Frieze Magazine Profiles Garrett Bradley
27 September 2022
The Oscar-nominated filmmaker discusses how she imbues topics relating to race, class and social justice with poetic urgency
'It started in high school,’ reflected Garrett Bradley, following my enquiry into the origins of her life as a filmmaker. As our conversation evolved, the 36-year-old, New Orleans-based artist repeatedly alluded to the all-encompassing fervour that governs her approach. ‘I feel so connected to the people I make films with,’ she said at one point, ‘that I’ve had to ask myself who I am when I’m not working.’
Bradley and I were talking in anticipation of her debut London solo show, which opened at Lisson Gallery in September. The first work she wanted to tell me about – that initial high-school experiment realized on an analogue camcorder – was less an anecdote through which a sense of chronology could be established than a benchmark for understanding the type of filmmaker Bradley has gone on to become. Consisting of interviews conducted with her separated artist parents, the project enabled her to ask questions that might otherwise be off-limits while piecing together a picture of who they were as individuals. Considering this early endeavour some two decades later, Bradley related: ‘I’ve always been really interested in other people. That process of looking outward, being curious and sharing what I see; it’s a methodology that I still use today.’
Since her graduation in 2012 from the University of California, Los Angeles – where she studied directing at the School of Theater, Film and Television – Bradley has forged a body of work in which the personal circumstances of individuals are prioritized. ‘How can their experiences open our eyes? That’s what I’m asking,’ the artist explained. The Black American women who are the focal point of each of her projects are people whom Bradley has befriended in New Orleans and who constitute part of her extended community. Cumulatively, their stories speak to Bradley’s interest in issues such as race, class and social justice, which she explores through familial relations. In an interview with Huey Copeland, published in the catalogue for Bradley’s 2019 exhibition at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, she noted: ‘I would say that, yes, my work is about Black life.’ Rather than pulling in subjects to help construct Bradley’s vision, however, it is the protagonists who determine what needs to be conceived. ‘I think of myself as a facilitator,’ she told Copeland.
In 2017, as part of The New York Times Op-Docs series, Bradley released Alone, a 12-minute, black and white documentary which won a short film award in the nonfiction category at Sundance. It explores the isolation felt by 20-something Aloné Watts – the aptness of her name is purely coincidental – following the imprisonment of her partner, Desmond Watson, more than a year earlier while awaiting trial.
Read the full profile by Allie Biswas in Frieze Magazine here.
Garrett Bradley: Safe is on view at Lisson in London through 29 October.