A Country in Transition: The Role of Art and Artists in Contemporary Myanmar

Seismopolite – Journal of Art and Politics published an issue dedicated to The Politics of Southeast Asian Contemporary Art.

issue13

Together with other six articles, there you will find a contribution by me and Luigi Galimberti, which I “met” as a name at Pansodan Gallery in Yangon, thanks to Nance Cunningham who answered my questions with “You know there’s another Italian who’s doing a similar research here”.

For a couple of years we only exchanged emails and had Skype calls until we finally met in Torino, during Artissima.

If you like the incipit, please follow the link:

The history of contemporary art in Myanmar is a history of resistance that has not yet been written. It is a private and intimate resistance, which could not explicitly come to light in public. First of all, it is a resistance against the harshness of everyday life and a lack of resources, be they money or food, needed both for the survival of the artists and their families, and for their artistic practice. In addition to this, widespread lack of opportunities and support have created further challenges for those wishing to create a free artistic environment in Myanmar.

A Country in Transition: The Role of Art and Artists in Contemporary Myanmar

Taiwan’s Southeast Asia Advisory Committee

Last August I got an email from the Ministry of Culture of Taiwan, inviting me to join the newly established Southeast Asia Advisory Committee. Aim of the Committee (composed of Taiwanese citizens and representatives of different Southeast Asian countries) is to strengthen and deepen cultural exchanges between the island  and the tropical countries further south.

I was invited to take part in it in order to advise about Myanmar.

What an exciting opportunity to be involved in such an ambitious project!

The first meeting of the Commitee was held in October 2015. The 7 members from Taiwan met with the 10 representatives from Southeast Asia for a week. A mix of strategic meetings and trips on the island, visiting different cultural venues, from formal museums to informal workshops in private houses.

 

 

 

A second meeting happened in April and unfortunately at the same time I was hosting Dr. Thant Myint-U in Italy, for a promotional tour of the Italian edition of his book Where China Meets India. Burma And the Crossroads of Asia. Being Myanmar so under-represented in international occasions, I was very frustrated not to be able to join this second and more straight-to-the-point meeting. My colleagues created and excellent document with guidelines addressed to the Ministry of Culture, which is taking into account our suggestions.

Great professionals with many years of experience and a genuine involvement at the grassroots level of their cultural work are the members of the Committee, as you can see from the list (I really recommend to google their names and organisations if you don’t know them already):

Chung, Chiao, Founder of Assignment Theatre Group

Chang, Cheng, Founder of 4-Way Voice and owner of Brilliant Time: Southeast Asian-Themed Bookstore

Chung, She-fong, Founder of Trees Music and Art

Kuan, Cheng-Neng, Vice-President of Shih Chien University

Shiu, Margaret, Founder of Bamboo Curtain Studio

Takamori, Nobuo, Curator and founder of Outsiders Factory

LAOS: Carol Cassidy, Founder of Lao Textiles and Misouda Heuangsoukkhoun, Legal Advisor for the Lao Disabled People Association and a manager of Lao Gallery

PHILIPPINES: Consuelo V. Zapata, Chief of Cultural Management Division, Arts Education Department, Cultural Center of the Philippines

MALAYSIA: Goh Hin San, President, Malaysia Han Culture Center

INDONESIA: Marco Kusumawijaya, Founder & Director of RUJAK Center for Urban Studies

BRUNEI: Nur Khalisah Ahmad, Director at Kaleidoscope Studio

CAMBODIA: Phloeun Prim, Executive Director at Cambodian Living Arts

THAILAND: Thanom Chapakdee, Art Critic / Faculty of Fine Arts, Srinakharinwirot University, Thailand

The overview is provided by the invaluable member Philippe Peycam, Director of the International Institute for Asian Studies

Hoping that the Committee’s work will sustain effectively new initiatives  all over Southeast Asia and Taiwan, I look forward to meet everybody again!

Ilaria