"Future of Imagination 4" intends to cross-examine performance and live art practice within the international context. Featured this year are guest artists from Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Scotland, Poland, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, as well as Singapore artists.
It is a curated performance art gathering of artists whose works has questioned or attempt to share a continuing interest in the cultural constructs of identity in the global situation and current trends of contemporary art practice. In the present age of intense globalization we as artists organizers sincerely believe that such an event will help increase international cultural exchange and understanding as well as being an accentuation of our artistic practice, research and development.
The artists will make live presentations to articulate ideas and engage the audience in a sincere, revelatory and immediate form. We also hope to stimulate discussion by holding forums to question the status of performance art in our rapidly changing society."
The scene and the beginning of the performance. Image credits: Lynn Lu
Before taking off to Singapore for FOI4, I had the idea to create something for the performance using bones. Only the idea had occurred to me only days before my flight. I had no idea how long it takes to clean and dry bones. Anyhow, I will use the bones for an upcoming project.
Below are post-machinated calf bones drying on my patio. Maybe one more month of drying to go. In Vietnam you can purchase a whole calf carcass (sans meat and head) from a restaurant for 30,000d/$2 a kilo. I settled for about 10 kgs. I didn't have an animal killed, I basically bought material that would have gone to the trash. I hired my neighbors to separate the carcass and boil overnight to remove as much remaining meat as possible. Then it takes about two weeks of machination in a barrel of water for the bacteria to clean of the non-bone stuff. As the bacteria consumes the material, grease rises to the top. Dump the water in the garden and refill every couple of days. I'm currently having them sun-bake on my patio for another month or so to dehydrate and harden.
As macabre as it may seem, the forms and design of how each fit together to form a structure is simply beautiful.
The protests that have occurred in Myanmar over the last weeks, despite commanding front page news on most international press, have remained conspicuously absent from Vietnam's major newspapers and their websites. Today, as ASEAN secretary general Ong Keng Yong officially went on record to urge restraint, Vietnam decided to inform its public about the popular uprising on sideline news.
Thanh Nien News. A search for Myanmar on September 24, 2007 results in this
Tuổi Trẻ, Vietnam's most popular and widely read daily newspaper allocates five sentences in "20.000 Người Mianma diễu hành phản đối chính quyền quân sự" while Thanh Niên raises the ante by sparing seven sentences in "Hơn 100.000 người biểu tình tại Myanmar" to what other international news sources have dedicated front page editorials. Thanh Nien has recently announced the planned launch of an English language print daily to compliment its existing bilingual online services. This will add yet another embarrassingly substandard English language news source in Vietnam. Our Burmese colleagues today informed us of the rumor that this evening, internet access will be shut down in Myanmar to prevent further leakage of photos and videos that have found wide circulation among the internet.
It was reported that the government has ordered artists, poets, celebrities and singers to avoid the demonstration and even allegations that some were asked to sign documents pledging so. Yet, many of Burma's well known art and entertainment personalities arrived to support the 100,000 strong demonstrations this afternoon.
China has also been very tight lipped about the escalating situation in Myanmar as the military junta today has warned of a response. Any bloodshed would certainly cast a dark cloud over the upcoming olympic games and Beijing and highlight China's own legacy of violent crackdowns on civil non-violent protest in Tiananmen. Both Burma and Beijing's military crackdowns which left thousand dead occurred in 1988 and 1989 respectively. The exiled Tibetan Dalai Lama's support for the Buddhist monks has only complicated China's dilemma. A Burmese military show of force against monks will further highlight China's own armed tactics against its own Tibetan resistance.
"Nor has this been a good year for the junta internationally. In a remarkable step, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, after years of inaction on Burma, openly expressed their unhappiness that the junta was impeding regional integration and the drafting of an Asean charter including human rights protections. China and India, Burma's two main trading partners, are under increasing pressure from the U.S., Europe and many non-governmental organizations for supporting the regime. The U.N. Security Council had its first meeting on the regional dangers emanating from Burma's internal situation, noting among other things that Burma's public health crisis is spreading across its borders, and that the country is a major source of drug and human trafficking. The International Committee of the Red Cross uncharacteristically shed its long-standing principle of confidentiality and publicly blasted the government about conditions in Burma." - WSJ
For the past month, we have been carefully monitoring the social and political events in Myanmar (Burma). Thousands of monks have marched throughout the country in protest, sometimes joined in swells by the public, in what is the most significant demonstration in that country in over a decade. The ruling military junta has ravaged the resource rich nation for the last twenty years turning it into one of the poorest nations in Asia. National League for Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been under house arrest for 11 of the past 18 years in a situation that can only remind of us of the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela.
BBC Video Report: Buddhist Monks Leading Protest in Rangoon, Burma
What does it have to do with Vietnam?
The international community has condemned the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrations that resulted in the arrest of over a hundred civilian activists (download the excel file here). By the international community I mean not to include China, India or ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that includes Myanmar regional neighbors Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand). Two years ago I wrote on this blog about ASEAN, and in particular Vietnam's reluctance to confront Myanmar on issues that have drawn criticism to the entire region. Vietnam has consistently sought to avoid the issue of Burma and in fact, joined China and India, in making trade agreements with the military regime for natural resources as late of August 2007. Furthermore, mention about the protests in Myanmar are conspicuously (although predictably) absent for Vietnam state-controlled press.
Four days before the protests began, triggered by a 500% increase in fuel (read petroleum) prices, "Vietnam's prime minister wrapped up a two-day official visit to Myanmar Wednesday that included talks with the country's leaders and the signing of an energy deal." that culminated in "the signing of a memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation in the petroleum sector" and "the 'strategic cooperation in oil and gas' agreement was signed Tuesday between Myanmar Energy Planning Department director-general Soe Myint and PetroVietnam chief executive officer Tran Ngoc Canh." These quotes were taken directly from Vietnam's offiical Thanh Nien news site.
China, India and ASEAN have for years refused to take a stance on Burma precisely because the exploitation of Burma's natural resources and tendency for corruption have made it a win-win situation for all parties involved. Does the signing of a fuel agreement with Vietnam just days before the Burmese government jacks up the price of gas 500% for its own people sound wrong? You bet.
Art, Artists and the Internet
"It's time for all Burmese artists and poets to join together with the monks who have taken the lead in the protests against the regime," Aung Way
Authorities initially ordered a blackout on all local media coverage of the protests and have since crafted and placed articles in mouthpiece media criticizing the protest leaders they have detained. But the government is losing decidedly its most crucial censorship battle: over the Internet. Despite government bans, journalists and dissidents continue to send information and video clips of the protests over the Internet to foreign-based news organizations.
Exile-run media have published detailed blow-by-blow accounts and explicit video clips of government crackdowns. Popular video-sharing website YouTube is flush with footage of the protests posted by citizen journalists under Burmese names, including one posting by a user who apparently uses the same name as SPDC leader General Than Shwe. The Thailand-based, exile-run Irrawaddy - a la CNN - has called on the Myanmar population to play the role of citizen journalists and send information to their news desk. - Asia Times Online
Burmese artists just months ago were featured on the New York Times for their efforts in showing resistance. Because the article is no longer available on NYT without subscription, you can currently view it on the International Herald Tribune or I have made it available for download as a pdf. Furthermore, in an article today, "A leading Burmese poet, Aung Way, said the artist community should also join in solidarity with the monks and people."
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum announces special lecture on Contemporary Thai Art
World renowned art museum Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071, Fifth Avenue, New York announces the Annual Hilla Rebay Lecture by Prof. Dr Apinan Poshyananda on the topic “THAI-TANIC: Thai Art in the Age of Constraint and Coercion” at 6.30 pm on 20 September 2007.
Curator, critic, and Prof. Dr Apinan Poshyananda, Director-General, Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of Culture and Chairman, Officer of Knowledge Management and Development provides a fascinating overview of contemporary Thai art in the context of recent political shifts, from the regime of Dr Thaksin Shinawatra to 2006’s coup d’état. The special lecture is a case study for theoretical and curatorial approaches to contemporary Asian art.
Prof. Dr Apinan Poshyananda is the first Asian scholar to be invited for the Annual Hilla Rebay. He has curated contemporary Asian art internationally including Contemporary Art from Asia: Traditions/Tensions and retrospective exhibition Montien Boonma: Temple of the Mind at The Asia Society, New York; Asia-Pacific Triennial, Brisbane, Australia: Sao Paulo Biennale, Brazil; Tout à Fait Thai, Paris; Show Me Thai, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. Prof. Poshyananda received outstanding researcher award from National Researcher Council, Thailand. For his contribution to contemporary Nordic art in the exhibition Beyond Paradise: Nordic Art Travel East he was bestowed by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf, the rank of Knight, First Class of the Royal Order of the Polar Star.
For the past couple of semesters, I have made myself available online for students who also happen to be niteowls. During these IM Chats, I often find that I'm able to connect with students who are reluctant to speak out in class and I've found these jam sessions to be productive. Whether the students feel the same way, I'm not sure. Here's a sample from one of tonight's conversations.
[02:05] Student: Hello, Rich
[02:05] Student: I have asked you about online tonight
[02:05] Student: when you're online
[02:05] Student: are you there, Rich?
[02:05] Student: cause I'm waiting for you now
[02:06] RST: what's your question again?
[02:06] Student: oh
[02:06] Student: I want to tell you about my idea
[02:07] Student: you said that it must concern about what we has studied
[02:07] RST: yes...
[02:07] Student: Let I tell you
[02:08] Student: my idea about observation of human
[02:08] Student: when some one doing something
[02:08] Student: depend on what you perceive
[02:08] Student: you will say that right or wrong
[02:09] Student: nothing is absolutely
[02:09] Student: this is my idea
[02:09] RST: but what does it have to do with what we studied in class? which topic?
[02:10] Student: idealism
[02:10] RST: i'm not clear on this...
[02:10] Student: can you explain clearly?
[02:11] RST: you are talking about relativism.
[02:11] RST: but some things ARE absolutely.
[02:12] RST: for example. if i go kill a random person on the street, and i'm convicted of a crime, i then say, that i don't believe killing people is wrong, who is right?
[02:13] RST: i may perceive things differently. does that make it right? i could say i blacks, homosexuals or vietnamese are less human than others.
[02:13] RST: does that make my opinion make it right?
[02:13] Student: i mean whatever you say
[02:14] Student: you believe in yourself
[02:14] Student: so don't have the right or wrong absolutely
[02:14] RST: this is logically what we refer to as a fallacy.
[02:14] Student: like
[02:14] RST: it is a error in logic.
[02:14] Student: you help the person
[02:15] RST: that statement is wrong.
[02:15] RST: you are making the statement: Everything is relative.
[02:15] RST: think of that statement.
[02:16] RST: if i say that everything is relative; by saying EVERYTHING, it implies an absolute statement.
[02:17] RST: however, in this "ABSOLUTE statement", I am saying something is relative (which is not absolute). Therefore, it is a statement that does not make sense.
[02:17] RST: This is the logic.
[02:17] RST: But if you want to talk about absolutes, i want you to seriously think about it.
[02:18] Student: ok
[02:18] Student: after chatting with you
[02:18] RST: i know that's really confusing.. but i'm trying to push you (and give you a headache).
[02:19] Student: yes, it is
[02:19] Student: what about my first idea?
[02:19] RST: the point is.. i think you need to go through the course reader, or your notes and refresh yourself with all the topics we discussed this semester.
[02:19] RST: and see if anything touches you.
[02:20] RST: you are still too general right now for me to accept your proposal as being related to class material/content.
[02:20] RST: you are a good student. i'm trying to make you better.
[02:21] Student: I know
[02:21] Student: what about my first idea?
[02:21] RST: email me your idea that relates to a topic tomorrow.
[02:21] RST: i will reply then.
[02:22] RST: i still believe you are not using your mind and creativity enough.
[02:22] RST: you are smart. so i want to see smart work.
[02:23] RST: plus, this is a university level course. i intend to give you a university level education...as best that i can.
[02:24] RST: go back to BlackBoard. look at the proposal sample. read how the sample student describes their project.
[02:24] RST: that will give you an idea on the standard i am looking for.
[02:24] Student: ok
[02:24] Student: thank you
[02:25] RST: the better your concept, the better you will score.. (and then you won't have to see me anymore!)
[02:25] Student: I hope so