Beyond Pressure? Under Pressure?
Source:Artintern Author:Prand Laikunong Date: 2009-08-05 Size:
Now Myanmar has become the center of international attention. The reasons are not only political but have to do with a certain curiosity about a country, which is like a mysterious cage deep in a forest.

Yeh Tzu-chi (Taiwan) Shadow
Photo by Thu Rain

Now Myanmar has become the center of international attention. The reasons are not only political but have to do with a certain curiosity about a country, which is like a mysterious cage deep in a forest.

During the past 40 years, Myanmar's art world has left behind just as have other dimensions of the country’s political, economic, social and educational development. However by 2000, the contemporary art concepts, which had developed around the world, started to enter into Myanmar art practice.

Even now, art schools in Yangon and Mandalay continue to teach old curriculum based on pre-20th century content and thinking.

The references of modern between 1960 and 1990 could be learned only by visual contact.

By 1960, when modernism failed, Myanmar artists were still learning about it. Around 1960, modernism was launched along with General Ne Win's Myanmar socialist party regime. In 1988, with the fall of Myanmar socialism, Myanmar modernism also failed to get the increasing influence.

Since that time, Myanmar contemporary art has rooted to be fruitful by 2000.

The department of censorship for news and journals developed in an alliance with the concept of Myanmar socialism practiced by the ruling BSPP.


Moe Satt (Myanmar) Wish of the hands
Photo by Pho Zaw

That censorship department has cracked down any artwork of painting, sculpture work, literature, film and music which they considered as commenting on the existing administration and ruling system of that time.

The blind force of these prohibitions became a barrier to the development of Myanmar art.

Myanmar artists, who want to show their artwork among viewers, had to make an effort to deal with significant levels of censorship and seek permission even if limited.

After 2000, the Myanmar art world is approaching the age of postmodernism and is headed in the direction of contemporary art practices.

Many artists have been applying various art forms in their different way.

They began illustrating about many different things and contents in wilder scope than that of modern age.

The most particular thing is that this time most young artists are dealing within the frame and range of censorship instead of arguing against the policy as did modern artists before. Modern artist became bitter in their struggle against censorship.

On the other hand, the board of censorship seemed to follow the acceptance of international art course. Young artists tried to create their artworks under slightly broadened territory of artistic expression. Contemporary art's concepts and practices purport them to express more from a tight condition.

Beyond Pressure, a group led by performance artist Moe Satt organized performance art events that can be said "official". The recent Beyond Pressure Performance Art event invited two artists from Thailand and a Taiwanese artist. All international artists agreed to submit their proposals to Press Scrunity Board for performances in public. The artists agreed to keep a promise that they would not do any anti-government activities.


  Mongkol Plienbangchang (Thailand) Beyond Pressure?
Photo by Moe Satt

In the morning, the juries took the assessment about the show and documented everything they saw in the evening session. They took part as the censorship men and as well as the viewers in this show.

Performance art, an art form which invites any viewer's involvement in the artwork letting the viewer perceive on his own and interpret about it, make them feel peculiar, especially the performance artwork by a foreign artist, " Mongkul Plienbangchang" which disturbed their psyche.

In his work, he used a table, a mouse trap, a chair, a bunch of roses and a bird-chirps device. The mousetrap was set up in the center of the table facing its entrance to the viewers.

He has carrying a butterfly toy between his lips and then placed a rose onto the trap and another rose fixed onto his head. He repeated that same activities several times. Sometimes, he beat the trap with the stem of rose making its trigger down. Again, he restarted the trap with putting up the roses on it. After that he went closer to the audience and smashed the roses against his forearm. The leaflets of roses were spread out on the floor around him. The device produces bird chirps the whole performance. At the end of his work, he beat a gong out three times.

Thai artist Mongkul Plienbangchang named his work, "Beyond Pressure?" He said this work was meant for nature, humanity, equity, unfairness. The viewers and censorship authorities would hear simultaneously about the things of cruel and aggressive sounds of triggering of the mouse trap and striking against his forearms with the rose bunch came out through pleasant and subtle things such as butterfly, singing bird, and roses.

Nopawan Sirivejkul and Yeh Tzu-chi are other two international artists.


 Nopawan Sirivejkul (Thailand) We are the same face
Photo by Moe Satt

Myanmar artists are, Moe Satt, Mrat Lunn Htwann, m.s.o, Wa Lone and Zoncy.

Zoncy is the only female artist of Myanmar artists of this event. She has been taking part in performance art as a young female artist. In the morning session of censorship interview, she explained about her ongoing work, "I'll use this paper toys which would represent children. They were made of newspaper as the materials are within my reach. I have no special meaning for choosing the newspaper. I just meant to teach the paper toys how to sing a simple musical note, "arr…arr…ar…". Toys could not sing along with me. Yes, because they were not alive."

In the evening performance show, she did her work as she said in front of watchdogs. But her actual style of teaching a song and her voice made the viewers emotional. Although there have been repeatedly shouts to sing, it was obvious that her voice would never wake her children up. Anyway, her voice has evoked the some dead part of Myanmar viewers' mind.

Through the small aperture of given explanation, she lead the viewers to meaning wider in scope.

This is an indication that contemporary art concepts have spread effectively among young Myanmar artists.

Besides, it explains that contemporary art concepts have also diffused into viewers including the censorship watchdogs.

Before the evening session of "beyond pressure", a symposium was held in the afternoon on the work and themes of Myanmar's young  performance artists such as moe sett and Aung Min.

During the free time, I asked a young artist, "what is the impact of censorship on your artwork? He replied " the censorship has been established here since our birth. The thing [THOUGHT?] to escape the censorship has been considered a lot since I started creating artwork". I asked him, "If so, would your artwork probably be weaken?”He said, "This is the most challenging thing for us. We must overcome the censorship but also create powerful work. So, we have to make an effort to address both these things."

Myanmar young artists have headed for going through their current circumstances.

On the ground contemporary artists concept are trying to express themselves through their art.

In the coming year the international community should look to see if censorship has intervened more in art or if young artists have successfully created artwork in their efforts to overcome this challenge.End.

[Editor] 于添