As of today, guest resident Sawangwongse Yawnghwe
will work at the Rijksakademie during the month May.
Sawangwongse Yawnghwe is born in Shan State, Burma. His works critique dominant Burma-centric artistic and historical narratives by presenting a personal, fictive counter-historiography, through a fictional museum, and the feature of suppression—what remains under the surface or hidden. Yawnghwe’s grandfather, belonging to the Shan ethnic minority was the first president of Burma. He spoke out for the place of all minorities within the Burmese constitution. In the military coup in 1962, he was killed in custody. The forest camp in which the artist was born in exile, was controlled by the Shan State Army, that had been established with his grandmother’s help, after his grandfather, and his uncle were assassinated. ‘Yawnghwe Office in Exile’ is a large installative work, of a missing archive of suppressed histories and unrecorded moments, made in painting. Should politics one day turn around, his works could very well occupy a real museum located at his family’s palatial home in Yawnghwe, which he never saw. ‘If this were to be shown in a village somewhere in Shan State, it would not be the same as it is here. We might risk getting shot at. Recently there had been attacks by the Myanmar Military in the Northern Shan State. There, in Shan State, art is magic, art is somehow this special power. It would be only translatable in this sense.’ (SY in an interview with Joram Kraaijeveld for the exhibition 'Kamarados' at Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, 2015.)
Fiction and reality meet within Yawnghwe’s thoroughly researched works. They represent an indictment, from an artist engaged with academics, human rights activists, journalists and writers working in Myanmar, and the writings of his father, who left diaries which the artist inherited after his death. Yawnghwe’s acute use of investigative methodology, is tempered by the way in which he uses it to approach philosophical problems about what history means when the narratives of minorities have been dismantled and erased. It is also a sharp critique of capital, while an attempt to describe its contradictions, political flows and fallouts.