Federica Bruni





My Time In Wassaic


Wassaic is an enchanting place. I lost myself investigating the effects of captivity on humans, walked in the woods, had inspiring conversations with fellow artists in residence and art professionals and climbed up and down the thousands stairs of the Mill. And eventually made good connections and friends.




with Joe Brommel, April 2019

Can you talk about the role of psychology and language in your work? I'm thinking in particular about works of yours that deal with Stockholm Syndrome.

If I would have studied something different than visual art, I would have studied psychology, because I really like understanding what people think or why we act a certain way. I take inspiration from the situations I encounter and I translate them into my works. I also like to use materials to say something about psychology.

With Stockholm Syndrome, I was reading a biography of this Austrian girl that was abducted 20 years ago and who suffered from Stockholm Syndrome. And I thought that yellow velvet is something comfortable: it’s a textile that is very soft, nice, and delicate. So I put it in very near sticky paper of the same color — a trap. These two different materials really explain what a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome has inside. In one way she wants to break free, but in another she feels comfortable with her abductor.

I like this contradiction that can sometimes happen in our minds, because I think they can happen in other situations in our lives. It doesn't have to be an extreme situation like Stockholm Syndrome. All of us can, in a way, identify with this sense of confusion — of being two different persons in one. And I don't want them to be just beautiful pieces that you look at. I'm always in search of the interaction.

I like how you put that. Can you say more about that search?

I did performance art in the past. Now I'm more into installation art, but it's always a type of installation that wants to bring people in, make them think and question normal life.

And sometimes I also take inspiration from people around me. They can be very chance encounters. For example, when I was going back from Wassaic to Italy I was sitting near a guy on the plane who was studying artificial intelligence. I was really interested in what he was saying, so I asked him after a little bit if he wanted to collaborate on a project in the future. I like to do those kinds of things. It becomes a performance involving people that are from different worlds.

What did he say? Was he open to working together?

Yeah, he was open. We are not really talking about it now, but he was really open to it.

Did any similar collaborations pop up while you were in Wassaic?

While I was in Wassaic I really connected with a guy, Daniel Zeese, that was doing totally different things from what I was doing. We were just talking in front of my studio, I asked if I could take pictures of him, he said yes, and it became another piece about Stockholm Syndrome. The same subject but a totally different outcome.

This is another way to collaborate. It's really important to have artists around you because new ideas come and you have some people you can relate to. While in my usual life, it doesn't happen so much because I live in a small town. I am a teacher in a middle school, so people don't really know about this other life that I have — the artist life. It's kind of a double life that I'm leading.

The piece you worked on with Daniel is My Other Half, yes?

Yes, My Other Half. Some people are more attracted to the yellow textile piece, Paralysis, and others prefer the one with words. I think it depends on the type of person and their approach to art and the world. Some people have a type of approach that's more rational, and so they prefer the one with words, My Other Half. Others are maybe more instinctive, or more attracted to paintings, colors, or sensations. They prefer the yellow piece, Paralysis.


I’m always in search of the interaction.
— Federica Bruni

Photos by Jeff Barnett-Winsby