Bruce LaBruce is in Europe on a three-month stint that has proved much more interesting than he ever anticipated. Outside of showing his cinematic work at festivals, Bruce has also shown his photographic work – a sexually charged, religious-themed show called Obscenity. The folks in Madrid, Spain were none too happy with Bruce’s exhibition and protested outside. One even threw a Molotov cocktail into the gallery space. It didn’t go off.
“For me the work was very toned down,” says Bruce, safely away from the madness and chatting over Skype. “It was certainly sexual and provocative but it wasn’t pornographic like a lot of my work. I was looking at Renaissance paintings and was examining the similarities between religious and sexual ecstasy. I was asking, ‘Why should sexual imagery be considered taboo from a religious perspective? Isn’t sex a spiritual practice? Can’t it be considered spiritual?’”
Like his friend and mentor John Waters, Bruce has often been labelled shocking and it’s easy to see why. Where Waters had his ‘Divine eats dog shit’ career-spanning shocker, Bruce LaBruce has shown amputee sex (aka stumps in tight spaces) in White Hustler and a gay neo Nazi ejaculating over a copy of Mein Kampf in Skin Gang. Bruce understands his work is shocking, but is unapologetic.
“I don’t see anything wrong with being deliberately shocking,” he says. “As an artist, I want to represent the unrepresentable and to explore taboos; that’s what keeps representation art moving forward in some ways. Exploring the boundaries and pushing them is what’s important to me.”
Calling his pornographic work “cheap special effects” is no joke for Bruce – he says it’s what you can do to draw attention to a “micro budget” film. “I don’t want to be too conventional or create work that’s been done before; I want to follow my path,” he says. “I often deal with harsh subject matter, but there’s always an underlying romantic element to it.”
Among Bruce’s favourite subject matter is zombies – his film LA Zombie was banned from Australia (but not Out Takes here in New Zealand!) and his film Otto, Or Up With Dead People received official selection for Sundance.
“Zombies have become these characters who are worthless, marginalised, homeless people who can be eliminated for sport,” says Bruce. “That makes me want to defend them and make them into characters or monsters you can identify with. Monsters you can identify with are always more compelling.”
With this wealth of interesting work under his belt, Bruce was a prime target for a documentary. A director named Angelique Bosio had already shot Bruce for a documentary called Llik Your Idols and decided to make a feature – Advocate For Fagdom. “She documented art exhibitions, screenings I was attending and the like, but I gave her free rein to come along to events and shoot.” The title of the film comes from a letter to magazine The Advocate by Kurt Cobain, who celebrated Bruce’s work. Cobain said, “I’ll always be an advocate for fagdom.”
Bruce says, “For me, using ‘faggot’ is like black people using the n-word, so for me it’s not that sensitive a word. ‘Fag’ is not as political as ‘queer’ and it’s not as clinical as ‘homosexual’; it’s a bit more free-wheeling. I had a friend in Canada who had a magazine called Fags and Faggotry for a while there – the term is a little more outrageous, flamboyant and less politically correct.
“I like the sound of the word ‘Fagdom’ – a kingdom of fags.”
See Advocate For Fagdom at Out Takes in Auckland on Saturday 02 June at 6.30pm or Wellington on Sunday 10 June at 4.35pm.
Pick of the bunch
A snap shot of some of the best films showing at this year’s Out Takes Festival in Auckland and Wellington.
Handsome Lukas moves to the big city one sweltering German summer. There he meets hottie Fabio, a flirtatious gay lothario who embodies everything Lukas desires: self-confidence, overt masculinity, and smouldering sensuality. The attraction between them deepens and Lukas is smitten – but will all be put at risk when he reveals his secret? Soon an unconventional romance turns into a courageous tale of love, friendship and sexual awakening. Plays in Auckland on Friday 25 May at 8.30pm and Wellington on Friday 01 June at 8.30pm.
Mosquita y Mari
Mosquita y Mari is a coming of age story that focuses on a tender friendship between two young Chicanas, Yolanda and Mari, growing up in immigrant families in Los Angeles who have only known loyalty to one thing: family. Yolanda drifts happily enough through her existence until intriguing new neighbour Mari moves in across the street and also happens to be in the same class. One day Yolanda over-enthusiastically offers to share her textbook. Mari calls her an annoying fly – a mosquita. What begins as a friendly deal to help Mari succeed in school soon takes a life of its own. They hang out in each other’s houses, walk to school together, and basically, in all the ways that really matter, live together. Plays in Auckland on Friday 25 May at 12.30pm and Tuesday 29 May at 8.35pm. Plays in Wellington on Saturday 02 June and 6.40pm and Saturday 09 June at 4.40pm.
Going Down in La-La Land
Young, buff, and beautiful, Adam arrives from New York with dreams of becoming a star. He soon realises the road to fame is long and tedious as he finds himself struggling for money and stuck in insufferable temp jobs answering phones. He falls for Nick, a photographer with less-than-honorable intentions and a drug habit, who hooks him up with an office job at a gay porn production company. Adam initially refuses to go in front of the camera – but bills won’t pay themselves and soon Adam gives in to his naked ambition. Based on the novel by Andy Zeffer, Going Down in LA-LA Land is a riveting and uncensored look at Hollywood – candid, sexy and outrageously funny. Plays in Auckland on Saturday 26 May at 8.30pm and Tuesday 29 May at 6.30pm. Plays in Wellington on 02 June at 8.30pm.