At a Glance
“Accidental Voodoo,” artwork by Bradford Edwards. Opens Thursday December 11, reception with the artist at 6 p.m. On display until January 5, 2009.
The FCC Permanent Collection, four decades of Cambodian history in photographs.
The creative process of American artist Bradford Edwards might casually be described as unpredictable fluidity.
Maybe. But as Edwards himself explains he is a life-long migrant, permanently flitting from one country to another. His future plans rarely extend beyond the date of his next exhibit.
“I am inherently hedonistic and easily distracted,” Edwards says. “I need a deadline to motivate me. Then I can be efficient and productive.”
With worldly possessions scattered from north Vietnam to south California, the rhythm of Edwards’ life turns on his never-ending journey from East to West.
When it comes time for an exhibition, the artist on-the-go typically just stops wherever he is — a hotel room, a sublet, a friend’s place — and it is here in what he calls “migrant studios” that Edwards creates the artwork that has made him one of Asia’s most durable artists.
These days Edwards is working out of a friend’s low-ceiling extra room in downtown Phnom Penh. With a show scheduled for December at The FCC, Edwards once again has the deadline that he needs.
“Accidental Voodoo” opens Thursday Dec. 11 and marks Edwards’ fifth show at The FCC, a record. No other photographer or artist has held more than three.
As is typical, Edwards’ creative process doesn’t just influence his work, it defines it.
“I greatly admire painters and secretly long to be one,” Edwards confides. “But I have no talent for that.”
“I am a collector, a hoarder and a scavenger who makes stuff to hang on the walls. Rather than spending all my time in the studio inventing imagery, I spend most of my time out in the world hunting for, discovering and accumulating materials to physically express my ideas,” he says.
For “Accidental Voodoo” Edwards has been working the wood shops, salvaging the “end cuts” and other throwaways the shops consider useless. He carves up these “scraps” using chisels and a router (winning no points with the friend), and uses the blocks as a base to build grander art, adding photos, silk, incense, old cameras, paintings, maps, bayonets, candles, just about anything, to create thematic dioramas.
The assemblages touch on Khmer history, the future, social concerns and cultural symbols. Edwards has worked closely with a group of students from the Royal University of Fine Arts who have contributed to the art-making process.
“I enjoy the energy generated from collaborations, especially with local skilled workers, who inevitably bring a fresh and invigorating perspective to the work,” Edwards says.
As free flowing as the creation may seem, Edwards does have boundaries. The materials must be native, he says, and he always makes the art in the country where it will be shown.
“I like the simple and reductive idea that all you need is right in front of you, just outside your doorstep, readily seen from your balcony,” Edwards says. “I want to reflect my personal experience and interpretation of what I see, smell, touch and do.”
“‘Be here now’ is my mantra.”