In­stal­la­tion art uses mos­quito nets as metaphors

The Myanmar Times - - Pulse - NANDAR AUNG nan­da­raung@mm­times.com

SOME artists sim­ply can­not stop cre­at­ing.

Such is the case of The Maw Naing, a sin­gu­lar force in film and in­stal­la­tion art who is pre­par­ing to show his lat­est work in Swe­den next month.

En­ti­tled In and Out of Thin Lay­ers, the con­cept art ex­hibit will fea­ture 20-foot-tall, thin mos­quito nets used in Myan­mar med­i­ta­tion cen­tres by those seek­ing to cen­tre them­selves, sans in­sects. In an in­ter­view with The Myan­mar Times, The Maw Naing said he had the idea for the in­stal­la­tion in 2006, shortly af­ter his The Things Like That solo ex­hi­bi­tion of text on black cloth.

“At the time, I im­me­di­ately wrote down my en­tire plan for the net project in my notebook,” said the 45-year old. “Next, I pur­chased three stan­dard mos­quito nets, com­monly used dur­ing med­i­ta­tion prac­tice.”

As some­one who has done stints in med­i­ta­tion cen­tres, as well as reg­u­lar med­i­ta­tion prac­tice at home, The Maw Naing be­lieves these nets of­fer a way to re­flect on one’s self­hood, and the no­tion of in­ter­nal vs ex­ter­nal emo­tions.

“We do not clearly know about our­selves,” he said. “I want to ex­press that the in­side and the out­side [of a per­son] are sep­a­rated by noth­ing more than thin lay­ers – not un­like the med­i­ta­tion nets of this piece.”

It’s heady stuff from the Mingyun na­tive, who has carved a name for him­self in cere­bral por­tray­als of Myan­mar life. Most re­cently, The Maw Naing vis­ited south­ern Switzer­land to show­case The Monk, a 93-minute fea­ture film de­tail­ing the life of a young novice raised by a re­stric­tive monk at a vil­lage monastery. Shot in 2011 with fund­ing from the Film and TV School of Academy of Per­form­ing Arts in Prague, The Monk has been screened at sev­eral in­ter­na­tional film fes­ti­vals, in­clud­ing the 2015 Wathann Film Fes­ti­val in Yan­gon and the Fes­ti­val del Film Lo­carno in Switzer­land ear­lier this month.

An­other of his films – Nar­gis – When Time Stopped Breath­ing – re­ceived spe­cial men­tion awards from Switzer­land, France and Nepal, as well as a jury award from In­dia, for its de­pic­tion of the dis­as­trous cy­clone that rav­aged Myan­mar in 2008. But it’s not just films for The Maw Naing, who added the word “the” to his name in or­der to dis­tin­guish him­self as an in­di­vid­ual in a coun­try where many peo­ple share names. He has also pub­lished poetry and sold orig­i­nal paint­ings, and the up­com­ing in­stal­la­tion art is yet an­other it­er­a­tion of his creative en­ergy.

Af­ter Swe­den, In and Out of Thin Lay­ers will show in Nor­way, Fin­land and Den­mark be­fore mov­ing to Japan and Korean gal­leries in 2018. It is part of a larger con­tem­po­rary art ex­hi­bi­tion called Bal­ance and Provo­ca­tion, which fea­tures other Myan­mar artists Ko Latt, Yada­nar Wine and Ma Ei. The ex­hi­bi­tion opens on Septem­ber 8 and will run un­til Novem­ber 27, plenty of time for vis­i­tors to ex­pe­ri­ence the In and Out of Thin Lay­ers in­stal­la­tion. The au­di­ence is en­cour­aged to freely en­ter any of the sus­pended nets to more vis­cer­ally ex­pe­ri­ence the art.

“Com­pa­ra­ble to our mind, the thin mem­brane lay­our of each net is fas­ci­nat­ingly trans­par­ent – both phys­i­cally and vis­ually,” he said. “When the au­di­ence en­ters a net they can leave on a jour­ney into the mind. They can fo­cus on an­swer­ing the ques­tion: What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween the in­side and out­side?”

“I hope all who visit can will­ingly en­joy a jour­ney into their mind,” The Maw Naing added.

Photos: Sup­plied

He said he had the idea for the net project nearly 10 years.

The Maw Naing added the ar­ti­cle “the” to his name – one of many ways he sets him­self apart from the crowd.

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