An Opera for Animals was first staged at Para Site in Hong Kong between 23 March and 2 June 2019, with works by over 48 artists and collectives that use opera as a metaphor for modes of contemporary, cross-disciplinary art-making. The exhibition's second iteration takes up a large portion of the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in Shanghai (22 June–25...
Moving across installation, painting, drawing, and writing, Malaysia-born and London-based artist Mandy El-Sayegh explores the political, social, and economic complexities of humanity, using a mosaic of information—from advertising slogans and pornographic imagery to newspaper articles—that she subjects to processes of layering,...
Get Up Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House in London (12 June–15 September 2019) surveys more than half a century of black creativity in Britain and beyond across the fields of art, film, photography, music, design, fashion, and literature.Curated by Zak Ové, works by approximately 100 intergenerational black...
Die Wunde schliesst der speer nur, der sie schlug.
The wound can be healed only by the spear that smote it.
— Parsifal, Richard Wagner
Yawnghwe Office in Exile is a fictional office created by Sawangwongse Yawnghwe in his practice. For his first solo exhibition at TKG+, he fabricates a _State Museum_to explore possible narratives for Shan1 exiles. This museum is impossible to exist even in today's Burma. Democratized on the surface, Burma's political structure is still heavily influenced by military intervention. It signifies the impossibility of such imagination existing as knowledge. The term 'absoluter gegenstoss' has been used by the German philosopher Hegel, and later elaborated by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek in his book Absolute Recoil (2014). Seemingly synonymous, these two terms do not necessarily translate into each other under the title 'State Museum.' While absoluter gegenstoss refers to counterattack, absolute recoil is a force of counteraction. They resonate with each other in that they both embody a counterthrust to the original force.
In Hegel's discourse, abstraction is more realistic than imagery. Yawnghwe's painting emerges out of its own loss through the figurative and the abstract, one effacing the other. As Zizek writes, 'To designate the speculative coincidence of opposites in the movement by which a thing emerges out of its own loss.' Yawnghwe reckons that the groundlessness of the symbolic order is a nightmare. As Shan's history is suppressed by Burmese military forces, reality loses its transparency. His paintings attempt to present a reality that is elusive in photography, attesting ontological wounds that have become exquisitely harrowing. Yawnghwe Office in Exile has established a museum for a country in exile. The people in his paintings, from his grandparents to his father and uncle, their portraits taken when they were part of the military and political organizations in Burma's recent history, Shan royalty, Union of Burma2, and Shan State Army3, together intertwine to form an indispensable part of his family history. Based on historical scenes, these works, reeking of warfare, reveal assimilation policies and ethnic cleansing enforced by military regimes on Shan and other minorities.
Contradiction is the nature of the world. Both sides of contradiction coexist in a dynamic state of difference, even conflict, until they aufheben into the next cycle. This concept is the core of Yawnghwe's art practice. History shapes power and faith, but it also hijacks thoughts and transmogrifies into violence. Is there truth in history? Do the historical facts that are taken for granted equal to reality, even truth? History is a knowledge system. Even though those in power have the right to dictate history, people are no long indoctrinated in the state's version of history. Through historical texts, we can understand different perspectives, and form our own stances without being radicalised. And that is a healthy knowledge mechanism.
1 The ethnicities in Burma are diverse and complicated. There are eight major ethnic groups classified according to their geographical distribution by the Burmese government: Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan. Bamar accounts for nearly 70% of the population. Yawnghwe belongs to Shan (Thai Yai) in the Shan group, which accounts for nearly 10% of the population.
2 Recent history in Burma is divided into several phases. 'Union of Burma' here refers to the first federal republic in Burma from 1948 to 1962 after the British rule ended, with U Nu as the first Prime Minister and Sao Shwe Thaik as the first President. The foundation of Union of Burma is Panglong Agreement.
3 Founded in 1964, Shan State Army (SSA) is combining the Shan State Independence Army (SSIA), the Shan National United Front(SNUF) and Jimmy Yang's Kokang Revolutionary Force (KRF). Strongholds in central and Northern Shan State. A political wing, the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), was set up in 1971.
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