The annual Frieze art fair was held in Regents Park this past October for blue-chip galleries to display their most lucrative, exciting, artworks for sale. As per each year, it was hyper-commercial, conservative, and chaste. Thankfully Bruce LaBruce’s exhibition “The Visitor” at a/political came as a full-frontal antidote.
Bruce LaBruce’s new film project “The Visitor”, produced by a/political, was presented in their space in Kennington, somewhat off the beaten track. The show consisted of the ‘work-in-progress’ full-feature film’s screening, as well as large aluminium framed panels snaking through the space onto which the extended sex scenes from the film were projected. Flashing, neon, in-your-face—the first sensations a visitor felt when entering the space was full sensory overload. This was amplified by the content of the project – shockingly different from what one might expect from a benign exhibition – as the viewers were confronted with back-to-back hardcore, unsimulated sex in all its unconventional forms.
As part of its ethos, a/political gives space for artists to voice taboo and confront narratives that probe the political status-quo. This gives the non-for-profit organisation the freedom to elicit a needed sense of awakening that stems from complex conversations caused by, at times, shocking imagery—like LaBruce’s “The Visitor”. The politically charged film to pushes the boundaries of what is considered acceptable in the contemporary art world, from a pioneer that has never shied away from provocation.
The artist, photographer, filmmaker etc al. is widely recognised for using unabridged sexual content in his work. Over an interview, LaBruce said that “porn is my medium”. Rooted in punk origins, the artist is a forerunner in the New Queer cinema movement that emerged in the 90s. His own artistic place almost mirrors the queer experience itself—by his own admission, his movies are too pornographic for the arthouse set, yet too arthouse for the pornographic set. He exists apart from their bounds and within the spaces in-between.
Using porn as a political tool, and besides challenging the medium itself, LaBruce’s new film focuses directly on British politics, raising a number of currently contested issues – British colonialism, cultural puritanism, present-day racism, xenophobia, as well as the static and potentially oppressive role of the white, nuclear family. These topics are squarely confronted, turned upside-down and cracked open. By doing so, LaBruce has created a masterpiece that defies expectation – forcing the viewer into a new territory of film – slickly produced with fiercely intelligent (although purposely limited) dialogue, yet with all the hallmarks – and endorphins – of a night in the underground Berlin club scene.
The Visitor opens on the Thames River. The environment looks and feels post-apocalyptic. A homeless man exits a tent on the shore and finds a battered suitcase, from which a Black Adonis emerges. Inspired by Teorema by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the film stays somewhat true to the narrative of the original. The visitor arrives at the house of the bourgeoise—‘the ruling class’, represented as a white, conservative, and dysfunctional family. What ensues then is their undoing as each individual character has sex with the visitor, and at times, together. As the film reaches its climax, each scene breaks more taboos than the prior, through graphic, sexual sacrilege and incest.
Let Jesus Fuck You
On leaving, visitors are reunited with the extended sex scenes, intensified by the throbbing techno beats of Hannah Holland’s soundtrack and the actors reaching climax. Tongue-in-cheek slogans that capture the film’s spirit (“Fuck for the many, not the few”) and production stills by LaBruce accompany the film. This is a welcomed act of propaganda – further amplifying the artist’s message—that we need a homo/sexual revolution to awaken us from the quagmire of our docile lives.