Friday, October 12, 2007

Bryan Zanisnik

Bryan Zanisnik is showing a bizarro video at Priska Juschka; this was maybe the most entertaining, and subversively thought-provoking, piece in Chelsea.... one of my favorite shows. I'm trying to think who else (solo shows)... I guess Patrick Hill and Jack Whitten I'm still thinking about... what else? It was kind of thin.

The videos (and some framed stills) are edited from footage Bryan shot as a teenager, fourteen and fifteen years ago, mostly using his eighty-year-old grandmother as the *star*. I don't know that he was thinking "art" when he filmed these scenes at fourteen, probably more play than art, but Bryan the artist is the person who dug them out of the closet years later and edited the eight hours of footage into the maybe twenty minutes shown here.

It's a weird war time loop thing happening, everything is topsy-turvy. These videos were made at the end of the first Gulf War, recreating (very loosely) scenes from WWII and the Vietnam War, edited and exhibited post-9/11, concurrent with the Iraq war... when are we, what war are we in? Does it matter? Why is this old lady fighting these wars with props at home, and why is it all so funny?

The first short piece has the old lady squatting below an American flag, wearing a plastic helmet and firing a plastic machine gun... it's absurd and futile. She is shaken awake from her nightmare on the sofa, "Alice, Alice, you're having one of your flashbacks from Vietnam, wake up!"

The next video opens with the lady sitting (indoors) under a yellow tarp, being rained on, wearing combat fatigues and scanning the terrain with her binoculars, when suddenly she is fired upon by the tell-tale rat-a-tat of a plastic toy machine gun! That is her cue to put down the binoculars and stare at the camera, before remembering to gingerly search for the military space laser gun at her side, locate the trigger, and strafe the enemy!

She has been trapped in the trench for thirty days, outnumbered by Nazis thirty to one, and now the terrible storm has begun! There is only one way to make it out alive... "one Nazi down, two Nazis down, three Nazis down.... what, I'm a national hero? For takin' out thirty Nazis?". Salute!

There is more... a really good one about a psycho immigrant who hates Americans. There aren't many shows to recommend in Chelsea right now, this is one of the few.

PS - I met Bryan in 2003 through a waaay-back mutual friend - Kim Connerton! - and didn't see him again until last week at the party of another mutual friend, the day after seeing this show. So crazy.


William said...

Bryan is deservedly getting praise for the videos, which I saw parts of last spring at Hunter where he is a graduate student. Bryan told me this great story about a studio visit with Zach Feuer who basically said "I can't sell video over then minutes long." It was a bit of a let down for Bryan who didn't seem impressed with Feuer or his comments during the studio visits. In one studio, Feuer told a painter he could sell the paintings, but didn't have anything to say about them. Integrity, nice.

I don't know if Priska is going to sell Bryan's videos, but he's getting a lot of attention for them because they are good, and the duration isn't an issue. I hope Priska sells them, all twenty minutes of them. We wouldn't want video artists to think that they can't be commercially...I mean artistically successful if they exceed the ten minute limit.

Go Bryan. The moral here is don't listen to every art dealer who strolls through your studio. They can be dead wrong and miss great work.

martin said...

i don't have a problem with anything feuer might have said. he's an art dealer - not a visiting artist, curator, or critic.

this sounds like a good example of why dealers should not be visiting art schools.

William said...

I'm sure the perspective can be helpful in the right circumstances, but imagine if Bryan had been like "Shit, I gotta chop ten minutes off this thing."

Anonymous said...

I was in Lisa Davis' class that Zack did that crit in. The ten minute comment was part of a larger conversation about the short attention span of gallery viewers and was a polite way of telling Bryan that his videos were kind of long and boring. As far as I know, the comment to the painter was not made; but maybe I didn't hear it. The whole point of having a dealer is to help an artist deal with the market; dealers aren't art intellectuals (unless they think it will help them sell)