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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Eclectic artist bucks tradition in Kingdom

Eclectic artist bucks tradition in Kingdom

Colombian-born artist Carlos Franklin hopes to draw out Cambodian artists with his compelling blend of mixed media

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Carlos Franklin 

One of Carlos Franklin's multimedia creations.

HAVING worked abroad for a large part of his life, multimedia artist Carlos Franklin draws inspiration from wherever he lays his hat.

Colombia-born Franklin collects material for his art from many different sources and says that art is something he "can do anywhere".

Cambodia has provided inspiration to the 28-year-old-artist. "Myths and legends coexist with emails and malls in Cambodia. I think it's inspiring."

Last year Carlos taught a workshop to students at the Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture in Phnom Penh but says it will take time for video art to take off in Cambodia because most artists do not have the technical capacity to start a video project.

"Video art is new here because there is a big tradition of linking craftwork with art. While there are people with a lot of talent, they are often of a different wavelength than European and North American conceptions of contemporary art," Franklin said. "Reyum students are usually working on other types of reflections - only two or three Reyum students are working on video now and have pursued it.

"I have a background in drawing and video installation, and often I jump from one to the other," he said. "Installation is a term coined in the 1940s for the artworks, which were not completely sculpture but that talked about the sense of space," he said, adding, that people today often abuse the term by calling photos installations.

Experimental art

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

Carlos Franklin at the Equinox 

His recent experimental video opera Mutations of Matter in Paris focused on the skyscrapers of New York and explored the relationship between sound and architecture.

"I didn't want a concert illustrated by music. I wanted to collaborate with a musician and go against all types of traditional theatre and screenings," he said.

"The starting point was looking at how we could build space from voices."

Carlos recently presented some of his latest video creations at Phnom Penh's Meta House.

Almost Hi Fi, featured at the exhibit, was shot in Cambodia on a mobile phone last year for the Pocket Film Festival.

"Since the time I shot Almost Hi Fi, I noticed the contrast between the new hypermodernity - glass skyscrapers, mobile telephones everywhere, karaoke, etc - and the traditional society," he said. "Poverty is another thing in Cambodia that makes you see how the people build their own technology."

Another one is Translations, a fictional story about a Japanese girl on a train.

"I used to look at people on trains, spying them. I loved to see when they slept and how their bodies moved with the train movements. That day had a special light. So I took those images and I put titles between [and] created a story, a fiction. But the treatment of the light and the sound invites contemplation of that person, that beauty."

Carlos is currently working on a multimedia project with Khmer artist Lean Sekcon, and the result of the collaboration will be showcased at an exhibition at the French Cultural Centre in March next year.

"We have found that we have many visions in common. [Lean Sekcon] has just started thinking about video art, and he is excited," Franklin said.

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