ExhibitionNovember 9–November 21, 2012
Clark House Initiative at ISCP
ISCP’s 2012 institution-in-residence is Clark House Initiative, Bombay. This annual residency was initiated by ISCP in 2011 to support cultural exchange by bringing an international perspective into a local context. Clark House Initiative is a curatorial practice about a place, which, in sharing a junction with two museums and a cinema, mirrors the fiction of what these spaces could be. Sumesh Sharma and Zasha Colah established Clark House Initiative in 2010 as a curatorial collaborative concerned with ideas of freedom.
Beginning in November 2012, Clark House organizes an exhibition, series of discussions and performances at ISCP, as well as the meeting and an exhibition between Burmese artists Htein Lin and Sitt Nyein Aye: Yay-Zeq: Two Burmese Artists Meet Again.
Alongside Open Studios, Clark House Initiative brings a program to New York that illuminates the philosophical and cultural strategies that have served to withstand or conjure tectonic social and political shifts of upheaval or change. In Burmese thought, yay-zeq, a water-drop, signifies a present or future encounter caused by an act of merit performed by two people in the past. Yay-Zeq: Two Burmese Artists Meet Again tells the story of how artist Sitt Nyein Aye taught law student Htein Lin to draw on the forest floor in an enclosed refugee camp in Manipur in 1988 after fleeing Burma during the 8888 Uprising. It also tells the story of the friendship between Htein Lin and the comedian Zarganar in Rangoon that began at their university in the mid-1980s and has survived each other’s multiple imprisonments and exiles.
While at university they reinvigorated the ancient comedy and dance tradition – anyeint – in two directions. For Zarganar (whose name means tweezers), it took the form of stand-up comedy routines. Htein Lin and his performance partner Chaw Ei Thein used its recognizable structure of a princess and a comedian to create small acts in the streets of Rangoon.
Clark House Initiative presents rarely seen selections from Sitt Nyein Aye’s archive, including drawings of his journey from Burma to India and the camps and refugee communities in which he lived, as well as his own writing and autobiography alongside publications he edited and produced by means of makeshift printing machines. Also exhibited for the first time is a video documenting the artist Htein Lin’s second performance in 1997, at an exhibition opening in Yangon, kept secret since its creation and only returned to the artist this year. The exhibition is a culmination of conversations, collected archives, commissions and translations that began when curator Zasha Colah first met Htein Lin in his studio in 2008.
Drawings on the Forest Floor: Htein Lin and Sitt Nyein Aye in conversation
Saturday, November 10th, 5pm
This conversation serves as the first public meeting of Burmese artists Htein Lin and Sitt Nyein Aye since they fled to the border hills following the repression of the democratic protest against the military regime in Burma that began on August 8, 1988, now known as the 8888 Uprising. Together they share their views on art and philosophy, duty and “the artist’s way,” reconnecting with their discussions from 24 years ago, including Sitt Nyein Aye’s imparting of an art education through drawings on the forest floor.
Living Monument: A performance by Htein Lin and Chaw Ei Thein
Sunday, November 11th, 3pm
Living Monument is a collaborative performance between Htein Lin and Chaw Ei Thein developed in response to recent political transitions in Burma and the artists’ current positions as persons in exile. The artists will don traditional Burmese dance costumes and perform various narratives providing commentary on the historical and current political situation in Burma. The performance will remember and recognize times under the previous military dictatorship and doubtfully consider the potential of the new democratically elected Burmese government.
Collective Practices Discussion
Monday, November 19th, 6:30pm
Clark House is currently working on the idea of cultural transfer – how a work of culture can be transferred to another cultural context, which may be another geography or from another time. Curators Zasha Colah and Sumesh Sharma will use video and assemblage works to discuss their on-going research of collective practices from various parts of India, especially the Northeast.
Translations: Ko Moe and Vicky Bowman. Collaborators: Amrita Gupta-Singh Mohile Parikh Center Bombay, Home Office Yangon, JJ School of Art Bombay, Asian Cultural Council New York, Kari Conte and ISCP, New York. The exhibition will travel to the Kochi-Muziris Biennale with the support of Foundation for Arts Initiatives New York and Stapati Architects Kochi.