Edson Chagas (Angolan, b. 1977)
Edson’s photographic practice is primarily urban, inscribed in physical and conceptual axes that are simultaneously local and global.
Edson works in series, often kept open and unfinished, to which he returns over time, highlighting the meditative aspect a practice in which performative gestures, more or less apparent, assume an essential role. The series as Found Not Taken, Oikomonos and Tipo Passe, for example, result in performative acts performed on/with discarded objects.
Found Not Taken (2008-201xx) results from the artist’s engagement with the cities he has lived in and his own experiences of dislocation and displacement in big cities – Luanda, London, Newport. Edson collects discarded objects, transports them with him and repositions them in new contexts within the urban landscape. The act of repositioning the objects demands a kind-of mise-en-scene, in which special attention is given to colour, texture, and scale and re-enacts the relationship between the discarded objects and the urban fabric. The resulting portraits, a taxonomy of the cities and its spaces, bring new dignity to the objects photographed and proposing new aesthetic relations between the images and the spaces they represent.
In Oikomonos (2011-2018) and Tipo Passe (2012-2014) is more evident the exploration of portraiture – anonymous or fictional bodies and identities move through this globalized world. In the first, the artist himself poses for the camera wearing a white shirt and the head covered by shopping bags from different locations, directing the viewer’s gaze towards the wording on the bags and what they represent. In the second, large scale passport-type portraits of African citizens, identifiable only by different African masks acquired in craft markets and hybrid names. The portraits in Tipo Passe Interrogate the stereotypes around “Africanness” and the construction of identities as circumscribed by the fixations established by the documents (passports) thus suggesting a reading of identity that is more fluid and ambiguous.
Edson’s last series shifts from the nomadic aspect present in his previous series while retaining his artistic and ethical concerns. Factory of disposable feelings (2019) results from a long-term interaction with the specifics of place and context – a textile factory “Irmãos Carneiro”, located on the outskirts of Luanda – and suggest multiple ways to engage with history and over time. Again, debris and discarded objects take centre stage, reffering to the past and to simultaneously embody the present and the uncertainty of the future.
Through a combination documentary precision with poetic imagination, Edson’s images invite the viewer to decelerate from the fast-paced daily routines of busy cities and to slowly engage with and reflect on complex issues such as the effects of globalization, on consumerism, on themes of displacement and construction of identities in this fast-changing world.