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Myanmar: New Media & New Expressions

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Exploring New Media and New Forms of Expression that Opens Spaces for Transformation

According to the title of my paper, ‘transformation’ means to show some outline of final situations or results. Therefore, I think transformation means having effect. One such ‘effect’ is Digit – Art Festival, an event held in Nov 2009 at Alliance France in Yangon.

This event was a marriage of digital music, graphic art and video art created by French, German and Myanmar artists. Without the emergence of Techno and Electro music in the 90s in Myanmar, I think it would be difficult to imagine this kind of Digital Art Festival. Similarly, without leading performance artists (such as Po Po, Aung Myint, Htein Linn) and their contribution to the performance art scene in mid 90s, it would be impossible to initiate Beyond Pressure International Performance Art Festival today.

Under Socialist rule, Myanmar artists were rarely able to put eyes on Western art movements. Although [modern and] contemporary art developed in the West after World War II, Myanmar artists could not get the chance to discuss those movements. After the fall of the Myanmar Socialist Party in 1988, media in Myanmar opened up greatly. Articles written about the revolution of contemporary art around the world appeared in Myanmar magazines and influenced Myanmar artists widely. Many Myanmar artists became aware of innumerable changes happening around the world.

Image from (MEM) Myanmar Electronic Music Community

The Burmese Socialist Party tried to promote its so-called “Burmese way to Socialism” and it recognized only traditional art and culture that copied the model of the old Soviet Union.  For example, only two art books written about modern art were permitted to be published in the Socialist Party Era, which lasted for 26 Years. Limited as they were, those two books were able to introduce Myanmar artists to abstract art and the mixture of modern and traditional art.

In the mid 90s, many art ‘-isms’ around the world invaded Myanmar through art and literature magazines. Consequently, leading artists (such as Po Po, Aung Myint, Htin Linn) and many others reapplied those post-WWII avant garde art forms in different ways. Their tendency to taste new forms of expression, music and technology, and combining all those new things with art, created new media forms that influenced young generations through the just opened door of Myanmar. Modern technology like satellites and computers changed peoples’ way of life. The booming of news media reached many people and we could easily access information about art events like never before.

Image by Raspel

After 2000, the so-called mid-90s generation of Myanmar artists and their successors stepped into the world of Internet Digital Culture. Internet provides not only knowledge but also creates a cyberspace for artists where we can exchange our views and experiment in transforming new forms of art. From then on, high technology has influenced some parts of the art scene.

Artists have begun to set out on the journey to extend the boundaries of the dominant art scene and of course their own expression. They choose to deal with many issues such as social, economical, political, environmental and of course, individual (loss of identity, for example) concerns that are a reflection of daily life.

Symposium, workshops, events and festivals encourage new media art practice as well as new expression.

An internet cafe in Yangon. [Taken during my recent trip there for 2nd Beyond Pressure Performance Art Festival. More posts on that coming up! – SC]


Moe Satt is founder and organizer of Beyond Pressure artist-run initiative in Myanmar which organizes Beyond Pressure International Performance Art Festival, now in its 2nd year. He lives and work in Yangon, Myanmar. He started practicing art in 2005 after graduating with a Bachelor of Sciences (Zoology), showing his art in the galleries and the on the pavements of Yangon. He tries to reflect the order and disorder in the positions of people and the never-ending justification in terms of human internal validity. He has participated in several local and international performance art festivals such as Performance Site Myanmar 05, 8th Open International Performance Art Festival (Beijing), 9th Asiatopia Performance Art Festival (Chiangmai), #4 Perfurbance International Group Performance Art Festival (Jogjakarta) and  5th Tupada Action & Media Art Festival (Manila). He was also artist in residence at Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia and Hooyong Performing Art Center, South Korea. In 2007, he attended the CDCE (Community Development & Civic Empower) program at Chiangmai University, Thailand. Recently, his performance art pieces play with the meaning and meaninglessness of hand actions.

Photo credit : (MEM) Myanmar Electronic Music Community

This article was first posted on the original Arteri site on 28 December 2009.

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