Curator Note -Abstraction of Breathing – Exploring the Metabolism of Myanmar contemporary Art by Aung Myat Htay (SoCA)


Aung Myat Htay (SoCA)

The Documentation Project of Contemporary Art 2020 Vol.3 / Abstraction of Breathing

What makes you an artist?” And to me it’s like breathing”. (Marina Abramovic’) [1]

The origin of this project is seeding in the physical and mental desire of a newborn country, which have been relatively quiet for a long time. Pandemic and wars are ringing the alarm bells for our being human. That is the point of departure of this project. It is directly related to respiration is the biological process of our body, also can applied into bearing multiple meaning of cultural history, mythology, art, politic and critically complex phenomenon. Meanwhile; Myanmar is still facing to fight for Dhamma, that wisdom and rightfulness is trying to prevail on injustice. We struggle with unpredictable obstacles to predict the future. We longing mindfulness of wisdom and empathy, we ready for play in the misty of challenges.
Encountering from one person to another or one tradition to another, and experiences from one method to another can completely change the situation and create a new force. It can be born into a new form. On the contrary, it is possible that the original nature of both parties will be completely destroyed. The transformation of an ordinary object can transcend the extremes of nature or even more extreme logic (dream state). Living and non-living things are completely different in biological theory, but in the human psyche tends to be equally inclined to them.

Remnant memories:
In our memory, only traces of the past often dominate. Looking advance to the future memory that has not yet arrived is not uncommon things but haunting us. An ongoing series of Mayco Naing, convey some images of that memory featuring fictionally. Her memories of the future are explored and recorded in the emptiness scene of recent time of two formerly crowded places in Yangon. Will the future be a mix of longing and haunting? Today’s inanimate objects may fossils of the future history? The present is evidence of the memory of future. An ordinary road or ordinary building or inside view of a house are always talking about something related stories. That would be overwhelming to us what remnants of our present memories. 
Another unique photo series called “Maya” by Sai Htin Lin Htet, is that combines distinctive memories and emotion of real life into a single image. Maya is based on the artist’s personal feeling and empathy. He captured the scenes of real-life around him, as parables of multiplying layers into paradox effect on socio-political system. As a Shan ethnic blood young artist, a curator and who works as a social worker he valued the equality of human rights and human dignity and expressed the empathy throughout in photography. 

Salt, a companion afterlife:
 One of the unique installations of Kachin artist Brang Le is a boat that floats in the air. Wooden constructed in decorated with traditional Kachin clothing, and white waves shape of piles of salt on the floor.  
“Salt is important in Kachin belief, found in traditional deities. It is also said that when a family member dies, he or she sailing for salt trade. Therefore, salt is constantly being added before running out in the kitchen. It is also believed that salt can fight evil spirits, that is faith of ancient Kachin ancestors,” he explained.
There are fourteen major ethnic groups in Myanmar and more than hundred different minority groups. Kachin State is a region of highland and beautiful icy glaciers in it borders China. It is also a state plagued by chronic poverty and civil war due to over-exploitation and economic warfare. This work reflects the background and stories on these people represented a small sailboat where souls continue to sail.

Words and photomontage:
Bay Bay, tried to compose a poem based on what she saw around in daily life instead of words. Like technique of photomontage uses from the printed media publications on social & political consciousness. Her works is visual narratives that borrow from aspects of pop art, dada, and traditional surrealism. As photography is a language of medium like an interpreter between the artist and surrounding same as collage is a kind of fragmented, hypnotic and surrealistic media and technique of complexity. Discovering a new medium can explore a new world for today as plenty of visual resources in online media. Moreover, it’s making friends with a stranger for her. As German artist Hannah Höch has created Dada collages works using the photos and texts from Magazine and newspaper.[2] As she said “I have always tried to exploit the photograph. I use it like color, as the poet uses the word”. This is Bay bay’s understanding and developing herself as an self-taught artist .

Dust in the air:
The emotional resonance of sound and the visual evoked deeply of the memories of time. A media art by Ito and Moe Myat’s collectively experiment in Taoist style poetic recitation. “Freedom of cloud” is title of the work resemble a sermon to inner calm that can provide a new audio-visual experience to sensual concentration. Taoism[3] is a concept of rational harmony of life, the purpose of life is inner peace and harmony. Tao is usually translated as “way” or “path.” The journey of an artist that transcends the fundamental theories of every discipline extends beyond the existing circle into a new realm. These connections can grow into new genes for both side. In the early days of contemporary art, sound artist and musicians experimented with new techniques and visual arts. The inventions of Nam Jone Pike, who experimented with new forms of art, breakthrough results of electronic and analog technologies from music to performance were pioneering in media art. John Cage, who experimented the music in conceptual consonant to expanded his field of music theory, philosophy and sound art. 

Man and the Nature:
The richest green forest of eastern mountain of Myanmar is called Shan State, a border of Mekong region and China. Ko So, from Taunggyi a largest city of southern Shan State, has a special interest in the Nature and Environment. His works include soil, water, stone and plants form natural materials included sometime air he used. His performance focuses on the relationship between the ecosystem and man, a practical test that stimulates thinking and understanding. The plants, water and air designed as an installation work using the artist own body. Humans and plants have many connections they coexist in the biological cycle such as basic concept of oxygen and carbon dioxide. As a note from Plant -Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life by Michael Marder, “No matter how much we aim to segregate ourselves from the others, whether human or not, organic entities or inorganic elements, we are unable to do so and, like plants, are exposed to the world.” [4] 

Wearing on skin:
In sociocultural, the global shaping of contemporary discourses of identity known as “eroticized nationalism” [5] is a key concept what we should know to understandingnationalism. Human stands between the states of reality and fiction by the rules of religions, traditions, racism and symbolic heritage. The dress is more about the emotional state of a person than the physical appearance. From the time of birth to the death, people are wearing symbolist attire to encourage the symbols of life and love. The process of cultural hybridity emerges from the desire of humanity interwoven with philosophical religious belief of Eastern and Western territories. Man and clothing are intangible combination like a link between living and non-living things. This link is a hybridity of desire and loving own existance. The Incineration is a performance video collaboratively by Pyae Phyo Thant Nyo, a Burmese multimedia artist now based in London and Emilia Jabłońska, a Polish born UK based stylist and occasional photographer. When incinerate clothing is dramatically burned into ashes, then put it back on the bodies in the literal act of wearing ashes. Based on the Japanese Bhutto dance the performance by the group of individual in paradoxical act of emphasized to social injustice, exploitation and poverty to the pollution of luxury things.
Southeast Asia has deepest relations in the philosophy of religion and culture, such as gods and deities characteristic figure on the human forms. Artist Lwin Oo Maungconcerned the ritual and taboos behaviors on the classification on human. His performance series inspired from the social context using animals head figure at the main themes. The mythical symbolic of each of the born date represented to specific animal symbol, and is behave like that animals on our real life?
A special feature of this program is the “Thuma Collective”, a group by five Burmese women photographer who encouraging women power to engage and practice in visual storytelling and amplifying voices through the eyes of women. Thuma collective exhibited in local and international art scenes since 2017 by the participants of Khin Kyi Htet, Rita Khin, Shwe Wutt Hmon, Tin Htet Paing and Yu Yu Myint Than. “The Disclosure” is their successful project, that shown redefying and investigations the issues of superstition, personal emotions and sociocultural by the women points of views in aesthetic photography with the fictional storytelling of contemporary ideas.
Asian art recognized in modern and conceptual is distinct ideologies and isms with West. Not much lately in southeast Asia, Myanmar has emerged with own interpretations to Western influences even in the narrow chances of freedom of expression. The more difficult opportunities it is said that lead to stronger creativity. I believe that Myanmar will continue to fight to new artistic challenges and broadly aesthetic expression that most Asian countries facing in decades, despite under the current political and social conflicts.

21, May 2021
[4] Plant-Thinking:A Philosophy of Vegetal Life by MICHAEL MARDER, Columbia University Press, 2013, Ref: