Performance in Myanmar: Art and Censorship

18 November 2017
10.30 – 11.00
Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS

Discussion with Ma Ei, Zoncy, Ellen Wiles, Annie Jael Kwan and Loredana Paracciani

This panel /conversation focuses on performance art in Myanmar in the context of censorship versus freedom of expression. The panel, intended as an informal conversation, will benefit from the direct experience of artists Ma  Ei and Zoncy , who ,through their performative interventions , have been  challenging  the cultural and social taboos in traditional Myanmar;   Ellen Wilson ‘s experience as researcher in  Myanmar literary culture, Annie Jael Kwan’s  hands on research on performance art, and Loredana Paracciani’s research and on-going curatorial commitment to  Southeast Asian contemporary art.


Ma Ei was born in Dawei, Myanmar, where she grew up playing near the beaches of the small, seaside town. She traveled to Yangon to attend Yangon University, where she completed a Physics major in 2005. Her first encounter with painting and photography began in 2007. The following year, she became a member of New Zero art space- arguably the first contemporary art space in Yangon. It was there she experimented with performance and has since participated in numerous international performance art events. Her performance work is often said to have Feminist aspects, as is also reflected in her life style, defying traditional norms and living life as a female artist. With regards to photography, her approach is more scientific, echoing her early interest in the sciences in school. In 2015, she hosted a 3 days performance piece in  Gallery 65 in Yangon titled  ‘period’, referring to the taboo subject of a women’s menstrual cycle and receive much public praise for the durational work. Her collection of abstract photography , along with the documentation of her performance in past year is a testament to her versatility and creativity . She has participated in over 30 exhibitions, both local and international and has been an artist–in-residence in Japan, Korea, India, Netherland and Thailand. She lives and works in Yangon as a full time artist.

Zoncy lives and works in Yangon, Myanmar. She was born in 1987 in Thenasserim, a region located in the most Southern part of Myanmar. She moved to Yangon for her education . She graduated at the University for Computer studies in Yangon, in 2009 . Subsequently she studied postmodern art  at New Zero Art space , and furthered  her education in mass ​media ​communication and  portraiture film  making .  Her artistic  practice includes​ performance, video  and photography, as well as  drawings .   Gender issues, the role of the female in Myanmar society  and social bias are themes  which are central to her practice. Recent performances include  Body and Temporality: 4 Women Performance Art Show, Open Space Gallery, Yangon (2016);  Fairly acceptance:  Group Performance by School of Contemporary Art Myanmar, Goethe Villa, Yangon, (2016); In great tenderness I ignore : Solo Performance, Intersections Gallery, Singapore ( 2016) ; Performance Art Academy: Workshop Series and Final Presentation conducted by Korean Artist Gim Gwang Cheol, Dhaka, Bangladesh (2013) . She has participated ​to several artistic residencies  in Austria, Bangladesh , and Indonesia .She works and lives​ in Yangon.

Ellen Wiles is the author of Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar Under Censorship and in Transition (Columbia University Press, 2015). Born in 1981, she studied Music at Oxford, then did a Masters in Human Rights law and became a barrister at a leading London chambers. Following a Masters in Creative Writing, she is currently doing a PhD in literary anthropology, researching live literature. She directs Ark, an experimental live literature project. Her debut novel, The Invisible Crowdhas just been published by HarperCollins (November 2017).

Annie Jael Kwan is an independent curator, writer, researcher and producer based in London. She founded the curatorial partnership, Something Human, in 2012, to focus on her interests in the critical ideas and explorations surrounding movement across borders. Something Human has delivered projects in the UK, Rome, Venice, Belgrade, Skopje, Lisbon and in Singapore. She recently completed a curatorial research residency in Cambodia, with the support of the Artist’s International Development Fund from the British Council, Arts Council England and National Arts Council Singapore. She is currently undertaking an MA in History of Art and Archaeology with a special focus on Southeast Asian art at SOAS, and contributes to the publication, Art Asia Pacific.

Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani is an independent curator, writer and lecturer of Southeast Asian contemporary art. Encompassing critical social and political issues, Loredana’s rigorous research and continuous dialogue with artists and art professionals have leveraged Southeast Asian contemporary art through collaborative exhibitions such as HEADS or TAILS? Uncertainties and Tensions in Contemporary Thailand with  Sundaram Tagore Gallery, New York ( 2017); The Game/Viet Nam by LE Brothers with Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok (2016) ; Architectural Landscapes: SEA in the Forefront with Queens Museum ,New York (2015), amongst other. Based in London and Bangkok, Loredana is currently editing a debut compilation of essays titled Interlaced Journeys: Diaspora and the Contemporary in Southeast Asian Art that explores the connections between diasporic movements and contemporary art in Southeast Asia. Loredana has a Master of Art degree in Asian Art Histories (LASALLE-Goldsmiths College of the Arts, Singapore), and is currently undertaking her second Master in History and Archeology at the School of African and Oriental Studies, with specific research focus on Southeast Asia.

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