The Art of Protest in Myanmar

Mass effect

Demonstrations in Myanmar continue, following a military coup on 1 February that placed Aung San Suu Kyi and other leading politicians under arrest. Hundreds of thousands have rushed to the streets in defiance of harsh police crackdowns – the largest and most diverse series of mass protests in more than a decade. Meanwhile, the military government has moved to suspend court orders for detainment of suspects, and their response to the protests has grown ever more deadly. Despite the intermittent internet blackouts, three artists from Myanmar have written for ArtReview about the experience of the coup on-the-ground, the role of art for protesters on the streets and their hopes for the future.

The space created by the first free and fair elections, in 2015, allowed people in Myanmar to begin exploring relatively unfettered public expression; to speculate on what postdictatorship culture might look like. 'We are entering the dark again,' writes the influential artist and former political prisoner Aye Ko – but a new generation of protesters and new technological platforms have allowed for nimbler acts of dissent. 'Being on the streets is not the only option for them; they have also found other ways to fight against the coup.' Meanwhile, the curator and artist Sai Htin Linn Htet describes the vibrant art of civil disobedience. 'I have been shaken to the core by this collective artivism, which beats everything I have seen before,' they write of Myanmar's rebellious wave of memes and cosplay. And the artist Moe Satt explains how the three-fingered salute of The Hunger Games became a symbol of defiance for the protesters.

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