In early December 2010 Yangon, once more, became the capital of performance art of Myanmar/Burma, when six international artists (from Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Vietnam and Germany) and 13 local performance artists gathered to celebrate the third issue of the Beyond Pressure Festival of Performance Art.
Even before the event could take place, Moe Satt, the organizer of the Festival, had to face many challenges. Due to visa and travel restrictions some other invited artists from Asia unfortunately did not manage to travel to Yangon. Another bad news followed during the festival, after two days of workshops in a local gallery had already passed. It turned out that the public performances could not take place in a public park in central Yangon as planned, as the official permission could not be obtained. Only a few weeks after the elections - in the middle of a transition period - the local authorities were reluctant to give their approval for a public event of this kind. Confronted with this situation the organizers swiftly decided to change their plans and move the event out of town the next day to a private location. Not far from Yangon in the countryside in a natural and inspiring surrounding eleven international and local artists showed their visually and artistically awe-inspiring performances during the whole day and even into the night. In his performance an artist from Sri Lanka reflected upon the difficult legacy of civil war in his country. Another performer from the Philippines showed an example of his “camouflage project”, wearing a bright red jumpsuit, reflecting his zeal for exploring and interpreting human responsibility for the environment he exists in.
On the second performance-day, artists and friends were again invited to a gallery in Yangon, were first some of the international artists talked about their art practices and experience in organizing performance art festivals in a symposium. The artists also explained their concepts and ideas of their previous installations, performances and shows, and encouraged a discussion of contemporary art movement in Southeast Asia in general. Several performances of local artists were held in the afternoon and the performance stage was opened for everyone. In her performance a local female artist criticized stereotyped roles of woman in media and advertisement. Her performance expressed the anger about the antagonism between the stereotype of the well behaved and good cooking housewife on the one hand and the ideal of female beauty and youthfulness in society on the other hand.
Even though the festival couldn’t proceed in public space as intended, the international guests were highly impressed by the young Myanmar/Burmese artists and their creative ways of expressions. Asked for his opinion about the festival one participating artist from Germany said “it’s a good opportunity to see and to show art and attitude without “premeditation“, it’s fresh, it’s a dialogue… it was great! I realize that in our comfortable Europe, we lose some ideas and values about simplicity and freedom.”
These few days the artists met each other in Myanmar - many for the very first time - was an important experience for each of them: “The program like ‘Beyond pressure’ is really good and helpful for me…to know about another people and culture….I have a chance to meet and work with so many local and international artists. We can exchange ideas of art and life. We can learn many new things from other artists from Southeast Asia. Therefore, we can have a surrounding view and larger idea about art scene in Southeast Asia.” (artist from Vietnam)
The festival also showed the dynamic blend of a young new generation and elderly artists in Myanmar/Burma who work closely together to organize and plan this kind of events, disregarding of any generation gap. The Beyond Pressure Festival is therefore an important platform in order to foster the performance art scene in the country as well as the networks with other international artists in the Southeast Asian Region and beyond. As one artist from Myanmar put it “I think we need more international experience. I am satisfied by seeing all the art works. I wish for more discussion about performance art and new things ‘out of the box’”
For more information please contact: program3(at)th.boell.org
'Beyond Pressure' is an independent art organization created to contribute towards the expanding of Myanmar art boundaries. It is initiated and run by local artists who work in their communities to create projects that open up spaces, however small, for self-expression and discourse. As an organization, it operates fluidly, utilizing and forming networks according to necessity. It is therefore an organization close to the ground, highly adaptable, connected and efficient in the restrictive social context of Myanmar.