After the keynote speeches, KS gathered us in the cafe and told us the FCP artists and Alter U participants should introduce themselves to one another. In the spirit of egalitarianism and cross-cultural exchange, this should've been a good idea.
Unfortunately, KS also wanted there to be reflections on the keynotes, so he actively encouraged each person to speak for several paragraphs. Bear in mind that there are 17 artists and 24 Alter U participants, and everything needed translation into Burmese or English, and this was lunchtime, and all of us were HUNGRY.
Very bad idea. (In my opinion at least.)
But the truth is, it did turn up some very interesting perspectives. One revelation is how heterogenous our Alter U participants are: there are poets, dancers, video artists, language instructors who're vaguely interested in the arts but not sure specifically how, even folks who were trying to promote their designer handbag shops.
Street dancer Ye Nyi had deep issues with Ko Tar's program of monastic schooling.
Ye: Monks and lay people have different responsibilities. They should not need to work together. Maybe monks should not be involved in protests.
Other participants urgently spoke up in defence of the monastery schools (which Ye had actually attended himself). Then there were two male participants who opined that "women's rights are maybe not relevant to our society". That really rubbed some artists (including me) the wrong way.
The artists had their own unexpected things to say:
Julie: I’m looking at how censorship is working on us, and the things that are not being spoken about that matter to me: gay and lesbian issues, trans issues, class isues. My work focuses on communication and intimacy. I’m trying to use some of my own work to listen and draw out these issues, because I’m sure thy’re among us.
Eventually a few of us (particularly me) made it clear that we were not about to spend all afternoon sacrificing our stomachs for our minds. We left about half of our community unintroduced. Am I upset by the injustice? Not very.
You can read about the FCP artists at the other blog. Here, on the other hand, I'm gonna provide introductions to the 24 Myanmar participants of Alter U. (This will take several days. Forgive me.)
Ye Wint Zaw (YE), actor
Su Myat Aung (SU), painter
Paing Soethu (SOETHU), street dancer
Oakkar Thin (VICTOR), English language instructor and graphic designer
Khaing Khaing Thin Kyi (THAING THAING), painter.
Ye Nyi (YE), street dancer and traditional dancer
I didn't ask both the girls to make peace signs, btw. Maybe it's cultural.
So Alter U begins today! KS is addressing the 24 new voices.
KS: One of the things we try to do as an international arts group is to invite independent artists. So there are no “national” artists here. And they come from many different fields like you all do, some from visual arts, some from film, some from the field of writing. And we all make so many different kinds of art, and we are involved in so many different fields in our home cities.
My name's Ng Yi-Sheng, I'm a writer from Singapore, and I've been a Creative-in-Residence with TheatreWorks since 2006. I've served as blogger-documenter for two previous Flying Circus Projects: Singapore/Vietnam in 2007 and Singapore/Cambodia in 2009/2010.