Samdani Art Foundation




February 5-8, 2016  |  PO PO  |  Dhaka Art Summit


The self-taught pioneer in Burmese contemporary art, Po Po describes his photography not as a visual record, but as a means to reflect his thoughts regarding political, social and cultural concerns. In 2010, Po Po created his first “VIP Project” in Yangon, placing VIP signs in public bus stops across the city. South Asia has a deeply entrenched “VIP Culture” where certain individuals are given preferential treatment as “Very Important People” – even in the public sector with special entrances in airports, parking spaces, and other basic facets of daily civic life. Standing across the street from bus stops, Po Po took a series of photographs and videos documenting the reactions of people to the signs —in nearly all cases, the commuters saw the sign as more important than them, yielding their seats to the signs, demonstrating their thoughts of their place in society as not as important as anonymous and invisible others who may or may not arrive.

Politics play a key role in shaping one’s view of their place in the world. Five years after his first VIP project, Po Po created the second chapter in Dhaka, a city with a similar social VIP culture and historically under the same British rule as Yangon, but with a different political history of over forty years of democracy as opposed to Myanmar’s over five decades of military rule. While the reactions of the public seem similar in the video and photographic documentation across Yangon and Dhaka, the Bangladesh political scenario opened up the possibility for a few members of the public to think of Po Po’s intervention as a joke. This reaction never occurred in the Myanmar intervention, as choice of interpretation of public signage was not an option.