After moving from the West Coast to the East, Slater Bradley rapidly became an integral part of the NY art scene, establishing himself as a cultured and complex maverick who could be embraced by both museums and underground galleries.
Featuring friends, muses, and strangers, his works, in video, film and photography are characterised by their rawness, a haphazard, found aspect and audacious attitude. Chloë Sevigny and River Phoenix’s cinematic ghost take their place in Bradley’s works alongside the electronic voice of Stephen Hawking.
His relocation to Berlin in 2014 has opened a new chapter in the artist’s life and work. Amuse spoke exclusively to him ahead of his new show The Secret Key at Zuecca Project Space in Venice, Italy which opens this week.
You’ve been in Berlin for over two years now. How do you feel about the city? Has relocating to Europe affected your artistic practice?
I love Berlin. I love its magnetic energy. Its slower rhythms and currents. Its dark and light waves. I feel very grounded here. I find Berlin a place to anchor-in transformation. A place to meditate and do Kundalini Yoga. A place to find your centre.
You were recently involved in the show Reflections on Beuys that opened at Sexauer Gallery. What are your feelings about the man and his legacy?
In 2001, when I was 26 and living in New York, I remember I was very honoured to be included in a group show curated by Rene Block. Rene Block Gallery in NYC hosted Beuys’s transcendental 1974 performance I Like America and America Likes Me. Beuys’ embodiment as a shaman, healer, teacher, and myth-maker has had a lasting effect on generations of artists, myself included. To be an “American Artist” living in Berlin now, with my work placed in direct dialogue with his legacy – a legacy founded on a return to spiritual principles – is a full spiral moment, and can be seen as a reflection and recognition of my own spiritual growth.
What can we expect from your opening in Venice?
The energy of Venice is like an “alchemical bath”. It has always called to me. The H. Bosch Ascent of the Blessed painting that forms the conceptual ground for the Shields in the show called to me. Perhaps, it has to do with working with the transformative energy of this Scorpionic city as a spiritual gateway. I like mystery and mystery likes me.
Venice is also city where gold is an integral feature, like steel and glass are to New York, or palm trees to Los Angeles. Tell me your thoughts on gold as a material, colour and symbol?
Gold is in the DNA and spirit of my hometown, my roots, San Francisco— the city of the Gold Rush, the 49ers, the Golden Gate Bridge. Gold as the archetype of the “Prospector”, the California dream, baby! Gold as epiphany, revelation through the divine. Gold as light, gold as the fixed fire of the Leo sun. My work in the show touches on these themes: ideas of Venice as a spiritual gateway, the Bosch ascension painting, the Mayan calendar ending on the 21.12.12, the winter solstice in alignment with the Galactic Centre, and the shift in planetary consciousness
Many of your video works blur the like between choreographed, fictive and ‘found’ footage, especially with the suicidal woman. Do you think that the universe predestines actions, or the mind itself that finds its own path?
Complex question. Increasingly there is speculation that we are living in a holographic matrix, interacting with incredibly real 3D simulations all playing out the programmed realities of the collective unconscious. Whatever this vibrating “reality” truly is, I know intuition guides the soul on its path through the holographic space. Navigation of the path can’t be done with the left brain alone, which often reinforces limiting thought patterns and contributes to creating obstacles, in its attempt to rationalise. However, when the rational mind is set free and embraces the intuitive mind and is encouraged to develop new thought patterns incorporating a spiritual practice, in time, new belief systems are formed and a re-balancing of masculine and feminine energies – and a new consciousness – can emerge within and without.
The title comes from a 1994 Drive Like Jehu song Do You Compute? Seeing it now, I can tell you it came out of an intense period of self-judgment and darkness. “There are two types of creators in this world, those who make objects and create things – the other type of creator, the mystic, creates himself. And he is the real creator, the real poet because he makes himself into a masterpiece.” (Osho Tarot. The Creator Card). Perhaps, after all, The Great Work is to unify the polarities of both types of creators.
Throughout your career, you’ve based many of your works on other works, letting them speak again through your re-enactments. How would you feel for your works, or life, to be paid homage to in the same way you have with other’s works?
We are all connected. If my work inspires others and gives off the energy to create action – there is no greater compliment for an artist.