On 18 March 2013, I spoke to a small group at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, introducing yet another take on Performance art in Myanmar. This was my third presentation on the subject and yet the very first time I equated the timeline of performance art in Myanmar with politics.
Homegrown: Performance Art in Myanmar (Burma) from 1988 to the Present began by defining the parameters of major political changes in tandem with the development of the artists, many of whom were young activists in the very beginning. Even were they not politically active, they were silent in their artistic protests, defying a military junta’s logic as to what art really can accomplish. The 88 Generation of Zarganar, Htein Lin, Chaw Ei Thein, Nyein Chan Su, Po Po and MSO were fighting something, even if indirectly.
I designated a turning point in the artistic generations in 2007, the year of the Saffron Revolution and the horrors of Cyclone Nargis. Young, develping artists at the time directed their messages away from politics, seemingly jaded by the senseless violence and totalitarianism running the country. They returned to their hometowns, they found meaning in their own personal pains and histories, and they began a negotiation with government bodies, specifically local authorities and censorship boards, to negotiate their right to exist and make art.
My area of interest narrows in on the last 20 years of art-making. I did not cover the very young artists working today, who create performance after performance in order to explore their making through medium. Rather, I follow the work of poets, journalists, writers, gallery owners, graphic designers, painters and curators who develop ideas and experiment with movement through performance art, all the while shaping a history while themselves being shaped by it.