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Bryan Zanisnik's Big Pivot

April 15, 2020

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What’s your favorite Swedish pastry? Recently returning to New York City after several years of living in Sweden, artist and storyteller Bryan Zanisnik comically chronicles the highs and lows of life as a contemporary artist, discovering a love for mushroom foraging and the pleasures of inner stillness along the way.

After more than ten years in New York, the artist is both exhilarated and exhausted—exhilarated by the high visibility exhibition opportunities, but ultimately exhausted by the chronic under-funding and his own labor-intensive process. Describing his mix of photography, sculpture, and performance, Zanisnik explains, “I would do projects where I would collect thousands of objects, I would arrange them, photograph them, move them, [and] build an installation.” But the process was bringing diminishing personal returns, prompting the artist to ask, “Do we make our lives more difficult than they have to be?”

The solution? Zanisnik pivots and moves to Sweden—spurred on by his partner’s new job there—dreaming of universal health care and government artist support. But the artist soon discovers that Sweden is not quite the promised land he expected and learns that the road to personal and professional fulfillment is not always a straight one. Mirroring Zanisnik’s own tragic-comic style with a playful use of sound effects and archival footage, this portrait is a universal story of one person’s quest for financial stability, creative joy, and the best in Swedish pastry.

More information and credits


Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Director: Nick Ravich. Editor: Misha Spivack. Additional Editor: Nadine Mundo. Cinematography: Jarred Alterman. Additional Camera: Logan Quarles and Brian Wengrofsky. Grip & Assistant Camera: Danny Flanagan and George Schramm. Sound: Trokon Ngabe and Jeff Seelye. Production Assistants: Meghan Garven and John Wesley Wilson. Color Correction: Chris Ramey. Sound Design & Mix: Gisela Fullà-Silvestre. Design & Graphics: Andy Cahill and Chips. DIT & Assistant Editor: Jasmine Cannon. Music: Robert Carlton. Artwork Courtesy: Bryan Zanisnik. Thanks: Brooklyn Roasting Company, Cut + Measure, George Gerswhin, Anna Kaschel, Kimia Kline, Alex Laviola, Emma Nordin, Red Hook Post, Prelinger Archives, Melissa Saenz Gordon, Rafael Salazar, Ava Wiland, Aaron Young, YouTube Space NY, and Tamar Zohara Ettun.

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

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

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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.

“Maybe there’s also, with age, a little more confidence to make something that I really love making, and then maybe not worry so much about the reception of it.”

Bryan Zanisnik