Boat ride in the morning!
We paid two boats to take us from the jetty to Mingon, the site where King Bodawpaya commissioned the world’s biggest pagoda. Construction began in 1790 but halted in 1819, leaving only the massive base and the haunches of a couple of colossal chinthes, both now cracked by: a monument to antecolonial hubris, a Burmese Ozymandias.

Plenty of tourism here, pretty low rents, and a legacy of two important national painters who set up shop here. (Forgot their names.) Result is that a whole community of artists has set up shop in the village: watercolours of monks and puppets and tribesmen and Aung San Suu Kyi; also local interpretations of cubism, pop art, baroque.
And among them, a couple of contemporary artists: Ming Thein Sung and May Phue Thet. We popped in on their shows.
Ming Thein’s Another Realm is a gigantic rifle, made of hollow white cloth, suspended from the ceiling. Due to the constraints of the space, however, the rifle has to be divided between three rooms: one for the muzzle, one for the shaft and trigger, one for the loading chamber and butt. (Me and Venuri mistook the middle section for an elephant.)

May Phu Thet’s Be Happy Be Happy is a series of photos of Burmese baby puppets: garish white creatures with protruding, retractable red tongues, all stitched up in sequined gimp suits. One of the original puppets sits in the corner; another freshly made suit hangs from a rack on the wall.

Both these projects are part of the Museum Project #5: Mingon Museum of Contemporary Art – not your usual bricks-and-stone museum, but a pop-up affair produced by Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu (with a little help from FCP). They’ve been testing the relationship between contemporary art and community for some time now: exhibitions of found and discarded objects in neighbourhoods, etc. Thus they’ve been dreaming of this temporary museum for the past two-three years: most villagers are confused by it, but the kids love running among the cloth chambers of Ming Thein’s fabric gun.

The exhibition runs from 4 to 13 Jan, after which they’ll be trying to stage something by digital-interactive artist Phyoe Kyi in Taunji, the capital of Shan state. (He’s the owner of the studios in Mingon where the stuff’s on show!) Also stuff by another of their colleagues, Zar Min Htike.
(From L to R: Tun Win Aung, Wah Nu, May Phu Thet, Ming Thein Sun, Phyoe Kyi, Zar Min Htike.

After all these preambles, we launched into presentations by two new FCP artists who’ve just joined us from abroad: T. Shanaathanan from Sri Lanka and Tadasu Takamine from Japan. Reports coming up.
 


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