Aung Myat Htay (artist and independent curator) received an ACC Fellowship in 2013 to travel from Myanmar to the United States to meet artists and curators, and participate in Residency Unlimited’s international artist residency program in New York. In 2015, he founded SoCA (School of Contemporary Art), an online program for emerging artists in Myanmar focused on community-based, experimental, contemporary art.
Greetings from the semi-lockdown of Yangon.
Here, I've reported some of my situation during this time of social distancing. The following are some notes sharing my feelings, thoughts, inspirations, and hopes for our future.
Aung Myat Htay
What has changed for me during this time?
As an artist, having a normal day-to-day life with my family, my outlook has changed. News of the epidemic and the impact on the environment has changed the way we all think about our current work. Currently, I'm thinking of some kind of artistic way to try to reconcile the environment with the individual—it is like stopping and trying to think of something else, to imagine something else. I am also writing books that are still in progress.
What projects have I been working on?
I did some photo collage works. I re-drew them from digital to canvas. The works below are part of my Burmese Banknote series that reflect and retrace Myanmar’s history onto old banknotes that are not used anymore. It is a retro style depicting a new arrangement of flashing sun rays in the background. Each piece, 5 Kyats, 75 Kyats, and 100 Kyats, is a 46 x 60 cm acrylic and collage on canvas.
In addition, SOCA [School of Contemporary Art] currently provides a free online art program course on Media Art Practices. This is a type of art in which we are still weak in Myanmar, so I refer to looking at other art scenes throughout Southeast Asia. We received about 20 applications. The course focused on art that is not discussed outside of social media, and culminated in the booklet "What the Way We Live."
Where does my inspiration come from?
Inspiration comes from sharing daily chores and spending time with family, as well as using social media and computers. I read a few books to re-concentrate my mind. It's not like sitting in meditation. My inspiration comes from moments that try to unite us.
What are some tips for keeping creative?
At the moment, the most important thing for any creation is self-awareness. Consider, “What interests me?” Think about what skills you need first and then find out what you can do with them. Another way to stay creative is to record something unique every day (photo, video, sketch). It's like writing a note. These can be your own works to be reviewed or recounted later.
What resources have I found?
At this time, outward sounds are becoming more and more noticeable. The noise of birds or the voices of people from afar. I think it's good to hear them next to you. And again, I am looking at the interesting surface features of Google Maps.
“Again,” Aung Myat Htay says, as his 2018 exhibition “Geo-Scape” used Google Earth satellite imagery in projections, video installation, and acrylic-on-canvas paintings. Depicting a bird's-eye view of Myanmar’s diverse landscapes, his works resonate with our socially distanced present. “We as citizens are not permitted to travel to all corners of the country,” he wrote in his artist statement, “thus I felt interested to encounter these features via satellite.”
Geo-Scape, acrylic on canvas, 2018
Grantee Reflections is a platform for ACC alumni to share their collective voice as an international community of artists, scholars, and cultural ambassadors. Views expressed in the reflection of each grantee are their own. This is a cultural exchange of words, image, video, and sound from around the world. While our bodies cannot travel, our minds can still meet.