2014 is a big year for Myanmar. Quote what you may about transition and post-censorship, newspaper dailies and new mining contracts – something seriously sexy is happening in country. Looks as though the “Golden Land” is rising again. Maybe it’s the upcoming elections or the new found confidence from the growing attentions of international press: artists are breathing new life into Myanmar’s cultural spheres and there’s no stopping them.
In the last 3 weeks in Yangon alone, several notable openings, events and meetings have occurred.
1. New Zero holds a performance art exchange with Thai artist couple. Ko Latt, a young New Zero member, addresses his own sexuality through a performance. First, he opens a wine cooler and smooths the sweet liquid all over his skin. He then applies nail polish to his fingers and toes, and lipstick on his face. He’s nearly naked, exposing all his movements. He then paints his face, half red, half white. He then wipes the paint from his face and writes “legal” on his chest. Perhaps Ko Latt was addressing sexuality in Myanmar. Not only the conservative view against homosexuality, but the often conflicting tolerance of cross-dressing spirit mediums, as well as the stereotypes of gay men as make-up artists with “feminine” characteristics.
2. Artist Htoo Lwin Myo creates performance at opening event for MARCA. He joins the audience together using string, all the while streaming live video of the performance on a projector screen. Each audience member can see themselves, as if watching a movie of the performance. He gives each person a box with a black box drawn on top. A ballot box? He writes on the board that we should “stare” at ourselves. The audience begins to beat on the boxes in boredom/curiosity. Htoo exits and the performance is complete.
Cofounder of MARCA, Zoncy, and performance artist Mrat Lunn Htwann pose in a spectacle exchange.
3. Myanmar Peach Center opens with Sai Lynn Myat, portrait artist who painted the members of the Panglong Agreement committee. He noted which were Chin, Kachin, Shan, and Burmese – as well as General Aung San. The exhibition was titled From Panglong to a Nation of Peace, in commemoration for the 67th Anniversary of the Union Day of Myanmar.
4. The much-anticipated opening of the Goethe Institute Myanmar, located in a grand, colonial-era house which was once the former State School of Fine Arts and General Aung San’s office. The German president was in tow. Photographs from a workshop with New Zero young artists were displayed upstairs, while Aung Ko’s bicycle installation and video (Curated by Iola Lenzi) was prominently displayed downstairs.
5. For good measure: PBD Hood 10th Anniversary Party at Flamingo bar, where rappers and young men in backwards truckers hats were out en masse for a Chinese New Year party. J-Me was also around for a solo song.
This is just a taste of all the other happenings around Yangon. Coming up:
Will be reporting from Mandalay in the next few days. Going to see Suu Myint Thein at the Mandalay Contemporary Art Center, the Ludu Archive at Ludu House, and the literary festival – want to make sure I witness any kind of protest or boycott of the recent drama involving the organizers… oh and see a few authors too.