Client: Texas State University
Location: San Marcos, TX, United States
Completion date: 2014
Artwork budget: $15,000
29th Street Collaborative
29th Street Serenade (& Other Love Songs) is a collaborative endeavor that explores the historical tales and cultural identity within one neighborhood in Yangon, Burma. The research took place in Burma in 2003 and the project was undertaken in 2014 at the JCM Building on the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos, TX.
Design goals were to transform the 24' x 16' window wall in the lobby into a passive solar light-box during the day with the use of interior lights for projecting the image outward at night. The interior architecture allowed for a dramatic first encounter looking up from the first floor landing. Ascending the stairs to the second floor delivered the viewer directly in front of the installation. Materials include legal size transparencies run through a laser printer and mounted to large sheets of tracing paper. Each section of the installation is approximately 4’ x 6’, containing roughly 60 transparencies per unit. The textual content is from the interviews and student responses to a questionnaire regarding personal responsibility for a civil society. Sections are laid on top of one another, rolled and transported in a tube. Conceptually, the goal was to bring the personal stories and images of individuals in Burma to a diverse public audience that has limited knowledge of contemporary life in Burma and the ever changing social/political issues.
With this emphasis on community engagement I proposed a collaborative social practice project to investigate issues on transitioning to a civil society. I selected 29th St. in Yangon as the focal point for its three very distinct sections of Upper, Middle and Lower. The splendor of Burma’s multi-ethnic social fabric is ever present here, and many people seemed to welcome an opportunity for robust dialogue. Artists from New Zero Art Space set things in motion by introducing me to merchants and residents. I realized an additional team would be necessary for undertaking an immersive oral history scan of the neighborhood, and my lecture to a civics class at Stamford City Business Institute provided a ripe opportunity for recruitment. A number of students enthusiastically volunteered, and the 29th Street Collective was born.
Here is one of the many statements spoken to me during my time there and one that is quite prescient of the current situation. “Suu Kyi cannot change my life. I have to change my life. In our society, too many people are afraid of this responsibility.” Thyitar, Artist at New Zero Art Space, Yangon