Filed under: art and ideas, documentary | Tags: 18-12, burma, Clémence Barret, myanmar, Pansodan Scene, shan migrants, video art
Clémence B. T. D. Barret is a wiry, dark-haired French woman with strikingly large eyes and a quiet manner. She came to Pansodan Gallery to talk about art and her art video ‘Pamaa’ in particular. The video will be screened at Pansodan Scene on Friday 23 September 2016
The nine pieces of Pamaa are pieces of a puzzle. Each features a different young Shan migrant in Chiang Mai — some anonymised with a false name or face covered — who tells about what it means to be them there now. The work began three years ago, when she first went to Thailand. ‘The process is very slow. I get to know them first. With one, we had a good understanding in one month, that was the fastest. Some to five months of getting to know each other before I started,’ she explained. ‘I got to know many more who declined to participate. They were not comfortable that the video would be shown in Myanmar someday.’
There are no words. They explain the elements of their life as migrants through body language. ‘The body does not lie. Cannot lie. You can learn much more watching someone’s body than listening to their words,’ she says. The lack of words also reflects the voicelessness of the participants. They are invisible in Thai society, in their lives, as well. Clémence described how she was fascinated by watching how becoming visible through this project — being at screenings, having their pictures in magazines — also affected the participants. ‘It was the first time they had shared their story with a stranger. They had time to sit and reflect. Some of them found it liberating.’
Clémence has chosen the medium of video, in which she developed her skills by making documentaries for years before her feeling that she needed more freedom led her to turn her video to art. She has used it, like any artist, to explore something originating in her own experience: Otherness. Living in India, despite being deeply into the community, she also way always unmistakably the other.
‘I use art as a tool to confront viewers with an issue I find important. A possibility to approach it in a alternate way. When you are a migrant or a refugee you experience otherness…. The anti-refugee and anti-migrant rhetoric is the same all over the world. If I did this work in Europe, it would not be much different. Only the appearance of the people would be different. I hope to open some people. It’s a drop in the ocean — but it is very important for me to do work that is meaningful.’
‘The soundtrack is disturbing, on purpose. Some audience members may react badly to it,’ she warned. ‘I am curious to see what happens on Friday.’
Interview 21 September 2016, with Nance Cunningham.
Pansodan Scene is at the corner of Maha Bandula and Pansodan, 144 Pansodan, on the second floor. Go up the staircase opposite the entrance to the temple. Admission s free, and all are welcome. Screening begins at 19:30, and the director Clémence Barret will be available for questions after the showing.
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