Culture, Myanmar

Body Imaging by Abby Robinson @ Pansuriya, Yangon

“There’s a really nice eye over there next to the boobs…. No, no, under the knobbly knee. Yep, that’s the one, above the crooked teeth.” 

It was 8pm on Saturday night and I was seated in Pansuriya (a stunning gallery and restaurant located in a colonial building downtown Yangon), trying to explain to an English couple what was going on. After a week of watching this performance and photography installation called “Body Imaging” I was starting to get a picture of the idea (or an idea for a picture), but until I went into the “Doctor’s Office” I would not know for sure. 

Abby Robinson is based in New York, and has the theory that there are only two professions that get close to body parts: doctors and photographers. Abby is a photographer, but claims to be “doctor adjacent” as her sister is a doctor. I concur with “doctor adjacent” as clearly there is no doctor/patient confidentiality agreement, even though people choose to think there is. Through this scenario she creates, people seem compelled to divulge the most extraordinary things: I have heard unique stories from her “clinic” which she has facilitated seven times in cities including New York, Shanghai, Las Vegas, Budapest and now Yangon. 

An area of Pansuriya is cornered off with curtains, and as people sit in the “waiting room” they fill out a form (naturally on a clipboard), and after the requisite waiting period she calls on them, inviting them with doctorly precision (white coat and all) into her “office” for their consultation, during which time they choose which body part they would like photographed. The “patient” gets one copy. 

And the other? 

Adorning a large wall in the gallery are shots of tits, pits, nips, lips, lobes, fingers, knees and toes. I did query about hoo-hahs and ding-dongs, of which there have been many, but only one hoo-hah this week, which Abby agreed to photograph (she has never declined a request), but stated it would not be hung on the wall. 

Watching this unfold in Pansuriya has been an experience, both as a spectator and in my own mind. Seeing people’s choices and being ever so curious as to the inspiration behind them led me to go down some rabbit holes of my own. Was this exercise in interaction? vanity? therapy? memory collection? liberation? demon confrontation? acceptance? memory liberation? demonic vanity? interactive acceptance? 

My conclusion is that it is whatever you individually choose it to be. In my case it was therapeutic acceptance.