As part of the international exhibition curated by Cosmin Costinas – A Beast a God and a Line, brought to Yangon after showing in Dhaka and Warsaw in June 2018, Myanm/art agreed to host part of the exhibition which would surely suffer scrutiny and censorship were in shown in a public space. Myanm/art prides itself on being somewhat off the radar of the mainstream. We can host shows which other more public venues cannot, and hope to bring these challenging works to the attention of those who can appreciate their relevance in today’s context. 

The works chosen were based on their sensitive subject matter. The bulk of the exhibition was shown at the Pyinsa Rasa Art Space at the Secretariat. Myanm/art hosted the brilliant artists who approach topics that are often disturbing to the viewer. The entire gallery was painted a flat, dark purple, and the work played off each other in a dark, disconcerting, gritty and violent manner. 

Below are some of the artists featured in this uncensored exhibition. 

Ines Doujak, Born in Austria, in 1959
Lives and works between London, UK and Vienna, Austria


Fires: The War Against the Poor (2012-2013)
Mixed media (2 pieces of textile), shirt, handout, video, audio piece�Courtesy of the artist

The silkscreen printed cloth is a fresco depicting a scene in the global war against the poor, who are often locked in factories with overloaded electricity circuits, living under threat of death and horrible injury by fire while fulfilling skin-tight clothing contracts. It refers directly to several catastrophic incidents in recent years that took place in Pakistan and Bangladesh, which have brought little improvement to working conditions.

Nontawat Numbenchapol
Born in Bangkok, Thailand, 1983

Lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand


Mr. Shadow (2016-2018)
Inkjet print on paper
Courtesy of the artist
Assisted by Korn and Chan; post-produced by Nutcha Pajareya

In the middle of a mountain range at the border between Shan State in Myanmar and Northern Thailand, in the buffer zone where many Shan refugees live, a motorcycle moves along the steep and winding path. The dust from the red dirt road kicks up behind the motorcycle, ridden by a young man in an all-green army suit. The warm sunshine illuminates the dusk and the breeze blows gently as the man parks his motorcycle at a spot from which he can see the land below the mountains. It stretches to infinity, toward the horizon, tinged with the vibrant hues of the setting sun. The young man slowly removes his hat, but there is no head underneath, nothing, not a face. He then removes his shirt but his body is transparent. The clothes come off piece by piece until his body completely disappears. All that remains are the mountains and the setting sun as they welcome the darkness of the night.

Than Sok
Born in Takeo, Cambodia, in 1984.
Lives and works in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

TfT36N+jQ5q5FfrIquT9CASrie Bun (2016)
Installation of five clerical garments (cotton, chemical dye), five garment hooks
Courtesy of the artist and MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum

Five Buddhist clerical garments hang on the wall at the same height. The different colours belong to two sects within Cambodia’s Theravada Buddhist system and signify ranks within each sect: three orange colours of Maha Nikaya and darker maroon and ochre colours of Thammayut. For the Buddhist monk, wearing robes is believed to delineate a merit field comparable to the fertile rice field, where seeds are sown for reaping. The words ‘veal srie’ in the Khmer language means ‘rice field’, and ‘bun’ refers to ‘merit-making’, which, as the artist notes, is increasingly synonymous with ‘monetary’ and ‘this-world offerings’. The robe’s rectilinear form and seams imitate those of the rice field: paddies framed by levees. In Srie Bun, the artist has carefully cut away measured fields of fabric, revealing deliberate holes. His gesture questions the robe’s symbolic power atop mortal male bodies, and if peace can be advanced when hierarchical notions of sect and rank remain at the moral core of society.

Sawangwongse Yawnghwe
Born in Shan State, in 1971
Lives and works between Berlin, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Chiang Mai, Thailand


Rohingya Boat Portrait (2015)
Oil on paper
Courtesy the artist and  Canada Council for the Arts

There were Light Bulbs So We could See Them (2012)
Oil on paper
Courtesy of the artist

They were Buried in the Mud under the Bridge (2012)
Oil on paper
Courtesy the artist

He was Also Shot in the Head (2012)
Oil on paper
Courtesy the artist

Untitled (2015)
Oil on silk
Courtesy the artist
Supported by Canada Art Council

The artist, a descendent from a prominent royal-turned-guerrilla family leading the struggle for the rights of the Shan people in Eastern Myanmar, is committed to exposing the hidden and repressed histories of violence and oppression in his country. He critiques dominant Bamar-centric artistic and historical narratives by presenting a personal, counter-historiography, often in solidarity with other oppressed or excluded communities in Myanmar. The works in this exhibition include portraits of Rohingya as well as mass graves of bodies, based on eyewitness accounts of Rohingya refugees. The works resonate with the poem “The Earth Is Closing on Us”, by Mahmoud Darwish:

The earth is closing on us
pushing us through the last passage
and we tear off our limbs to pass through.
The earth is squeezing us
I wish we were its wheat
so we could die and live again.
I wish the earth was our mother
So she’d be kind to us.
I wish we were pictures on the rocks
for our dreams to carry as mirrors.
We saw the faces of those
to be killed by the last of us
in the last defence of the soul.
We cried over their children’s feast.
We saw the faces of those
who’ll throw our children
out of the windows of the last space.
Our star will hang up in mirrors.
Where should we go after the last frontiers?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air?
We will write our names with scarlet steam.
We will cut off the head of the song to be finished by our flesh.
We will die here, here in the last passage.
Here and here our blood will plant its olive tree.


Jimmy Ong
Born in Singapore, in 1964
Lives and works in Singapore and Vermont, USA


Seamstress Raffles Effigy #7 – Mr. Florent
Cotton and Dacron stuffing
Courtesy of the artist and FOST Gallery

Test Batik #1, Printed Test Batik #2, Test Batik #3 and Printed Batik #4
Courtesy of the artist and FOST Gallery

Sketches for Fallen Tiger Batik motifs
Watercolour on paper
Courtesy of the artist and FOST Gallery

The work refers to Thomas Stamford Raffles, one of the most infamous British colonial figures in South East Asia, who remains nevertheless largely revered in Singapore. His crimes are well remembered in Indonesia, which suffered from Raffles’ invasion of Java in 1812. He is also the author of “The History of Java”, containing the chapter “Ethics of Javan”, from which the artist quotes: “A caterpillar has its poison in its head, a scorpion in its tail and a snake in its teeth, but it is unknown in what part of the body the poison of man is concealed: a bad man is therefore considered poisonous in his whole-frame.” The textiles shown here replicate the batik technique of cloth painting, which has become associated with Java and embodies the many layers of cultural influence as well as of colonialism and occupation of the island in the last centuries.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Born in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1970
Lives and works in Chiang Mai, Thailand


The work is based on photographs documenting scenes of violence taken during the Takbai Incident in Thailand’s restive South in 2004. Around 1,500 demonstrators had gathered before the local police station to protest the detention of six men, only to be brutally repressed, resulting in 85 deaths. The photographs reveal the violence with which the Thai government has been handling insurgents and civilians alike in its Muslim-majority southern provinces.


Emily Phyo
Born in Yangon, Myanmar, in 1982
Lives and works in Yangon


Denied Identity (2017)
Laminated Card in Aluminum Box

One’s sense of self is so fundamental, so important, not only to one’s self-esteem but also to how one interprets the rest of the world. Any threat to identity is likely to produce a strong response. 



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