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Bruce Eves
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My Idea of Fun

After I had an interview with Bruce Eves, I am very impressed by what he has done for the gay community, and I realized how his artworks have already influenced my perceptions about the world. It actually took me a while to understand completely the symbolism in his work and some of the points that he is portraying. His work is challenging and comprehensive. At the end of Bruce Eves artist statement he stated that “While it is virtually indefinable, this much I know for certain: art is not ‘suitable for family viewing’, nor should it be psychiatrically uplifting. Nothing should be considered untouchable. Art must refuse to kowtow to the limitless demands for the familiar and the safe and the conventional. If offensive is taken with the viewpoints expressed, it is a problem for the literal-minded viewer. Art has nothing to do with social work or political stability or with ending negative stereotypes: these are the job for propagandists.” I agree with Eves that art isn’t suitable for the general population, but I’m surprised that his artist innovation is not about making a difference by psychologically bring people out of the ‘smug delusion’.

An Interview with Bruce Eves

1. Tony Hu: I am Hu: I am hoping you might be able to tell me more about how your formal training has influenced your current artistic practice. Was there are particular lack of histories or ideologies that inspired you to create the series you have been working on to date. Any events that you believe between your work and personal life might also help my writing project.

Bruce Eves: With art winning out over archeology, and after the dubiously necessary internship at the Ontario College of Art, I became assistant programming director at the Center for Experimental Art and Communication (CEAC) in Toronto. Three performance art tours of Europe later, after a "scandal" drummed up because CEAC had used taxpayer dollars to espouse a radical position with a great deal of cachet, the group lost its funding. I moved to New York with the mistaken belief that the art world would give a rat's ass about what was going on elsewhere.

Becoming more directly involved with gay activism, I joined up with the once powerful Gay Activists Alliance and for a brief period fielded their help-line calls. These basically fell into two categories: the gigglers who quickly hung up and the wannabe transvestites sitting around in their panties and getting drunk. However, one call proved fortuitous. It was to the old files generated by GAA in the early 1970s when it was the only show in town - the files had been in a wet basement were in a sorry state of mildewing decay - but they formed the basis for what would become the International Gay History Archive. I had reached an impasse - performance art had in my opinion gone as far as possible before finally morphing into stand-up comedy, and the political position of critiquing the production and distribution of the art markets had become futile. While the importance of the analysis lay in its subversion of the art object so important to the survival of the gallery/museum/collector model, the new hyper-consumerism of the 80s left the conceptual genre at a dead end. Increasing amounts of my time were spent on the archive with its co-founder, my partner of many years. Money was nonexistent and volunteers were in short supply, but because it coincided with the AIDS epidemic, the project had a new urgency. The New York Public Library found itself in the embarrassing position of not having any gay collection at all, and our holdings were donated to the Rare Books and Manuscripts division in 1988. The decision in favor of the Library was based in part on knowing that, for years the Library had a policy of sending someone to the then excitingly raunchy Times Square to buy gay and straight pornography for its collections.

Girded with the hands-on history lessons from the Archive, the trauma of the epidemic, and the passage of time, I was able to look at the notion of art-making again with fresh insights, drawing from sources as wide-ranging as underground gay history and the official record of 20th century avant-garde art for conceptually grounded, photo-based works. Luckily, not paying any attention to the Neo-Expressionist claptrap then in vogue allowed me to merge the more vital issues of concern, I attempted to expand the possibilities for making challenging art. All of this is cast as an investigation and critique of a zeitgeist obsessed with superficial civility, mindless consumption, and an unquestioning obedience to a heavily mediated collective wisdom.

A new - and decidedly more corrosive - form of self-loathing has arisen in today's 'post-liberation' period, one in which individual expression has been subsumed by a series of narrowly-defined and increasingly regimented "lifestyles". In a culture that demands states of perpetual happiness, it is ironic to find its most successful forms of mass entertainment in gothic horror and blood-spattered mayhem. It seems clear that there is widespread disaffection with the North American culture of sweetness and light (regardless of how deeply it may be suppressed in the collective subconscious). The brutality masquerading as sentimentality is being challenged and critiqued by art that holds a mirror up to the society in which it was created. Yet if art is expected to be a reflection of the times, one wonders why some are so surprised that the most relevant work being produced is so antagonistic and butch.

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