and the community but everyone.
– Interestingly, literacy comes up. Mainly because of my lauding the Myanmar people for being so well read and educated. Htoo says it’s more a product of Ne Win’s movement to educate the country. He believes the motivation was not to have a bunch of intellectuals but so that people could read and would read the propaganda in the newspaper and on the TV. I think it might have backfired, or there would not be so many copyright infringements occurring in Myanmar, with books which are refused to them. Htoo himself was inspired by the writing of Althusser – to think about the State institution of education in this way. Smart.