Peace Industrial Complex
9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9), Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art: November 2018
Myanmar’s civil war is both the longest-running and most complicated conflict in the world. Over the past seven years domestic actors and international interlocutors, donors and mediators have tried to bring peace and national reconciliation with dozens of ethnic armed groups that have been fighting the central government, and sometimes each other, for seventy years. Yet the process and its promise have sputtered to a halt under the democratically elected National League for Democracy government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Fighting in northern Myanmar has intensified, although often eclipsed by the humanitarian catastrophe of the Rohingya Muslim mass expulsion of the past year.
Why has the war raged even as millions in donor funding have been poured into its resolution? Partly because many international actors involved don’t understand the complexity of seventy years of conflict. This complexity provides a model for the Shan exiled artist Sawangwongse Yawnghwe and his recent works on Myanmar’s “Peace Industrial Complex” — three large, complicated and confusing diagrams of ethnic armed organisations (EAOs), government structures, foreign actors and, at the core, the Tatmadaw: Myanmar’s military, which has demonstrated little interest in ending a war it has failed to win and is characterised by habitual human rights violations.