Roc And Roll is an exhibition of the latest work by ROAR (Release of Artistic Rage), a group of artists including 9Micro, Wunna Aung and Bart Was Not Here. Following their debut show at Myanm/art last year, ROAR presents a new take on current artistic trends, reacting and raging against the trope of traditional storytelling in national artistic trends. Breaking the rules, or reinventing them, is the new normal.
Traditions are meant to be tested and reinvented. ROAR want to create paintings that are not Myanmar landscapes, Buddhist monks, beautiful ladies in traditional dress… Roc And Roll reflects and archives pop culture in new and unique ways. This is a departure from graffiti, ushering in a new movement of Pop Surrealism and Lowbrow Art in Myanmar.
BART WAS NOT HERE
When someone says ‘Burmese culture,’ people instantly think pagodas, bullock carts, monks, and girls wearing Thanakha on their faces Most of the reflections of Myanmar in paintings are not exactly accurate reflections of Burmese culture. Those things might represent some kind of aesthetic elements of the country, but definitely not the culture.
Being raised as an inner city youth in the early 2000s, the culture I grew up in consisted of tea shops, video/book rental houses, and the non-existent playground on the streets. I was too young to be hanging out in teashops and too physically weak to be competing with other kids on the streets, so I turned to the video and book rental spots. Around age 10, I had great friendships with the owners or random people who hung out at these places – people who were about 2 or 3 times older than I was – but I listened and learned. It was through these places I also started to have a strong relationship with movies, books, and music. I was fully immersed into Yangon’s pop culture before I knew it.
Today, movies and music are still around and people still put the old classics on the pedestal, but the books, especially the Burmese comic books, have faded into the background in the last decade. Burmese comics/cartoons always played a major role in disrupting the status quo or criticizing the norm. Burmese comic characters are entertaining, informative, and most importantly, intimate. Now that many other distractions have replaced our beloved icons, it’s only fair that we thank the old icons for being with us through all the good and bad times in our early lives.
This work deals with a time and space in Yangon pop culture history by way of the iconic characters. They serve as a representation for various personalities and narrations of Burmese culture, with a twist of Pop Art aesthetics and Frank Stella element. Also, this work is a clear statement that paintings or artworks representing Burmese culture or Yangon should just not be about pretty girls, monks, and fucking landscapes.
Are you actually living your life as you desired? Did anyone choose a dream for you to follow? Perhaps sometimes you would daydream about being someone else, doing something else from your everyday life. Perhaps you regret the choices you have made, and it haunts you unconsciously in your dreams.
These artworks are inspired by science fiction with implications of a fractured reality. I see the majority of young people from generation to generation are forced to walk on the way laid by their parents or society. But a few of us would try to struggle away from those paths, chasing our own dreams and become a glitch in the system.
The babies represent the young people – with glitches overwhelmed by my graffiti style, which represent me and my dream. Even if we are manufactured with pre-written codes designed for normalcy, fight for your dream and become a glitch in the future. Input your own codes and be in control!
It’s hard to abandon our teenage obsessions. This culture and these moments in time won’t go away easily either. Even though these obsessions were from an older time, they can easily resurface with a light push from various circumstances. Music is one my biggest obsessions since my youth. Not only traditional music, Rock and Roll music was also a place for me to search for adventures and inspirations at that time. And my views still haven’t changed. With Rock and Roll music, comes the flashy, eye-catching music posters which become my instant favorite. I lent a lot of my painting hours to music in my teenage years. And I’m still dealing with the people from the music field. This body of work represents this connection between Rock music, art, and me. The works reflect my dreams from the younger age. The artworks are made in wall poster style and some of the musicians are used as main characters. This is also an attempt to replace the cliché paintings of beautiful girls and landscapes you can see through your window with a fresh brew of youth and pop culture history.
The subject matters are taken from things happening in Burma. These artworks are also calling out the ones sacrificing music for fame and money, the ones misappropriating others’ cultures, not being able to express ourselves fully, and the disorientation taking place in the middle of the city with the messengers being my favorite musicians; Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Ju Jue from General Tiger Gun.