Art Radar Asia interviews FCP artist couple, Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu – find out more in the Impact of FCP 2013!
Myanmar? Burma? What name shall we call the country that the Flying Circus Project (FCP) is about to visit? This alone highlights the complexity of the landscape. Preparations for FCP 2013: Burmese Days began in earnest in February 2010. In the three long years, many changes have occurred, not least that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy have garnered 43 seats in the Myanmar Parliament. It is true that this is only a fraction of the total 664 seats but it is still a significant dent into the armoured tank that runs the land some have nicknamed ‘the forgotten country’. Well it’s no longer forgotten, for never a week passes without some headline grabbing news now: from President Obama’s historic visit, to the Rohingar issue and ethnic conflicts in the western state of Rakhine, to the violent security raids on monks and mine-workers during a recent protest in Monywa.
What is the FCP doing there? What is the FCP in the first place? The FCP is a gathering of invited artists, individuals, from different disciplines and different cities of the world. These artists do not form a collective, they may have never met and often do not know each other’s work. They are not unlike a flash mob that comes together and travels through a city of Asia for two weeks. During their stay, there are multiple communications that are deepened by the FCP artists, based on personal interests. The artists experience the site and meet with curated individuals who are enabling change in the city – inspirations, key thinkers, political activists, emerging artists. These meetings take different formats but they are not intensive workshops on artistic techniques. All FCP artists who have been invited to the city invest in a session to share their work, their lives or their perspectives with local individuals. This investment is developed by each FCP artist personally.
In 2010, I visited the Theatre of the Disturbed in Myanmar (also known as Burma). I realized that it could be a possible collaborator for the FCP in Yangon (also known as Rangoon). From that visit, things started to develop albeit slowly even as Myanmar’s politics took an abrupt turn. I met up with Gitameit, a music academy independently started by American pianist Kit Young and other music colleagues of Myanmar. Happily Gitameit will work together with FCP alumni Kaffe Matthews. Kaffe has willingly volunteered to spend some time at the school sharing her music process. Since 1998, I had been visiting Burma/Myanmar every few years, drawn to the tenacity of the diverse arts scene. I harnessed old friends from 2003, visual artists Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu. They proposed to explore “What is a museum?” with their peer community of artists. They were especially interested in a museum’s relationship with the people who own, who play with, who visit, who chance upon, it. Along the way, I met the Wathann Film Festival, young film-makers who are trained in FAMU (Film and TV School Prague). I was introduced by Keiko Sei who had made a month-long Public Action Design Workshop in Myanmar for the Arts Network Asia. Four years ago, I asked which country in South East Asia was ready for a tactical media workshop to develop citizen journalism, without hesitation she replied Burma. The last puzzle piece came in July this year when, as Prince Claus Awards Committee member, I met prize-winner Zarganar in Yangon. A comedian who is a household name, he has been actively involved in resisting the old military regime through humour. The regime retaliated by sending him to jail for 59 years. Today he helms the national Art of Freedom Film Festival which screens uncensored films and has Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as patron.
And so what is the FCP doing in Myanmar? Planetary consciousness perhaps. As Paul Gilroy has said, different peoples in the world are beginning to feel connected despite being separated by vast distances. A sign of the frailty of our times. I remember a call to the BBC during the Arab Spring. The caller was Burmese, she asked to be connected to the protesters in Tahrir Square for perhaps ‘we’ can learn something from them.
Ong Keng Sen
24 December 2012