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Owning the city: Civic art’s historical practice and contemporary meaning in Yangon

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In recent decades studies on urban development in South East (SE) Asia have focused on a few cities at the expense of overlooking others. Consequently in comparison to some of the region’s metropolises relatively little is known about Rangoon even though its population is in excess of five million people, it is a fundamental component in the economic and cultural make-up of Burma – the largest country in mainland SE Asia, and is a locale rich in built heritage. Yet the existence of much of the city’s historic downtown district, an environment long recognized for its beauty, is now under serious threat. Vast numbers of colonial era edifices are in a state of disrepair. Others are derelict, and some have been condemned for demolition. However, with civil society in Burma undergoing reform as a consequence of political restructuring in 2011, attempts are now being made to formulate policy to safeguard Rangoon’s environmental and artistic integrity. One means by which this is being realized is via appreciating civic art.
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Keywords: Rangoon; civic art; heritage; national development; urban renewal

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Chinese University of Hong Kong

Publication date: December 1, 2012

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  • Art & the Public Sphere provides a new platform for academics, artists, curators, art historians and theorists whose working practices are broadly concerned with contemporary art's relation to the public sphere. The journal presents a crucial examination of contemporary art's link to the public realm, offering an engaged and responsive forum in which to debate the newly emerging series of developments within contemporary thinking, society and international art practice.
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