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Lecture / Discussion  |  HTEIN LIN LECTURE SERIES: A Political Prisoner’s Artistic Expressions during Long-Term Incarceration

In partnership with SUNY Buffalo State Education Coordinator Win M. Thant and the Grant Allocation Committee (GAC)

Tuesday, April 9, 2019, 12 pm

Htein Lin is known for his narrative paintings depicting life as a political prisoner and for his politically charged performances.  His A Show of Hands multimedia installation, currently on view at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, includes hundreds of plaster sculptures cast from the hands of former political prisoners from Myanmar, each accompanied by a card bearing information about the circumstances of the individual’s imprisonment.

From 1998 to 2004, Lin lived as a political prisoner in Burma, incarcerated for his beliefs. Following his release the artist moved to London in 2006. To date, Htein Lin has participated in many events, including the Singapore Fringe Festival (2010) and the Venice Biennale (2007). Lin’s paintings hang in private collections throughout the world, as well as the United States embassy in Yangon.

He will open up about creating art in prison, his battle against censorship and the role of the international community in Burma’s current political situations.

About Htein Lin

Born in 1966 in Ingapu, Ayeyarwady Division, he was active in the 1988 student movement at Rangoon University where he studied law.  Going underground after the military takeover, he spent almost four years in a refugee camp on the Indian border, where he studied art with Mandalay artist Sitt Nyein Aye, and in an ABSDF (Northern Branch) student rebel camp at Pajau on the Chinese border. In Pajau, he and other students were detained for around 9 months from 1991-1992 and suffered physical abuse at the hands of other students in the most notorious episode of the opposition group’s history.

Escaping and returning to Yangon in May 1992, he finished a law degree in 1995 before taking up work as a film actor.  He held two solo shows in 1996 and 1997.  Arrested in 1998 and jailed on spurious accusations of opposition activity, he spent almost seven years in jail (1998-2004).  During this time he developed his artistic practice, using items available to him like bowls and cigarette lighters in the absence of brushes to make paintings and monoprints on the cotton prison uniform.

Htein Lin pioneered performance art in Burma in 1996 and continued to perform for fellow inmates while in prison. Following his release, his Rangoon street performance ‘Mobile Art Gallery/Mobile Market’ in May 2005 led to 5 more days of interrogation.  During the period 2006-2011 he also performed in the UK and Thailand, at the US Library of Congress (2009) and at festivals and events in Finland, France, Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, and Bangladesh.  Many of his performances are intended to raise awareness of the political situation in Burma.

Since leaving Burma for the first time in 2006, Htein Lin regularly participates in exhibitions and art festivals globally, as well as events and projects to promote freedom of speech, particularly in Burma. He is a founding member of the Burmese language arts website to which he contributes poetry, prose, and artistic criticism.  In 2010 curated the first Burmese Arts Festival in London.  In recent years he has expanded his practice to include 3D work and video.

This program is presented in partnership with SUNY Buffalo State Education Coordinator Win M. Thant and the Grant Allocation Committee (GAC).

 Free with museum admission