TUN WIN AUNG and WAH NUBlurring the Boundaries #5.1, 2009, digital print, 42 × 59 cm. Courtesy Meulensteen, New York.

TUN WIN AUNG, The Train, 2003-2009, two-channel video installation with color, sound, 13 min. Courtesy Meulensteen, New York.

Tun Win Aung & Wah Nu

Myanmar USA

Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu’s exhibition in Meulensteen’s project space marks the US debut of the Myanmar artist couple. The Yangon-based duo work in a variety of media, including Tun Win Aung’s multimedia installations and outdoor performances, created in response to local history and environment, and Wah Nu’s colorful paintings and videos of dream-like impressions.

In preparation for new installations, both artists are known for creating small yet elaborate models to imagine the display of pending artworks, which often remain unrealized due to the lack of exhibition opportunities in Myanmar. The Meulensteen project space, a single room near the entrance of the gallery, houses a series of photographs, “Blurring the Boundaries” (2009), featuring exhibition maquettes by the artist couple. All set in nondescript, white-walled spaces, the prints reveal miniature rooms displaying artworks, including a tent-like installation, a series of paintings hung on walls and a number of white television sculptures placed on a sand-covered floor.

While the types of works are recognizable on close inspection, as most of the photographs are tightly cropped close-up images, it is difficult to appreciate the scale and overall context of the models. Furthermore, “Blurring the Boundaries” raises the question as to why photographic documentations are on display instead of the actual models: do they not exist anymore? If the exhibitions are not realized, what happens to the models after they have been completed? The frustration and ambiguity surrounding this particular display choice is perhaps a deliberate reflection of Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu’s situation in Myanmar, where the nascent art community is in a constant struggle to find production and exhibition opportunities, as well as a means to preserve their under-supported projects. 

A different work by Tun Win Aung, The Train (2003–09), is located in a separate, basement floor screening room. The two-channel video includes a stop-motion animation of a white model train made from building blocks, moving through spaces that are personally important to the artist, such as his school, a favorite restaurant, his home city, and places where the pair have previously exhibited. The video alternates between short clips of this channel and the second, which shows footage of the inside of commuter trains in different countries. 

The first channel, with its DIY qualities, is a charming, animated take on Tun Win Aung’s journeys in life. The second channel, with its slow motion, one-shot scenes of various train cars (and passengers), focuses on stillness and what the exhibition’s accompanying text describes as the “disjointed sense of time and space” that are experienced during moments of travel. Though both related by the theme of travel, the two channels seem disconnected in their differing styles and narratives, and would perhaps have been stronger as separate video pieces.

Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu’s first US exhibition is too brief a glimpse into this artist-couple’s fascinating oeuvre. Though the show leaves one with many potent questions, regarding the challenges of an artist working in Myanmar for example, their intricate exhibition models and animation call for a more in-depth presentation, exploring a greater range of their works.