is 100% no bs. An internationally storied character of Canadian film, he is recognized for pushing the boundaries of all media he touches. Bruce is wading in the crypto waters while he anticipates the release of his upcoming project Saint Narcisse
If this is your first time hearing his name: be warned. The generally outrageous films, photographs, and imagery that he exudes will shock and amaze. Creator of many lauded indie movie benchmarks, Bruce is an active player on as many festival circuits as nightlife scenes. Famed examples like Hustler White, L.A. Zombie, and The Misandrists combine esoterica with pop culture in ways that expand avant-garde filmmaking and pornography.
We caught up one of the leading voices in queer art making on his vision for a more kaleidoscopic digital future.
We're really happy to have you. Bruce La Bruce films have always found these wonderful avenues of expression, and touched media adjacent to the mainstream. How have you been thinking about media these days?
Well, I've had to be very adaptable over the years. My art practice started before the internet, and before digital. I'm going back 30 years. The DIY scene and the punk scene were very much about rejecting any kind of corporate reality, and you were able to do that because there was an underground network. We would mail our fanzines to each other. We would get our own films reproduced at small companies that didn’t care whether or not you had pornographic material, and you had to avoid all those censorship laws. So that’s why I created a persona with a fake name and a PO box—not only as a kind of punk spectacle, but to inhabit a different persona to avoid the authorities. In my film, Hustler White, you can mark when the internet came along through this scene with an early 50 pound laptop as thick as a Bible. I started adapting to the internet early. I was digitally editing in 1995. My film made that year was shot on 16mm film, but we used a very crude digital editing system called D-Vision, which was insane to work with. Now for my latest film, Saint Narcisse, I use pretty sophisticated digital equipment and effects.
How does the process of making widely collaborative films, with many moving parts and experiences, reflect your visions of the internet?
Technology always felt like some new frontier that is a bit daunting, but no different now; I basically learned by using an ATM. That was my first computer, so I'm a complete autodidact when it comes to digital experience.
Do you feel that the formats of NFTs are conducive in terms of the digital avant-garde? Where's your present vision of queer narratives on the internet?
In terms of the gay, LGBTQ, queercore, whatever you want to call it, yeah, that’s part of the democratizing function of these new economies. It’s all-inclusive. But as someone with a punk ethos, as someone who’s ambivalent about corporate control, you see all this advertising with very sincere, pro-gay, pro-LGBTQ commercials. Let’s not lull ourselves into a sense of complete submission where we're saying, “Yes, you're bringing us to tears with your commercials about gay families.” I mean, that's always going to be present in a late-capitalist model, the one in which we exist. I'm always very skeptical about liberal tolerance, one of my main pet peeves, especially in a corporate model. I’ve always been on the fringe. I’ve always been a bad gay. I’ve been someone in the gay community who challenges—just as much as I challenge the dominant ideology of heterosexuality—the dominant ideology within a queer context, too.
You just get along with everyone, clearly.
One thing I’ll say about NFTs is it is still the wild west, so anything goes. It's independent of any kind of consensus attitude. There isn’t any built-in kind of homophobia or racism that is kind of endemic to institutional banking, markets, art orthodoxy, or the art elite. One can’t really underestimate that democratizing principle, that really appeals to me.
I was very much into the idea of making porn that was much more democratized, showing many different body types. It wasn’t necessarily about artistic merit in terms of making a political statement, or making a narrative against expectations. I've always challenged the norms and I'm generally a contrarian and rabble-rouser. I'm not invested deeply enough in NFTs yet, but if there is a way for me to fuck them up, I would try to.