Even S/superman

As a form of writing exercise, I have copied verbatim Po Po’s essay for the 2005 Fukuoka Triennale catalog. I’ve always been greatly impressed with his ability to tie in distinctive imagery from Myanmar, all the while critiquing the art world and greater society while using western theoretical and literary points of interest. His freestyle form gives him the artist’s voice. Particularly charming is the lack of correction of grammar from original to print. It shows the incredible lengths localized Asian artists and writers have to go to in order to reach an international audience. First drafts, rewrites in English, translations – no doubt something is lost through so much copy. But then again, perhaps it is the beginning of longs lines of communications and, hopefully, mutual understanding is multiple languages.


Even S/superman [1] can be able to come back in punk style

PO PO 2005 Fukuoka

A girl with red hair, walking at the corner of the street wore a light green blouse with mickey mouse, light gray skirt and high heels. She also wore a transparent pink plastic watch, a bangle of beads and a bag across one shoulder. A young man coming down the other way wore a bright orange t-shirt with a big gray star, light khaki quarter pants and slippers. Also he wore a black cap, an earring and the bag (BNN) cross on his back. A song of ‘Linkin Park[2]’ spread out from a music store.

Today is May 7, 2005. Room temperature is 40 degrees Celsius in Yangon.

No regular electricity supply in our block, even in our city.

Suddenly, three bombs exploded one after another among the people of different supermarts.

Oh Lord Buddha! What are going on here in Myanmar?

A movie star acts like the movie star. A vocalist sings a song as talking.

A poet makes a docu-poem as diary. A novelist write a book in essay style. And what about in the art scene?

In the last days of twentieth century, we imagined the future direction of our society. Freedom? Development? Richness? But, today, people choose the easy way; easy to eat, easy to speak, easy to live, easy to go, easy to love, easy to f…

What makes next? Is it easy to art?

It is more threatened than other art. Is that why only those painters who distrust painting attract you?

Is that why only those paintings that display the extreme vulnerability of painting are able to move you beyond mere enjoyment, and thus withstand the peril? Perhaps, you can’t help but feel that they hang in front of a background constituted by the innumerable discourses that have proclaimed the end of painting ever since photography was invented [3].

“It’s dangerous and most challenging to art today that you can do everything, use everything, bring everything and call it art,” said Myint Moe Aung, a popular song writer in Myanmar. “In music, it’s different. A musician must have some skill for the instrument and need some knowledge of music, “ he said.

Well, who are the challengers in Myanmar contemporary art? Who threatens the current art trend?

After year 2000, some of young artists arose not only locally, but also abroad.
Some challenged politics, some intervened in the society and some distrusted to religion. Some also began to lose themselves in the heteronomy of the market. In that situation, I met two young artists.

On one day of early 2004, I visited to Wah Nu’s first solo show; Cloud Department at Lokanat Galleries. As I entered into the gallery, I saw roomful of ‘cartoon cloud’ according to her father. Unlike Paw Oo Thett, the Famous Myanmar artist who made cartoon based paintings, and other international artists, her paintings were very simple but rich in colors, joyous but sentimental, flat but many dimensions. “They are the reflection of my childhood experiences that I got from the trip around the nationwide with my father,” she said. But some of her cloud paintings are seen in the psychological stage; fear and solitude. How did it happen to her? She is the only and oldest daughter in her family. Her father (also her grandfather) is a famous movie director and writer in Myanmar. She grew up in the editing room by playing and helping her father’s trivial matters. When she made her first short film; Tea Time in Spring, 2004, she manipulated her experience of movie making. She tried to present the loneliness and the restless mind of a girl in comparison. The solitude that has found in her work also reflects our existence who are exiled from outside world for nearly half the century.

After graduating from University of Culture, Yangon, in 1998 Phyoe Kyi started as a fulltime painter of art market. Even in the paintings for the market, I was aware of his talent. In 2001, he left the art market and turn to the silk screen printing for his survival. At the same time, he tried to adopt this printing technique in his works. During this period, he made some paintings of Mother and Her Only Son series. He used the documental/snap shot photos of his mother and himself taken throughout their life. In 2004, he substituted computer inkjet  print for silk screen printing, informal arrangement as comic strip for conventional composition, bright light hues for old gray tones. But he has been still making confession of inner conflict with his beloved mother in his works. His performance; Sinner in 2003 that expressed also the conflict of the judge; his mother and the sinner; himself, made me reconsider the relationship of the punishment vs. the right, the individual vs. the society and the public vs. the government. Actually, if I say so, he is one of the Holden Caulfields[4] at all time in the society. Will he be running away from home again? Will s-h-e be in fear and loneliness yet? Nobody can know exactly.



[1] ‘Superman’ is a name of a popular comic hero and ‘superman’ is the Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844-1900) term.

[2] ‘Linkin Park’ is a name of a nu-metal music band.

[3] Thierry de Duve, Kant after Duchamp, October Books, 1998, p. 45.

[4] ‘Holden Caulfield’ is a name of the main character in the novel; J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.













Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s