Shan Turner-Carroll: Return to Burma


Shan came to us (7000 Padauk/Myanmar Art Evolution) via a friend at the Asia-Pacific Photo Forum. He is a student and recent recipient of many awards and laudatory attention due to his project, Primal Crown. The project began as an exploration into his complex family history. His name, Shan, comes from his grandparents who fled Burma during WWII. His great-grandmother was ethnic Shan and her children were Anglo-Burmese. The family then moved to Australia, where they met with a classification system that determined just “how white” they really were. During the war, as jobs were scarce, they moved to Papua New Guinea. It was there that Shan’s father met Shan’s mother, who was living with her Australian family in Papua New Guinea as well.
The family returned to Australia where Shan was born.

Primal Crown examines this mixture of descendents and cultural fabrics woven together through 3 generations. The final product, a photograph, contains the world of each individual subject – who also happens to be Shan’s family member. Each wears a crown and some kind of garment, all collected and assembled by Shan over one year. The crowns are made of twigs, leaves, ornaments, jewelry, and flowers and return to each person the majesty of being human. As Shan said, it should not be that just a few people in the world receive crowns because of their heritage or importance. We all deserve crowns and each of our crowns would be different in order to describe ourselves and where we come from.

The clothing the subjects wear in Shan’s photographs is made from old suits, carpet, mosquito nets and fabrics. Expensive, brand name clothes do not make the man or woman. The man or woman wear the clothes that best express their nature. The man or woman can change the nature of the clothes according to his or her dreams, desires and determination. A select few is not good enough; we are all royalty, despite our differences or heritage.

When Shan arrived at 7000 Padauk, he immediately “got it.” It was his first time in Burma and his exploratory journey had only just begun. He was on his way to Maymo (now Pyin Oo Lwin) to see his grandparents old house. He agreed to stop in Yangon for a few days and give us an exhibit we will never forget. He could not have known how distinct and beautiful they would turn out until he experienced the space itself and got to know the spirit of the city.

He used some clay from Ko-Z’s installation work and “framed” each photograph, placing them directly on top of Ogre’s previous exhibition with journal paper. Each photograph is unique therefore each frame had to also be unique. At the end he exclaimed that his photos “have never looked better.”

We were extremely proud to be a part of Shan’s journey back to his roots and hope he enjoyed his experience at 7000 Padauk. The space literally shifted with his presence and that is what we look for in creative work – a new experience, a different way of seeing, and finally a lifelong partnership of respect and exchange. Thank you Shan.

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