Where performance art free from oppression is headed


Dec 05 - Oct 08, 2018

Written by Maki Itasaka, Translated by AURA Art

In Myanmar, there are many places where performance art is flourishing in developing countries, especially in those with political difficulties, and Myanmar is one of them.

Second international festival

The International Performance Art Festival 'Zero Platform 2' was held in Yangon from December 5-8th, 2018. This is the second time since last year, and it will be hosted by one of Myanmar's leading artists, Aye Ko, the president of the gallery and workshop New Zero Art Space. Following on from last year, the venue was the Goethe-Institut, an international cultural exchange center supported by the German government. They took the style of going back and forth between the indoor hall and the outdoor stage.

  • The front garden of the Goethe-Institut, where the platform-shaped audience seats surround the stage.

Ten international artists from Japan (including Daisuke Takeya), Germany, Colombia, Belgium, South Korea, and twenty-four Myanmar artists, including veterans such as Htein Lin and San Oo, as well as young people who are Aye Ko's pupils participated in this festival. This article focuses on Myanmar artists.

What to look at in direct messages

There were two trends in the performances of the Myanmar artists this time. One was a heavy, muddy, realistic anger caused by the 88th generation (*). The other was the performance of young people, whose straightforward expressions were noticeable, and not in line with the theory of performance art.

  • Suu Myint Thein, crawls over rice scattered on the ground and put it in his mouth.

  • Kaung Myat Thu detains himself by himself.

In the former, there was an overwhelming persuasiveness in the common perception of everyone who saw the reality that had occurred to them, such as oppression and imprisonment. However, I also felt confused, as if they could not decide where to strike their anger compared to the time when their purpose was clear.

Regarding the latter, although the feeling of impatience on the verge of explosion was understood, their expression seemed to come from only their personal self-consciousness, therefore I personally had a negative impression. However, Takeya from Japan, who participated commented, "I realized that it is ok to express clearly so far, and I felt like they made my eyes open wider." Conversely, this was a surprise.

  • The only performance of Daisuke Takeya who participated from Japan.

  • Daisuke Takeya also served as a workshop instructor.

Pros and cons of sophistication

Among these two trends, Aung Myat Htay and KoSo stood out for their sophisticated expressions.

  • The circle of longyi, which is confused when an individual is pulled in different directions and stagnates when they are harmonized -by Aung Myat Htay

Aung Myat Htay invites the audience into a circle made by tying several longyis, and presents the state of society while being caught around and pulled together or left to the flow.

  • Only the rustling sound that exhales through the water of the cylinder is heard -by KoSo.

KoSo was dressed in natural greenery, water, and air, representing a peaceful world in which flowers were gently blooming around the performer.

Neither of them would have been inferior even if they were in overseas festivals, but the pros and cons of that might be divided depending on what they want from performance art.

An accidental product?! Or...

And this time, what I personally felt was the most impressive performance scene was Tha Mee Gie's one. The performance itself went in her style. A woman who was tied up with a rope and was dragged out to the square; she opened her legs and sat down, and removed a bloody mass from the back of her groin and buried it in a flower pot. It is a serious development that can be described as expressing womens' oppression and struggles as 'fertility'. But what made me think was the distance between the performer and the photographer.

  • Cameramen who surround Tha Mee Gie very closely and keep the shutter pressed open.

In Japan, cameramen strive not to interfere with the performance, and take positions with each other in consideration. But this time, as soon as she took the mass of blood out of her groin, everyone surrounded her, and they continued to shoot her from a low angle like paparazzi. Whether those who were initially hesitant or group psychology worked, in a moment her appearance was blocked by photographers and she went out of the audiences' sight.

The scene was indeed a microcosm of a male society trying to consume womens' sexuality, and the media even became a part of the pre-arranged performance. Did Tha Mee Gie herself anticipate this? If so, it is worth marveling.

It doesn't end with the performance alone

  • Artists enthusiastically listening to the lecturer's story.

The festival also held a workshop in which artists who came together from overseas acted as instructors. The young people who listened enthusiastically to the program that lasted from morning to night seemed to understand that the art scene in Myanmar is changing.

  • After the performance, all participants took commemorative photos.

The success of these two successive years of festivals has made it immense to know the role of the Goethe-Institut. It is incalculable that young people, who, to put it lightly, do not know theory, or, to put it a better way, have an explosive greed for expression without any theory, are able to take advantage of these opportunities. I am looking forward to witnessing their development at the third meeting next year.

Editor: Maki Itasaka