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Bryan Zanisnik Goes to the Meadowlands

December 5, 2014

Where are the blank spots on the map? In this film, artist Bryan Zanisnik hikes through the New Jersey Meadowlands landscape and exhibits his work Meadowlands Picaresque at the Brooklyn Museum. “I love this idea of this landscape that’s constantly evolving but also devolving,” says Zanisnik as he explores the brackish wetlands, abandoned train lines, and rocky outcroppings of Snake Hill that mark an ecosystem continually in flux.

An area roughly the size of nearby Manhattan, Zanisnik views the Meadowlands as the mirror image or subconscious of New York City, a place where the unwanted—such as the ruins of the original Pennsylvania Station—sinks into the eighteen stories of soft clay beneath the surface. “It’s kind of monumental in its nothingness,” he marvels, remarking that “this felt like a place that no one ever bothered to mark or map.”

Comparing the scenery to a stream of consciousness sentence, Zanisnik takes a similarly psychological approach to the construction of his loosely narrative artwork. He begins by taking photographs of the Meadowlands, incorporates a wide variety of objects—natural, man-made, and personal artifacts—into a room-sized installation, and periodically performs the work as a surreal tableau vivant that incorporates his parents. While drawing inspiration from the Meadowlands and his native New Jersey, Zanisnik adds that “no matter how many times I visit…I never understand it completely. And I may never understand it, but that’s what holds my attention.”

Featuring the artwork Meadowlands Picaresque (2013), installed at the Brooklyn Museum in the exhibition Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond (2014), as well as music by Chris Zabriskie: CGI Snake (2011); What True Self? Feels Bogus, Let’s Watch Jason X; Out of the Skies, Under the Earth (both 2012); and Cylinder 9 (2014).

More information and credits


Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Producer & Editor: RAVA Films. Cinematography: Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Aerial Camera: John Marton. Design & Graphics: CRUX Design & Open. Artwork: Courtesy Bryan Zanisnik. Music: Chris Zabriskie. Thanks: Brooklyn Museum, Rujeko Hockley, Lance Singletary, Eugenie Tsai, Katie Welty, Sally Williams, Bob Zanisnik & Carol Zanisnik. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Art21 New York Close Up is supported, in part, by The Lambent Foundation; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Interested in showing this film in an exhibition or public screening? To license this video please visit Licensing & Reproduction.

Bryan Zanisnik

Bryan Zanisnik was born in 1979 in Union, New Jersey and currently lives and works between New York and Stockholm, Sweden. Dealing with both autobiographical and social subject matter, Zanisnik creates videos, performances, installations, and photographs, often with elements of the absurd and the abject as he investigates the dynamic between performer and audience. His projects have included staging a boxing match with his childhood bully, exploring and documenting New Jersey’s Meadowlands, and creating The Philip Roth Presidential Library from hundreds of second-hand copies of books by and about the author.

“I love this idea of this landscape that’s constantly evolving but also devolving.”

Bryan Zanisnik


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