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A Road to Pass Through

Posted by on Monday, 28 June, 2010 at 8:00 AM. Filed under: Reviews

In my opinion, there are conventionally two kinds of artists among mainstream art scenes in Myanmar. Namely realist (sympathizers of Realism) and modernist ones. After the 1990s, some artists named themselves as contemporary artists. Myat Kyawt, who is a contemporary artist, exhibited his solo show titled “ROAD” from 12 – 17 June 2010 at DAGAUNG art gallery which opened recently. Everyone walks along a road, a street or boulevard in their lifetime. And are you now on the way to your destiny, getting caught in the middle of the road or arrived there already? Where are you now?

Myat Kyawt’s Road is not in the real world but in an imaginative world. He says he paves a way to get to ‘mind-centered art’. Briefly, what he means by mind-centered art is: as we review our daily life, experiences and feelings, we construct our knowledge to create that kind of contemporary art. We insert the belief in our mind that we would make art works ourselves.

When I went into the compound towards the main door of DAGAUNG art gallery, a long wide sheet of vinyl, on which was displayed lying face-down (in a prone position) photos of Myat Kyawt, was laid from the gate to the gallery room. Everyone who comes to the art gallery can only get in by literally stepping on the back of the artist.

I recalled suddenly a Buddhist jataka which depicts the story of Sumeindra, the hermit who allowed Depinkayar to pass over a stream by lying in a prone position like a bridge. (Sumeidra the hermit was then prophesied to become Siddhārtha Gautama). And it comes to my mind that there are moments when we inevitably get to pass over a man simply to fulfill our aims. According to the artist, he displays his life, flesh and blood as a road to express the art work that he believes in and that he thinks he should do.

The vinyl on which is displayed images of the artist in a ‘paying homage’ position – i.e. crouching on all five (two legs, two hands and the head) – was all over the floor of the art gallery. I view this as the artist paying homage to gain forgiveness. If what I think is true, who he is begging to? But the artist says that it is not an image of begging someone for forgiveness, it is just paving his body position so that others may pass over easily.

In this show, Myat kyawt expresses his idea and concepts with words and image rather than making sketches and outlines. He printed his words on golden background paper and framed it with gold. These are hanging around the walls of the art gallery. His words encourage other Myanmar artists to make contemporary art, and are also about his point of view on the contemporary art scene as a Myanmar artist.

One of his views about contemporary art is: “There are great challenges in contemporary art. People who are very selfish can’t practice contemporary art”. What I deduce from that sentence is the same as the dialogue from one of the Myanmar TV advertisements which says “ Is there any way that promises to fulfill both desires”. What ‘fulfilling both desires’ means is to make commercial art to earn money and at the same time to gain a reputation by making contemporary art works. What do you think about this? Is there a way that promises fulfillment of both desires?

Another text is “We’ve taken the road built up by others. It’s the time we should build up our own road”. Likewise, some thoughts I deduced from that text is whether this view is a precursor of the changes in Myanmar’s social and political setting beyond 2010.(Historical Myanmar general elections will be held on 10 Sept 2010 – SC).

Some audiences who came to the “ROAD” show gave comments on the artist and his work. Some said: “You should do what complies with your situation, age, time and tide”.

As a reader you may also give your comment on it.

I hope that many contemporary art exhibitions arise in Myanmar in the near future.


Moe Satt is the founder and organizer of Beyond Pressure international performance art festival in Yangon, Myanmar, where he lives and works. He began to present his works of art after graduating in 2005 with a Bachelor of Sciences (Zoology). He has participated in several performance art events around Asia. His work in performance involves hands as the main expression. He has also been artist-in-residence at Rimbun Dahan (Malaysia), Hooyong Performing Art Center (S-Korea) and Ground of Zenkoji Temple (Japan)

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