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Unstoppable footsteps: Spring Revolution and the condition of Myanmar art scene in 2021

Unstoppable footsteps:
Spring Revolution and the condition of Myanmar art scene in 2021

Aung Myat Htay

Firstly may I say thank you to Monthly Magazine for allowing me to this partially discuss the current situation of Myanmar. Also like to express my gratitude to the people of South Korea for standing with us.

As we all know, the global pandemic of COVID-19 has affected the socio-economic all over the world. When all galleries temporarily closed on-ground, all of the art spread online media that we haven’t ready yet to new technologies. We confronting with many challenges to be able to create new opportunities. The farther away we go, the more we want get closer. Unfortunately meantime in Myanmar, another big wave hit the whole country, that by the stupidity of man-made disasters of tyranny and irrationality military coup.

Introduction Local Contexts: modern accent in Myanmar art

A country by the rich of cultural heritage in SEA, art has a level of historical values. However, it is not clear whether it exists as representing to cultural identity for its diverse sociology. Mostly in art is a way of prioritizing aesthetics on peace of mind to healing of life. But on the other hand ‘Art’ is a tools to resonate of the social and political issues in many ways that is contrary with traditional fine art scene. Both of these are still gaining attentions in the local art lovers. The traditional art away from the political and critical issues, when Modern Art is does. We should clarify that Myanmar people’s understanding of modernity is different from their understanding on Modern art. Modernity can be seen as a more comfortable life and inventions of useful devices, such as using latest technology. However, in approached to Modern art, does not seem to see practical and useful facts, but rather a way of portraying mindfulness or religious approach of emotional sufferings. Technically, there has much influences of Western art practices like other Asian countries such as Cubism and Surrealism, but in Myanmar most are indescribable vibes rather than an invention of idea.

More than sixty years of closed-door system the country goes to least developing until now. We are still to trying to step away from dictatorship to democracy. The shaking of leapfrog undergoing to the 21st Century technologies, the development of art scene is rising but still critically weak. The development of art may seen divided into two parts: one is independent art community and the other is government’s propaganda system. Government policy does neither encourage new methods and ideologies nor international exposures. There are no proper state art & culture policy even no modern teaching methods in the art education. There is full of socialist propaganda just shown innocent beauties and old aesthetics ideologies. In the outside of traditional art, the reseems to be more opennes sand becoming slowly into contemporary trends. Today from 2015 to 2020, Myanmar art become more developed and roses due to the links of global networks.

Yangon: city of opportunity and a core of art scene

Yangon is a city, which means no enemies, but now there are bloody uprisings fall. When the art scene here not yet recovered since impact of the COVID-19, along with other businesses. Meanwhile, artists, art professions and scholars are their fierce oppositions turned to the creations of revolutionary. Art is an emotional resonance of people, it’s light-up the community to see the right ways. This concept is effect of the Spring Revolution, “we strongly condemn the actions of the military, we will fight until dictatorship end.” Myanmar artists and collectives created the Raise 3 Fingers project response to reject coup and spread of Myanmar’s voices internationally. Most of remarkably creative ideas for protesting strategy by Myanmar Gen-Z artists were popular trends in the world news. It may be hesitant to keep up with the rapid global movement. Yangon does not silence for long, to ready for every changes by the diversity of ethnicity and culture. The Spring Revolution, which is still gaining momentum, even it costs of blood and sweat but sure to bring us to new era. Guiding us to new era of creativity and where we can struggle to reconstruct our new art system. As responses from my experience, I was organized an online program for SOCA in 2020 titled is “What the Way We Lived in Social Distancing” for those who want to learn in new media art for a while. From this program, most young people have desire to face the problem, contradictions, conflict and chaotic of present in the community. I heard their inner voices that they did not usually say, is express not only about the present, but their future ambitions.

ⓒ Aung Myat Htay

Hoping towards the post-Revolutionary artistic freedom

Recently, in the evenings of Yangon city, we saw some video slides images on pedestrian, bridges and public area. These are anti-coup protest movement created by young artists of Yangon. Flashing in bright red images shown how people are intense desired and flashback of daytime protest crowd. Artists have been able to use technology and ideas in a timely manner to motivate the public. This is a foregone conclusion that they will soon lead the art scene with freedom of creativity even uncertainty right now. Presently, most of energized ideas and supporting gestures are being forced toward our artistic freedom. That can be expected to all-inclusive revitalization strategy like public art festival, fundraising, free art fare and international exchange such as workshops and curatorial projects. Let say, the state of contemporary Myanmar art, which has been developing steadily followed to the neighboring countries, but unfortunately all of that conditions has suspended halt due to the military coup. So, art has become a priority for anti-authoritarianism. Despite the broke-down of academic institutions, artists are moving forward and they will rebuild their future. I believe that this will create a new era of Myanmar art.

My personal practices: Ongoing and the past works

My initial approach is the identity of being Burmese and curiosity to culture and origin. For more than a decade, I have shifted from my past craft-man to focus on broader and deeper aspects of contemporary art. I used to multi-disciplinary media and techniques instead of old practice. For example I was created a public installation work for the Yangon Art & Heritage Festival 2017.

The title of the work is 〈 Your sound is my sound 〉, is to create a social instrument that audience can join to harmonizes with social re-construction as a sharing of voices. Using the Burmese instruments the work setup with twelve of bamboo xylophone has been a favorite of young people in the festival. That’s a first kind of public art in Yangon, such an example of participatory installation. Recently something different, I created a site specific installation called 〈 Are we in a fail state 〉 in 2018. The work make by textile cutting shapes of the protest people marching upside down. You can only see the truth in the reflection of the floor. This is to make the viewer think between the real and the imaginary revolution.

Currently, my ongoing work is just say 〈 Artist is walking 〉 an exploring on surface of the Earth via Goggle Map. Contemplating the terrain makes us think about the world we live in and reflect on our human nature. The image above is a 9-foot-long canvas, a self-created document in February and March, showing lines are maps of four rivers in Myanmar. It is a simplistic move for the days of silence at home, but it is a concentration of the motivation to go forward. As conclusion, I reveled the ‘Diversity’ is a basic philosophy of my art, I feel basic phenomena of our life could be a great work of art in some ways. That is also my curatorial basic as a sense of diversity into simplicity same as what is need of Myanmar art scene to be re-unite, re-simplify and reconstruct of social political infrastructures.

Aung Myat Htay 〈 Your Sound is My Sound 〉 public instrument cycle xylophone Installation at 〈 My Yangon My Home Arts and Heritage Festival 〉 2017
Aung Myat Htay 〈 Are we in a fail state 〉 Installation at SOCA space 2018