An Open Letter for Burma


A most vital aspect of contemporary art is that it often attempts to fulfill its aesthetic imperative while embodying a deep awareness of the world that gives it context. So as news continues to spread about the violent crackdown by Burma’s junta against Buddhist monks, nuns, and civilians who peacefully demonstrated for democracy, it’s heartening to see a response from artists and curators.

Today, a group of 30 individuals with Asian roots wrote an open letter on Burma to express dismay, call for change, and put forth hope for a freer society where the kind of diversity of ideas vital to contemporary art can be available to all in Burma.

Will it help? Who knows. But I for one am grateful to these people — including Walker curator Doryun Chong, former Walker and REDCAT curators Eungie Joo and Clara Kim, Brave New Worlds artist Haegue Yang, Walker global advisory committee member and independent curator Hou Hanru, and many others — for having taken this step to be clear which side many of us, the artists and audiences of contemporary art, are on.

October 3, 2007
From people of Asian background in the arts:

We write to express our extreme dismay at the brutality of the military regime of Burma (Myanmar) against protesters who have been peacefully asking for change in that Asian nation. Led by Buddhist monks and nuns, tens of thousands of people have marched in Burma’s cities and towns in recent week. This has been an inspiring example of nonviolent resistance which has caught the attention of the entire world.

Unfortunately, the military dictatorship has chosen to meet this challenge not with negotiation, but with gunfire from automatic weapons. Monks and nuns have been viciously beaten and arrested, students and journalists shot in the street, and whole cities are now under a military reign of terror.

As citizens of the world, as artists valuing free expression, as people of Asian heritage, we write in support of the courageous Buddhist monks and nuns, and other people from all religions and walks of life in Burma, as they continue to seek peaceful change and national reconciliation.

We demand an immediate end to the violence against the protesters, and a release of all political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, dissident comedian Zarganar, and poet Bamaw
Nyo New.

We support the ongoing struggle of the people of Burma for basic human rights, and we admire their expressions of compassion for all humanity. As fellow humans, we stand with them.


1. Maxine Hong Kingston
2. Linda Kim
3. Htein Lin
4. Amitav Ghosh
5. Khin Aye Than
6. Ruby Walters
7. Doryun Chong
8. Charmaine Craig
9. Huma Dar
10. Maya Lin
11. Tamara Chin
12. Bharat Venkat
13. Jerry Zee
14. Taro Shinoda
15. Mira Kamdar
16. Eungie Joo
17. Byron Kim
18. Pascal Khoo Thwe
19. Maryam Kashani
20. Kim Beom
21. Audrey Chan
22. Wei Hua Peng
23. Hou Hanru
24. Clara Kim
25. Kris Kuramitsu
26. Michael Ondaatje
27. Haegue Yang
28. Paisley Rekdal
29. Yiyun Li
30. Le Ly Hayslip
31. Gitanjali J. Hursh
32. Vasanthi Victor