Installation art uses mosquito nets as metaphors
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.
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.