Bruce LaBruce's Zombie Porn Take On The Art World by Bethany Hansraj

Becoming one of the world’s most controversial film directors is no easy task. Bruce La Bruce has spent decades using gay pornographic imagery to challenge and provoke. Despite widespread rejection, his films have become fixtures at international film festivals – his most recent is LA Zombie, in which the undead protagonist has intercourse to bring the deceased back to life.

Not exactly what you would expect from small-town boy from Tiverton, Ontario (pop. 800). Living miles away from the closest town, movies were the windows into the world for an adolescent LaBruce. There were only two television channels available in his house, so good films were treasured by he and his movie-loving parents. It was in high school that he decided that he would make his living working in the film industry, but it wasn’t until studying Film Theory at York University that he was started on the path to becoming the filmmaker he is today.

“Of course I also studied with the great Robin Wood in the film studies department,” LaBruce recalls. “He was an amazing man and a great teacher who really helped me come to terms with my homosexuality in a very political and humanistic way.”

While working on his post-graduate degree at the university, he began hanging out in downtown Toronto’s punk scene, where he was introduced to working in Super 8 film. His first movies were shorts, displayed in alternative art venues and punk clubs. At this point in his career, he had just begun working with pornographic images, using found footage from adult films.

“I was reacting against the homophobia in the punk scene, which was a supposedly radical movement,” he says. “Some punks and skinheads reacted violently to my homo(sexually) explicit work, which probably induced me to make even more provocative work.”

Skinheads weren’t the only ones who reacted strongly to Bruce LaBruce’s provocative imagery. The art world’s curators and critics also rejected his films – but their opinions only encouraged LaBruce to take things further. Reluctant to label himself as an “artist”, the young filmmaker was tired of the bourgeois mindset of the art establishment. He believes that art world operates on worn-out, out-dated principles, placing more importance on material items than the talent of the artist who creates them. LaBruce relates it to commodity fetishism, a Marxist theory in which human attributes are ascribed to objects.

“They never responded well to the pornographic aspect of my work. They seem to think that I often work too much within the conventions of porn for it to be ‘artistic’,” he says. “For it to be commoditized and sold as art.”

After making several short films, Bruce LaBruce garnered the attention of Jurgen Brunin, who produced his first film, No Skin Off My Ass. His next film, Super 8½ marked his transition into the film festival circuit – despite the art film world’s resistance to his work.

In 2002, LaBruce met a gallery owner named Javier Peres, who appreciated the pornographic nature of his work. He has been represented by him ever since – and in 2009, his film Otto was awarded the Best Film prize at the Milan International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

The increased exposure and embracement of his work can be attributed to his unapologetic attitude towards creating art that alarms. Bruce LaBruce does not – nor has he ever - shied away from controversy. Instead, he embraces the adult nature of his work. Expressing solidarity with pornographers, he has made XXX-rated versions of three of his films, one of which was Skin Gang, a movie that earned nine adult films nominations in 1999.

“Strangely, I'm not really that interested in pornography per se,” he says “I'm more interested in what you can do with it as an ideological weapon.”

These ideals and images are showcased in LA Zombie, which was screened at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. It's LaBruce’s second film featuring the zombies, and he says the idea came to him in a vision. In it, an alien zombie emerges from the ocean and proceeds to bring dead bodies back to live by fornicating with them.

“Maybe it was the drugs I was doing at the time.”

His recent fixation on zombies goes hand-in-hand with his contempt for the capitalist ideals that have come to characterize the art world and the world at large. He uses the creatures as metaphors for the increasingly consumerist nature of our society.

“There are zombie buildings, zombie banks, zombie economies, zombie nations,” he says. “Zombies are the ultimate consumers and the ultimate conformists, and we live in the ultimate consumerist, conformist world.”

Despite its image upon first glance, it’s heavy stuff, provoking thoughts about ourselves and society as a whole. Are we afraid of the undead who star in LaBruce’s films or is it the pornographic images that make us cover our eyes? Perhaps, it’s the idea of coming to terms with the shallow disposition of the world.

Whatever it is, it has our attention. Despite – and thanks to – the resistance and negativity he has encountered, Bruce LaBruce thrives. He has not only managed to earn an impressive underground following; he can also be credited with fostering what seems to be the beginning of a more open-minded art film world.

“You just have to be patient and stick to your guns,” LaBruce says. “Eventually people will start to get you. Some people.”

Photo: Bruce LaBruce (via novembre Magazine)




0 comments:

Post a Comment