An Interview with Ani Bradberry


Maya Simkin

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Ani Bradberry is an art historian, writer, and installation, neon, and sound artist based in DC and Brooklyn. Ani is one of the founding editors of DIRT DMV, an “independent platform and resource for accessible critical arts discourse” here. She’s currently in a group show at Transformer which delves into Iranian-American experiences in multiple mediums. She also received her BA and MA from AU!

The show you’re in right now, Nevermind, Azizam, is a collaboration between you, Rex Delafkaran, and Sheida Soleimani. What was your process in working together or separately? For example, I saw one piece of yours, Veins, that had cables going down into one of Rex’s ceramic pieces.  Were you focusing on your unique experience as an Iranian-American, that is necessarily not shared or collective experience? Or were you accessing themes of the community at large for your work?




Rex and I have worked closely together these past few months to plan for the show conceptually. An important part of this process entailed challenging ourselves as artists to create new bodies of work individually, then fostering relationships between the results of our efforts and observing what formed naturally between our pieces. The interaction in Veins happened when we were installing, as many of the collaborative pieces did, including the box of thyme behind Rex’s Desirable Things.  

These collaborations and many of the choices about the exhibition happened incredibly naturally and without much brainstorming — a pleasant surprise that rendered this show so much more meaningful.

Artist-curated exhibitions are extremely important and offer a special communicative power that an outside curator may not have access to. With this in mind, we chose Sheida Soleimani to join us in the exhibition. Sheida’s work is intensely symbolic and thoughtfully researched, layering incredibly complex arrays of image and sculpture to present stories of Iranian women who have been unjustly tortured and killed, such as Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Her fearless art is direct in its confrontation through photographs of large-scale installations. These radical images were absolutely necessary in Nevermind, Azizam as they weave our intimate narratives of as Iranian-American women together with the largely silenced stories of violent misogyny in the lives of our mothers, grandmothers, cousins — stories that all of us and our immediate families are familiar with. The results of our collective conversation at the Artist Talk, which was an incredible first face-to-face meeting, revealed that our exhibition is an immediate political act to call attention to the rampant demonization, abuse and objectification of Iranian women in Iran and within the incredibly diverse diaspora.

The show opens with smells of Chanel No. 5, saffron, and black tea that linger through the gallery. What does the combination of these three in one gallery mean to you?  

Despite the unique ways our identities formed, each of us share intimate sensual details of Iranian experience. Smell is one of the most important instruments of memory, especially for family association and childhood emotions. These three smells immediately strike us with thoughts of a room filled with relatives, sitting and drinking tea after or before a communal meal. Perfume fills the air and strengthens when you kiss the cheeks of close and distant family members. 

In all of the mediums you use to describe your pieces in the show, you mention Transformer. Does this mean that they are all site, or exhibition specific works?

While this exhibition is shown at Transformer, a transformer is also a device that transfers electrical energy between two or more circuits. It is the small box attached to the power cord. I like to call attention to the “ugly” parts through the presentation of materials in the installation, as can be seen in the wire emphasis in Veins. The power supply and wires are often minimized in neon art, which is disappointing.

How did you get into neon? Where do your inspirations come from?



Until I Find The Righteous 1 (2016), Collaboration with Joseph Orzal


Installation at VisArts

I began in neon while working in Kraft Studio as the artist’s studio manager. I exchanged administrative work hours with lessons and hours in the fires, which encouraged experimentation. My inspirations come from absolutely everything in my life, especially since I am mostly forced to work in abstractions due to my lack of expertise in glass blowing. So far, these limits have been a gift. I am thrilled to embrace chance and work with the random nature of allowing glass to fall with gravity as it melts. Once they are lit, the tubes are similarly performative — sometimes forming beaded light patterns that arrive unpredictably. I feel a special kind of affection for neon, since it is essentially a handmade light bulb. It lasts about seven years. These organic, chemical and electronic characteristics of neon are probably my biggest sources of inspiration. 

You are one of the founding editors of DIRT DMV, a platform for accessible and critical arts discourse in the DMV. When did you realize the need for it, and how did you decide DIRT was the answer?

DIRT as a project was born after the duration of Transformer’s e:13 fellowship, an annual program that, in this year, focused on critical arts writing. The decision for e:13 to revolve around writing was caused by the widespread realization that art writing, particularly critical art writing, was almost nowhere to be found in the DMV despite the incredibly active art spheres. We wanted to create a platform for long-lasting coverage and experimental formats for archiving our communities, so DIRT was born.

You describe yourself as walking the line between artist and critical art writer. What does that line look like and what does radical creativity mean to you?

At this point, it appears to me to be a lifetime of learning and sharing with others through rendered and written ideas. Inevitably, these moments of communication are political. In my experience, interdisciplinary work is essential for authenticity in writing and in art, which became apparent as I grew from my foundations in academic writing to become a practicing artist. I am still experimenting in different methods and media of critical art making. Nevermind, Azizam has definitely been one of the most incredible learning experiences upon that line. My most political work to date is likely January 20, 2017, which now is installed at VisArts as a part of the Cultural Platforms for Resistance exhibition curated by Ashley Dehoyos (open until November 5th). This piece combines the two blue bars of Preventative Patrol (recently on view at Washington Project for the Arts) with police body camera footage from the J20 inauguration protests. 



What fragments of ideas for eventual projects do you hold whether or not you hope to see them through?

I am now in the processes of installing a webcam at VisArts for a public live stream of January 20, 2017. I also hope to work to create some impermanent outdoor sculptural installations when it snows.

The show at Transformer closes October 14th so be sure to get over there to check it out!