In 2009, theart.com published Myanmar Contemporary Art I – a book of essays, images and interviews written entirely in Burmese, covering contemporary art in Myanmar from 1960-1990. An exhibition was held at the book launch, inviting younger generation artists to collaborate with older generation artists, in order to celebrate the exchange and timeline of art production throughout the country.
The book was censored at the time, and crucial historical context for the images is missing, but the book itself remains an indispensable reference to how artists have been working in Myanmar over the last 60 years. With growing interest in Myanmar, and greater exchange by local artists with international individuals and institutions, sharing the translation of this book into English IS NECESSARY and will provide more opportunity for exchange, while also revealing more reference information for the reader: names and dates, visuals, and proof that Myanmar artists have been working for decades despite isolation.
How can we help build a bridge from Myanmar to the international community? Answer: By lifting cultural as well as economic sanctions and revealing a part of history which was lost through censorship. We want to share with a global audience the struggle and success of the artists in Myanmar.
MARCA or 'Myanmar Art Resource Center and Archive' is a digital and physical resource center, partnering with both local and international organizations on a range of activities revolving around art education. One of our primary concerns is translation – how to work effectively with the Burmese language, while building a bridge to the international art community. We are currently hosting Asia Art Archive's Mobile Library project – a collection of 500 books and materials on contemporary art and art history in Asia. Like Mobile Library: Myanmar, this translation project was born out of a desire to include and mobilize, inspire and reveal that which was previously hidden.
Longtime friends with theart.com, we have invited them to partner with MARCA to translate their first in a trilogy of books. theart.com has a history of cutting-edge projects, incorporating new media, poetry, and literature in contemporary exhibitions. For this project, hundreds of hours of personal interviews were recorded on cassette tapes over 5 years.
theart.com is a grassroots organization formed in 2007 in Yangon, Myanmar. Comprised of poets, filmmakers and artists, the collective aims to engage with the local creative community through documentaries, exhibitions, and publications. Myanmar Contemporary Art I is one such engagement – a volume of contemporary Myanmar art history written entirely in Burmese. Aung Min (author + filmmaker) conducted hundreds of hours of interviews and consulted Aung Myint (editor + visual artist) and Mrat Lunn Htwann (managing director + visual artist) to create a unique collection of biographical essays of 70 artists who worked from 1960-1990 in Myanmar.
With Myanmar becoming more prominent on the world stage, it is important that we tell the WHOLE story. This is your opportunity to speak out against censorship and play a crucial role in uncovering Myanmar’s vital contemporary art history and allowing it to be shared with the world.
LET’S RECONTEXTUALIZE MYANMAR’S CONTEMPORARY ART HISTORY WITHIN THE BROADER CONTEXT OF THE INTERNATIONAL ART WORLD.
The book was controversial at the time. It went through the censorship board, as all publications did up until 2011. Many artists were not included, or nicknamed in order to avoid suspicion. We would like to include some missing pieces of the puzzle as part of the new volume. For example, when Aung Myint created his first Mother and Child painting, what was the atmosphere, political or otherwise?
Here is an excerpt from an interview turned essay with Aung Myint, conducted in 2007 and published in 2009 in Myanmar Contemporary Art I, translated by Maung Day.
He stated that he had become scared of colors, and scared to use them. So he turned to monochrome and executed his work in pure black and white. The Mother and Child paintings are what he harvested from this shift in style and color. In making these paintings, he put Mine Kaing paper—a type of local paper—on white canvases and drew figures suggestive of a mother and a child with an uninterrupted line. One of these paintings called Homage to Mothers reaped the ASEAN Art Award in 2002. These paintings reflect on a style, or rather a technique, that Aung Myint has developed on his own without drawing any influences from established art techniques - both eastern and western. With this work, he successfully divorced from the AbEx tradition that had influenced him for so many years. He declared he would not stick to one medium, or one discipline, but experiment with many. - AM
This excerpt is rich in description, while placing Aung Myint at the forefront of the contemporary art movement in Myanmar, but what is not mentioned is that certain colors were actually forbidden by the censorship board, most significantly RED. Also missing is the crucial timeline through which Aung Myint lived and worked. He was born at the end of World War II, came of age in a democratic Burma, and evolved his work through the Socialist era, heavy censorship, closed borders, civil war, and economic collapse.
Work with us to fill the gaps, but most importantly, REVEAL the revered men and women artists and creative communities who have added so much to the country of MYANMAR, and will enrich the understanding and exchange between Myanmar and the rest of the world.
Translation - Up to 2000 USD - Hundreds of pages of texts using complex art language in Burmese? We need an expert and we are ready to pay for it.
Design and Printing - Up to 5500 USD - Experiments with coloring of images, paper, pages in English, recovery of original photographs, and a designer who is willing to help just as much as work. We will print in Myanmar: off-set, soft cover, 500-1000 copies.
Editing and Management - Up to 3500 USD - We have to keep on top of this project, and submitting new information along with translating the old is a hell of a task.
$10 - Postcard from Myanmar and regular updates on our progress!
$25 - Digital copy of 7000 Padauk catalog + 2 postcards from Myanmar + regular updates on our progress.
$40 - Custom made t-shirt designed by Rakhine artist Thadi Htar + Name listed in the published version of the book + regular updates on our progress.
$50 - DVD documentary film by TEN MEN, Aung Min's ongoing documentary workshop series. Name listed in the published version of the book + postcards + regular updates on our progress.
$75 – Each donation will go toward creating an exhibition based upon the book itself, to mimic the one held at the first book's launch. Your name will be listed as a sponsor of the exhibition itself, and mentioned on all press materials. Name listed in the published version of the book + DVD + T-shirt + regular updates on our progress.
$150 – Aung Myint 14 A.M solo show catalog, donated by T.S.1 Gallery* OR the 7000 Padauk catalog, including work by TEN MEN and co-founded by Mrat Lunn Htwann, managing director of theart.com. Name listed in the published version of the book.T-shirt by Rakhine artist Thadi Htar + regular updates on our progress.
$300 – A copy of the original book in Burmese – Myanmar Contemporary Art I + T-shirt + postcard from each member of the team. Name listed in the published version of the book. COPY OF THE NEW VERSION OF THE BOOK!
$500 – Aung Myint LIMITED EDITION PRINT made especially and only in support of this project.* With gratitude, your name published in new printed English volume as a top supporter of the project. COPY OF THE NEW VERSION OF THE BOOK!
Risks and challenges
We are a small, multi-lingual and creative bunch, so we run the risk of over-extending ourselves on language while not paying enough attention to the visual content speaking for itself. We will have to work together diligently to produce this book and trust each other's contributions, while still lending suggestions.
It's also important to communicate the purpose of the book to all communities. We will be challenged locally about the importance of this book, the relevance today, the attention paid - but we do not aim to alienate any individual or group. This is a mere drop in the bucket of contributions made to the arts and culture in Myanmar. While we are missing many by publishing in English, we also help put focus on the first volume, and can breath new life into the Burmese volume of Myanmar Contemporary Art I.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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