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It’s not the first time we talk about PAOM, the collective reuniting creative minds in unique projects that speak about the now and here. Their latest, most blasting collaboration is with contemporary artists Bruce LaBruce and Damien Blottiere, who produced an exclusive apparel collection timed to coincide with LaBruce’s solo retrospective show, Faggotry, at Lethal Amounts Gallery in Los Angeles.


For their collaboration with PAOM, Blottiere was given free reign to use LaBruce’s photographic records of his extensive career –including photographs, film stills, movie posters and polaroid pictures– as basis for 12 exclusive collages specifically created for this project. The works portray surreal displays of sexual scenarios, tensions, and embodiments. Textual overlays command queercore manifestations from LaBruce’s iconic writings. The collection consists of 20 unisex designs, including a bomber jacket, t-shirts, thermal tops, sweaters, a button down shirt, a windbreaker, a polo shirt, and accessories. We got round to asking the artists a few questions on art, fashion, pornography and on how these three worlds can somehow get together.
You both engage with different kinds of artistic media – from visual arts to cinema, writing, theatre and photography. Do you consider fashion to also be a form of art? More generally, how do you think fashion relates to art today?
Bruce: Fashion can be art. It can be good art or bad art. Like the art world, it can also be very conventional and boring. That’s why being multi-disciplinarian is important, and that’s why bringing together two artists from different media works so well. I hope we can at some point expand the collection to include my more pornographic images, because pornography can be art too!
Damien: Fashion uses creative and artistic talents to nurture an industry. This is an applied art, which applies to an industry – an ephemeral universe that must be renewed constantly. I don’t think that, in general, fashion can be considered art. Fashion rubs and is inspired by art; these two worlds meet and exchange. As an artist, you don’t make art to make money, but you can make money with your art. Regarding fashion, the mercantile aspect is necessary from the beginning of a project.
The body is at the center of both your works: what do you think the differences are between the way the human body is represented in pornography compared to other artistic medias?
Bruce: The body is really the medium of pornography. It’s the raw material, the substance, the form of pornography, and therefore essential. Other forms of art can easily dismiss the body, or banish it, but pornography cannot. But, like certain instances of art, pornography can also define the body, debase it, in ways that are consistent with desire, or in ways that disrespect it.
Damien: I believe that there was no big difference until the half of the 20th century. Pornography has –ever since the human being is capable of representing the human body– been using different artistic techniques: painting, sculpture, drawing, literature... These representations are based on perception, reception, the view, and the imagination of people. The artist, through art and poetry, stimulates the spectator or the reader. It seems to me that realism in pornography, trivialized in the ‘50s and ‘70s through photography and video, then changed the perception of what the representation of the human body could be. A raw representation, without any narration, that no longer stimulates the imagination of the viewer, but whose only goal is a sexual excitation. It’s probably the image of the female that has changed at that time, passing from a venerated courtesan to a vulgar whore. Contemporary artists have appropriated this new pornographic reality while people fought for their freedom; the body has become a tool of claim. I’m not sure that the concept of pornography remains today. It has become commonplace and everyone can use it in their own way.

Do you think there is some kind of connection between fashion and pornography?
Bruce: The body is crucial to both fashion and pornography, although fashion can use replicas of the body, or only suggest the body. Both should ideally be an expression of style. Good pornography has its own style and aesthetic. Both art and porn can be conventional and unimaginative, or they can challenge the orthodoxy of the medium and transcend its more parochial incarnations.
Damien: There are so many connections between the two worlds nowadays… It is difficult to know which is the other!
Damien, why did you choose to work specifically with collages? Can you talk about the process of turning LaBruce’s archive into collages? Did you create them with the apparel application in mind?
Damien: At first I was more interested in painting and sculpture. But these practices didn’t lead to satisfactory results. So I switched the brushes for scissors, working on my compositions from magazines’ images first, and then from my own photographs.
It was so fun to work from Bruce’s images! It’s something that I hadn’t really done before, sneaking inside someone’s world. I’ve known his work for a long time. Bruce sent me a selection of images from which I created my own story, made out of humor, sex, violence sometimes, freely mixing and confronting images from different projects. It’s these bodies, so special in their own way, which guided me, leading me to create “some kind of ‘gendernauts’ of the porn future,” as Bruce said. I had a blast!

“Fashion can be very conventional and boring. That’s why bringing together two artists from different media works so well.”
The garments in the collection are entirely unisex. In these last few seasons several designers have created gender neutral collections. Would you consider this to be more of a fashion or a social statement? And where do you think fashion stands, or should stand, in relation to the contemporary gender debates?
Bruce: Gender-neutral clothing is nothing new. When I was a kid in the seventies, it was called unisex clothing. I think we have to be careful, however, not to dismiss sexiness or stylishness in the service of a social gesture, or for the sake of political correctness. I like when masculinity and femininity are both exercised in various permutations in fashion, regardless of the sex or gender of the person wearing the clothes. I like this PAOM collection because somehow the clothes seem masculine or feminine depending on who is wearing them. They’re adaptable. And Damien’s interpretation of my photographs beautifully combines subjects that are male, female, and transsexual. He intertwines them, reconfigures them, and creates unexpected juxtapositions of the sexes and genders. In that regard, they are post-body, and post-gender. He’s created a new concept of gender in the design.
Damien: To me it’s a social statement and fashion is organizing around the phenomenon. The power of fashion today is the power of the imagery and its circulation. Personality and diversity of people highlighted by fashion today undoubtedly contributes to the debate on gender. Fashion is a refuge that not only proposes a style, but also releases an identity.
And finally, Bruce, your work has often been considered shocking because of its engagement with sexual transgression and taboos. Do you think that the meaning of the word transgression has changed over the years? And what are today’s sexual taboos?
Bruce: The definition of transgression is always changing, because cultural norms and standards are constantly shifting – and not always in a more progressive or liberal direction. There’s a certain new moralism, even in the gay world, that goes against the kind of militant and extreme sexuality that existed during the early gay and women’s revolution of the seventies, or the general sexual revolution of the sixties. Today’s sexual taboos are sometimes turned upside down. Police order women wearing burkinis to take OFF their clothes. It’s a reversal of expectation, having to do with globalization and the integration of cultures. I personally always try to read the zeitgeist of the moment and challenge the particular taboos that are either still in place, or the new ones that emerge. It makes things more fun that way!
The collection is entirely available at PAOM’s website.
 

Words
Sara Kaufman

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