Art – Spaces – Us is an online exhibition that took place in April 2020. The exhibition was originally planned to open at Myanm/art gallery space in early April, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In this involuntary moment of stillness, the curators challenge themselves to use the digital space as a way to communicate with the audience. This multimedia exhibition aimed to morphe into a melting pot of audience, artists and curators by including small interview videos with artists and live panel sessions via the Myanm/art Facebook page.
See below for artwork images and the curatorial statement by Phoo Myat Thwe, curator of the Art-Spaces-Us project, assisted by Than Thar and sponsored by Myanm/art.
“In this space, we dismantle the idea of an art exhibition and refuse to tell a one-dimension story. We seek non-existence in existence. In this space, we are actively running away from ordinary, forming new alliances, new ideas of exhibitions, curators and artists. However, this is in no way done as a rebellion but rather a self-analysis of ourselves as curators and artists; deconstructing, rebuilding and finding coexistence in a physical/ virtual space, together with our audience. In this space, we are getting out of our own crises and seeking our freedom. In here, we are experimenting, winning and failing.”
Art – Spaces – Us exhibition can perhaps be considered an experimentation of thinking about dynamics between curators, artists, audience and space while finding room for growth in an interactive space rather than showcasing the final products of us, curators and artists. The exhibition was not intended as an online exhibition but rather planned to open at Myanm/art gallery space earlier this April, which was postponed due to Covid-19 pandemic. In this involuntary moment of stillness, we took a challenge upon ourselves to use digital mediums as a way to communicate with our audience, in the spirit of experimentation that we have been encompassing this exhibition with.
As an amateur curator, I find it important to find space for growth and mistakes; for myself and for the artists that I have assembled, during an exhibition and the planning process. To shine a light on my personal crisis, I stumbled upon a curatorial crisis of what is a ‘good’ exhibition theme. An exhibition theme is a curated narrative and the danger of a curated narrative is that it’s influenced by someone’s ideas. Curated narratives can be narrow, specific and at times does not encompass all the artists or artworks. Art that is made outside but existing in this narrated space becomes much more entangled with a curator’s idea rather than be a singular creation of an artist.
As such, I was intrigued to give artists involved in this exhibition a capsule space of freedom, to create their own worlds in this collective space, which will then come together to tell a multi-dimensional story. I was keen to see what happens when different worlds collide in a semi-untamed process. It is interesting to see silent disruptive, undisruptive conversations of artists with each other’s art in a space and invisible energies their artworks produce, individually, collectively and with one another. The works of Sai Shang Kam and Meemi Maung take on the issues of self-identity, rebellion and analyzing their existence. With their art, they created a world where they are out of social restraints and seek freedom. Seeking freedom is also what Myo Sithu Myint’s figures are doing in his drawings, defying anatomical abilities of muscles and bones of a realistic human body on his paper. For Minn Thant Sin, no canvas is enough for him, with his figures seemingly trying to break through the two-dimension canvas and seep through to the viewer’s feet. However, in constrast to Minn Thant Sin’s work, excessiveness is what Pyae Phyo Thant Nyo is trying avoid, reducing luxury consumerism to nothingness and raising environmental consciousness. Freedom from narratives and freedom to create has also perhaps allowed artists to be reflective of their different living experiences in their works. We see the extent to which environments influence and inform artists’ works, highlighting the things they have in common and what sets them apart in their practices.
Taking the exhibition to a digital space has, of course, morphed/expanded our exhibition’s purpose of bringing different artists to a space. In times of a global crisis with an uncertain future ahead of us, the questions of how to continue art production, distribution, access, participation and consumerism encompasses us. How well our initial intention of giving the audience multidimensional artistic experience in a singular physical space works on social media platforms where posting is gradual? How are the artworks communicating to the audience on a digital platform? Does transporting art into a digital space works and how does it change our experiences? And the big question “Is this enough?”
Here is where our idea of small interview videos with artists and live panel sessions comes in, which is an attempt to involve the audience in our process of dealing with crisis. The original idea of “getting out of our own crises and seeking our freedom” for experimentation has morphed into ‘thinking about how to cope with a global crisis collectively as artists, curators, gallery owners and audience”. Within this exhibition space, I want to take the audience into the thinking process, not exist just as viewers of Art that we present. This exhibition intends to give a dual experience of visual and non-visual while promoting the action of questioning narratives, questioning the space you are in, questioning the exhibition and questioning the art pieces, collectively and individually. This is perhaps an attempt to elevate the audience role of stare at a piece, read the caption, nod and move on. The videos were our ways of inviting audience to our curator/artist cohabiting/ thinking space.
The live panels have also let the artists reflect on their art practices and their resilience during this crisis, their shifts and/or sameness. The question of whether bringing art online is enough and what are effective strategies concerned us during the discussions. Online art experience also concerns the audience. Assistant Curator Than Thar questioned the artists on live panel in Burmese language what they think the audience could do to enjoy Art via screen 100% or whether that’s possible. Another audience in English language panel posed a question of whether the artists felt satisfactory having a virtual exhibition. These two questions complimented each other by giving us an idea of what the art makers and consumers are thinking of virtual art experience. Transporting Art to digital screens reach more people without limitation of distance and is not space-bound. But it seems the audience and the artists alike still have their niches of how Art should be viewed and felt. They want to be in a physical space to get the “true” experience. This is perhaps because the mediums that Art has been communicated through has mostly been physical and we collectively have always think, see, feel Art in a physical existence. Some artists in this exhibition express interests in using digital mediums to create works and expand their practice. Whether both sides can be satisfied with Art in virtual space is still a looming question.
The question “What is our collective future as artists, curators, art practitioners?” still looms our mind at the end of this exhibition, perhaps because we are just a tiny speck of wave trying to adapt and take challenges in a crisis without aiming to find definitive answers. Nevertheless, we are still happy that we have managed to find spaces for ourselves in this crisis and thankful for the support and interest that was given to us.
This exhibition is Curated by: Phoo Myat Thwe / Assistant Curator: Than Thar
For more information or an interview with the artist, contact:
Phone: 09 42106 6342
Address: Urban Asia Center, G-42 48th St, Yangon