UBC | Digital Visions
Digital Visions
Bruce Eves
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My Idea of Fun

5. TH: Your work like the 'Two Demonstrations' frames the audience in a tense position where their actions are pivoted to react against and/or for your bizarre comparison between the male orgy and the Middle East demonstration. This piece definitely is by its construct controversial. How do you anticipate audiences will react and who do you see as being your key audience members? Are you working to tier the viewing public into two camps those who sympathize and those who are apathetic to the situation? In challenging those viewers who feel detached or find your work offensive, what do you hope they will leave after seeing the piece? In case the viewer is dismissive of the image -how would you argue the validity of your content? Do you consider your messages are successfully delivered as you have proposed in the final artworks? What future works might you be considering to make? By the way how has the gay community reacted to the work?

BE: While it is troublingly aggressive and confrontational to some, Two Demonstrations explores two very different types of public display. As the title implies, a staged political photo-op from the Middle East is juxtaposed with an all-male orgy captured on film: on the one hand a buddy/buddy/buddy instructional how-to session paired with another equally provocative definition of the word 'demonstration'. The viewer is simultaneously cast into the role of passive connoisseur and terrorized object of assault, but dependent as it is on your own personal world-view, the question of who exactly is doing the terrorizing is left amusingly vague. While the impulse is to align oneself with one of the two opposing camps, we find ourselves placed in a paradoxical situation. Some will find one side or the other shocking, perverse, and repugnant - yet the alternative choice is perhaps far worse. On closer examination this closed universe reveals itself to be a carefully articulated series of opposites (male/female, nudity/concealment, Western/non-Western, free-flowing private sexual expression/regimented violent public protest, and (one assumes) the self-segregated universe of homosexuals versus heterosexuals.

Ghetto-life now demands the gloss of sopdemands the gloss of sophistication that accompanies the presence of an art gallery. But the standard fare of gay galleries is, now and forever, black and white silver prints of vapid pretty-faced muscleboys. Like a trip down memory lane, they are static and timeless. One is often unsure whether the shutter was clicked in 1935 or 1995. Yet for all of our supposed revved-up sexuality, these obsessive masturbation fantasies are oddly inert and sexless. Cut off from contemporary existence and trapped in an endlessly repeating timewarp, their earnestness renders them more than anatomy lessons but less than pornography. The paradox -- of course, never addressed - is that the strapping factory workers and field hands and idealized Olympiads of 1930s Soviet and Nazi and WPA propaganda would fit seamlessly into any modern-day exhibition of the male form. Just as right-wing discourse remains marooned in a romance with the mythical nineteenth century notion of hard work and high morals, gay artists sentimentally pine for a love affair with a past that never existed. That the male body is a contested site is old news. But rather than wallow endlessly in the morass of beauty, an ironic critique of manufactured masculinity is what is called for. We created this model for ourselves and are now trapped by its brawny arms.

The proposition explored in much of my work is that it is possible to be simultaneously hot and sweaty and critical and detached. It¡¯s desirable, even exhilarating, to question the givens of our cultural baggage while at the same time reveling in it. It should be possible to approach the male body sociologically, and still embrace its talent for arousal. As a result, I have an intimate understanding of the difficulties and problems artist's face when tackling subject matter that is paradoxically deemed far "too queer" for the mainstream art world and far too dark and far too critical of our pre-packaged ghetto aesthetic.

Until very recently all gay male cultural production was dismissed as the product of pornographic imaginations. The value of serious works had been tainted by the odious reputations of their criminalized authors. One needn't go very far into the past to find visual artists who were forced by the threat of public censure to maintain two portfolios of work - one official and public, and one for discrete private distribution. That these old samizdats are often viewed today as classics of their form is ironic, given that many artists continue to operate just as schizophrenically. I take it as a given that in a consumption-based society, art dealers pander to the neuroses and biases of wealthy collectors. With guilt by association continuing to be such an endemic infection among straight men who can't get over themselves, it should come as no surprise that this common psychological virus should slop over and infect so many in the mainstream art world. A series of works just completed involved appropriating and altering a series of 1950s physique photographs. The changes were manifested by digitally removing the alluringly posed models from the shots, leaving only their shadows cast across the studio props - corinthian columns, javelins, etc. -- which were underground signifiers harking back to a supposedly more romantic time. They are quieter works and the bite is more subtle.

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