Blood Bath in NYC courtesy of Bruce LaBruce
Just when I thought I was through photographing edges of the human race, Barbara suggested we head over the Hole NYC for a performance piece and book signing by an artist Bruce LaBruce who I wasn’t familiar with. A fast googling brought me to his wiki page and I was intrigued for sure. He’s a Canadian born multi disciplined gay pornographer, photographer, and writer. What caught my attention is he’s working in polaroid whilst shooting contentious set up scenes.
Shock seems to come natural to Bruce, he softly directed the models and injected the signs and queued fonts of blood from his ultra fem-boy assistant. Wielding a Polaroid 600 camera, a base model with hardly any overrides, he strategically shot, signed the photo with a sharpie, and tossed his polaroids to the side for fem-boy to collect. The words on the signs seemed at first to be a standard progressive mantra but then as you start to really latch on to the slogan, its just “off” some how. It’s like laughing at a joke you don’t really get. Makes you think, and then just like that, another bucket of stage blood splatters on the victim-model, the crowd roars, and the antagonist-models contort in delight. Bruce, he’s just shooting, signing and loosely orchestrating the spectacle.
All the while a DJ pumped obscure dance music with a sometimes pop and often industrialized beat. Loud, expansive and contained in brilliant hi-key white, the Hole NY shook to audible and visual mock violence. It was perfect.
We hung out late afterwards, as people from the audience volunteered to be victimized the crowd slowly shuffled out. There was a small sign that promised signed polaroids for $5 each. I was incredulous to this as nothing in NY costs five bucks that’s worth a damn, aside from a bagel or a 4 block cab ride. Bruce’s work was taped to a brick wall, and in the end, with just a few gallerists present, fem- boy let us pick out 4 polaroids. Barbara put them in her pocket book, I slipped fem-boy a Jackson. Our photography collection just took a turn for the better, I’m going to treasure those polaroids. They will remind me that the edge of the human race is alive and well.
Later on, two blocks north on Bowery at Gemma I chimped my X Pro 1 to see what I got and the results gave me photo-butterfly wings feelings! At the early point of the performance I set the camera exposure compensation to +1 stops which kept the walls white (until they became blood spattered of course). ISO setting was auto-1600 and I shot wide open at f 2.0 with the 18 mm which was perfect, allowing me to frame the whole stage from my vantage point. I shot fast and furious, to match Bruce’s orchestrations. Twice, I switched over to video and caught a movement of live action. The thrill of photographs well caught was evident. I was excited by the shoot, but alas, it wasn’t mine. It was purely Bruce’s and myself and all the others who were shooting, video taping… they got something good, something exciting too. With all the smart phones of the 100 or so onlookers I imagine twitter, facebook and instagram must have been humming or as they say in the new digital vernacular, “trending” (I can only imagine the comments). I ordered the steak, rare. It seemed the only thing I had an appetite for after the performance.
Bruce had no signs saying no pictures. The spectacle was ours, shared by Bruce’s work and his decision to allow the imagery in an ultimate form of sharing, unrestricted access to his Bowery blood bath for all to see. Suspect Photography applauds Bruce LaBruce and his open-source performance art.