Read this page in Myanmar Language ၿမန္မာဘာသာၿဖင္႔ဖတ္ရန္
WE MADE IT! Thanks to all the people all over the world who made this project possible.
We are curently in the process of translating the chapters of the book and sending out rewards to all those who donated. We will then work with a team of editors and a book designer to finish and publish the final product by September 2016. Stay tuned!
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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, we hope sharing the translation of this book into English 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 (filmmaker) conducted hundreds of hours of interviews and consulted Aung Myint (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.
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.