In his seminal The Emancipated Spectator, Jacques Ranciere warned of the banalisation of social protests after the French Students Riots in 1968 in Paris. According to him, those protests became a passtime tolerated by governments because they allowed citizens to have some release while, on the other hand, fuelled the conservative’s infantalisation of dissent. As a customer, citizens were slowly numbed and spoon-fed. In my almost twenty years in the UK, I saw this process advance to a degree that dissent has become an identitarian attribute for social interaction (for example, to have friends akin to our ideological views) or a symptom of some pathology which origins have always been allocated to individual’s incapacity to adjust through hard work.
Such banalisation is not criticised but monumentalised in a series of photos that I comment with La Bruce in the First Episode of my Podcast: Everyone Thinks is Queer Except You and Me which, if you haven’t listened yet, you can find Here. An example is the one with the terrorist eroticised with the gun with the Che Guevara picture behind. I thought it was timely to include in the debate my dear friend Victor Hugo Robles, a legend in the Global South for his advocacy on behalf of HiV AIDS sufferers using techniques of performance art but without claiming artistic status which differentiates himself from his best friend Pedro Lemebel and his Mares of the Apocalypse (Chile 1990s).
The way LaBruce uses his reference to art history and, most importantly, to critical theory in order to justify his work is too fragmentary to be convincing. For example, although he claims his work to be Situationist, he only understands their strategies in the parodic sense which he feels fits his own self fashioning as both a mainstream and activist. This is evident in how difficult it is for him to talk about activism and when he is cornered he says the wrong things. I dont want this to be a spoiler but when El Che de los Gays questions those credentials and although, LaBruce never defines himself as an activist, El Che, and I concur, feels that in his attitude that link with activism is always implied and it is precisely that what the media quote. I am going to give two examples. The first one is Alessandro Cavaluzzo’s Hyperallergic piece and the second a sycophantic encounter by the duo of Argentine performers Lolo y Lauti that one cannot help but cringing when looking it it. The latter was discussed with LaBruce at the beginning of our interview. But lets go to opened his Hyperallergic piece as follows:
‘On the heels of a desultory interpretation of a prolific artist’s life (looking at you, Björk), the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has dedicated a retrospective to one of the foremost subversive queer filmmakers of our time. Until only May 2, Bruce LaBruce’s visions of zombies, skinheads, feminists, and porn are on full display. I spoke with Bruce LaBruce about his beginnings in the punk Marxist scene of downtown New York in the mid-’80s, when he’d come down from his native Canada, taking dance classes and exploring the city’.
Let’s face it, thinks its creation, the US art market and the institutions that endorse what we could consider as a canon in the Global North have not only been funded by a succession of narcissistic uberwealthy individuals that used philanthropy as a vehicle for the self affirmation of their precarious subjectivities but most worryingly, have transformed those valid motivations into an ideological weapon used by capitalism as a system to neutralise and turn into purely aesthetic what is, otherwise, or should be, etc. The moment the market or MoMA touch a work of political art it becomes apolitical. This has been the case since Alfred Barr infamous diagram of the Avant Garde that, until very recently, art history courses referred to as the top of applied scholarshiop. is taught as the apotheosis of Emperor Hadrian. Or even worse, to profit from art history as a discipline to legitimise their own capitalist agenda. This in the post Clinton hyperaspirational individualistic era that led to Instagram and the defeat of books by the selfie reached worrying levels. If we add to this combo, the metamorphosis of queer subjectivities from subversive unmarked fun individuals to boring self obsessed careerists, the mix is almost lethal. It is in that culture that Hyperallergic feels confident or is ignorant of the facts at such level that he transforms someone that claims that is not an activist into ‘the foremost subversive’ and ‘Marxist punk’. To begin with the word punk and Marxist do not glue that easily and the type of anarchism that they represented in the Lower East Side is there to dispute. It is difficult to think of such configuration in New York in the 1980s. There is something subversive in LaBruce which, however, is presented wrapped with a coat of merchandise that neutrarlise its subversive potential. Mistaking street protests and excentric parties in derelict warehouses a la Young Britih Artists show the true colours of a former rebel that decided to assimilate into the system. The part, however, that I found insulting is his complete disregard for the local activists to the point of dismissing someone like Victor Hugo Robles that has been on the line of fire for real with a ‘come to my hotel room’ is to be completel unaware of his position and maybe that is the reason he has such high regard from an institution like MoMA. More about this in loveartnotopeople.org