As a child, Bradford Edwards traveled the world with his father, who served as a helicopter and F-16 pilot during the American-Vietnam War. “Flight” is a tribute to his late father and a study on his long interest of funerary objects and rites. Although first a very intimate piece, the jet plane takes on very broad meaning as a work that reflects how traditions, like funerary rites, are center to maintaining personal and public symbols.
Edwards’ exploration in Vietnamese funerary rites not only looks at the process of what is done and what paper symbols are burnt as offerings to the dead, but also why these very objects are chosen. Extracting from this examination, Edwards also looks at the sculptural possibilities of such objects and how they may be viewed similarly or differently by onlookers who are not be a member or have an understanding of the culture from which this rite is practiced.
Apart from his interest in cultural symbols, Edwards also focuses on social issues such as the memory of war and how individuals wrestle with their relationship with it. In this particular installation completed for Saigon Open City in collaboration with Dao Anh Khanh and Nguyen Manh Hung, we look toward the memories of the American-Vietnam War.
A graduate of Sussex University, Edwards also attended the University of California at Santa Barbara and Long Beach State University. With a Masters Degree in Media Studies, Edwards has training in political and the social sciences. After his first series of trips to Vietnam between 1999-2002, Edwards is currently residing and practicing in Hanoi. (CTAV)
Dao Anh Khanh
(Born in 1959 in Hanoi, Vietnam)
Flight, 2006 video, drawing and performance in collaboration with Nguyen Manh Hung and Bradford Edwards
In preparation for “Flight,” a collaboration between composer Nguyen Manh Hung and the visual artists Bradford Edwards and Dao Anh Khanh. Kahn and Edwards constructed a life-sized jet plane from bamboo and rice paper to use as a centerpiece of the performance.
The jet plane is meant to serve as both an offering and as a symbol of war, communicating a message of peace through the medium of wood and paper. During Vietnamese funerary rituals, material things made from the same materials are burnt as offerings to the deceased. Although funerals are a way to honor the dead, they also reflect on the living. Both of the artists’ fathers were involved in the Vietnam-American War and this offering is made to them. Peace is sent to the heavens, but is also offered to the living as a gesture toward the resolution of current conflicts around the globe.
Born in 1959 in Hanoi, Vietnam, he still resides there. Khanh came to art after graduating from the Hanoi Industrial Arts Academy and from the Hanoi Police Academy. In addition to his practice as performance artist, Khanh is also a prolific painter. Khanh’s work has been featured in Vietnam, London, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Paris and the United States. (CTAV)
Nguyen Manh Hung
(Born 1976, lives and works in Hanoi)
Collaborating with Bradford Edwards and Dao Anh Khanh, “Flight,” is in part another thoughtful iteration of Nguyen Manh Hung’s examination on vehicles as “living beings.”  Although the breadth of Nguyen’s work is varied in tropes, content and media, many of his work in oil paintings, as perhaps inspired by his travels, cultural musings and inadvertent observations on economic growth, examine and depict these vehicles’ operative functions in their social roles, relationships and so-called daily lives.
While such paintings expose how these vehicles work, interact and survive as people do, these anthropomorphic attributions do not transfer as readily into “Flight.” Rather, more technical aspects of a jet, like its structure and how it reflects the true dimensions of an actual fighter jet, hold precedence.  This does not completely remove Nguyen from his usual focal points, but places more weight on a more intimate look at the vehicle: its morphology, its image and impressions inspired by such images. It is as if Nguyen takes a step from the sociological study of vehicles toward a more up close and personal look at their “biology” and “psychology,” and how these may effect the psychology of those around them, be them other vehicles or humans.
Removing the vehicle from its natural habitat and forced into a limited space and audience, the jet in this work becomes a colossal symbol, even while it is the size of what it would be in actuality. In the end, Nguyen comes back full circle and touches on his focus on the relationship of objects and/or people to one another.  While this jet functions immediately as a funerary symbol, its function in this work can be broken down to its daily social function and importance and how those very things allow it to be the symbol that it is in this work.
Nguyen Manh Hung graduated from the Hanoi Fine Arts University in 2002. His work has shown in the region and the United States, and he is currently working on an exhibition to be featured in New York.