A Live 80s Video Mashed with Mocked Mysticism

The Valley of Ben Hinnon. Artist: Bryan Zanisnik. Agape Enterprise.

Jan. 20 – Off the Morgan-L Stop moments before 7p, droves of Bushwick newcomers checked their respective phone devices to pinpoint Agape Enterprise‘s location.  The challenge of spying street signs and numbers is a dying mode of survival presuming global networks never go offline.  To the slight left across Bogart Street, one finds a spacious industrial building housing art offices, studios, and earmarked gallery rooms.  What motivates this commute to AE?  Artist and Hunter College MFA alum Bryan Zanisnik.

Brooklyn-based Zanisnik originally hails from Union, New Jersey and stacked degrees from Drew University along with Hunter College.  Following his 2011 residency with Guangdong Times Museum in Guangzhou, China, my government friend and fellow UPenn alum forwarded the invitation to his Friday performance.  Zanisnik’s lengthy biography attests to his successful incorporation into notable domestic and international institutions such as MoMA/PS1, Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, and Videospace,Dresdner Bank, Frankfurt, Germany.  Zanisnik relies upon inclusion and immersion of set pieces whether requiring a human subject or merely allowing videos to enthrall.  He constructs art shanties that have a fleeting structural and conceptual permanence.  The two-hour performance “The Valley of Ben Hinnom” at Agape Enterprise channeled Western and Eastern markers of worship upon a willingly ensnared person.

Strapped into an old fashioned Sears super belt massager device, Zanisnik bobbles on the stand while a table tied to ceiling pipes rests on his head.  There is a white tablecloth atop the swaying furniture that acts as a large hat.  In ritual procession, Zanisnik’s parents adorned in gym attire calmly circle him.  His mother throws pictures, yarn, and clothing articles onto the table, and as the table rocks, the items slowly fall to the ground.  She also selects at random, yet with care, goblets for safekeeping behind a wall cabinet.  In response, his father removes precious trinkets of Eastern ethos from a makeshift tabernacle and replaces them to the main installation.  Zanisnik never speaks.  His instructions are fastened to the metallic scarecrow that only his mother refers in silence.  Composer Robert Carlton casts the scene in religious tones using Gregorian chants interspersed with original hollow beats.  Funereal vibes started to connect all the initially disparate objects surrounding Zanisnik.

Zanisnik combines culturally valued objects praised in the West, specifically the United States like baseball cards, playing cards, and body perfection via the exercise device against Eastern (Indian) sacred metallic tchotchkes and photos of serene gardens.  The hybrid chastises both worship perspectives for the spectacle created and immobile, powerless followers.  Religion has been called the opium of the masses, yet more onus should be placed on those that perpetuate the ceremonies by participation versus the doctrines themselves.  Without practice, religions and idolatry would fade.  It is not the lustful objects that entrap us, but our own desires for connection.  In a pinch, materialism and devised spiritualism will have to do.  Zanisnik has an acute voice.

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