Aye Ko started his career as an expressionist painter before coming to performance art in the 90’s. This move was motivated in part by a three-year sentence (1990–93) where he was held as a political prisoner. This was a result of his controversial practise and heavy involvement in the 8888 Nationwide Popular Pro-Democracy Protests culminating in 1988. He comments on this matter: ‘All I could think about was art. I had no pen, no paper. The art that was inside of me had no frame. This is how I became a performing artist’. His work splices and re-spins Burma’s rich cultural heritage into modern art events (Buddhism and food preparation form some of the basic gestures he uses), showing again a considered and thoughtful engagement with Myanmar. He also works in collage, video, photography and installation.
This year Aye Ko has won the prestigious 2017 ‘Joseph Balestier Award for the Freedom of Art’, a prize for an artist or curator from Southeast Asia who is actively committed to the ideals of liberty and freedom of expression, and through his or her work, continually seeks to express these ideals. He comments: “I want to share the prize in order to build up even more democracy [in Myanmar]” and is donating it to his impressive non-profit and artist run space, New Zero, in Yangon.
Aye Ko artist has exhibited extensively; his notable shows include a solo exhibition in New York in 2002 and his participation in the exhibition “Thermocline of Art, New Asian Waves” at the ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 2007. A renowned performance artist, Aye Ko has participated almost annually in performance art festivals in Southeast Asia, Japan, China and the United States. His art is included in numerous private collections internationally as well as in the private ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art.