An Interview with Rex Bruce

Digital Artist Online

Alt-X: How did you get involved with digital art?

RB: I was into music, doing MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) and all of that. I used to call it MIDI prison, because I was so bored with it, it was really tedious. Anyway I had all of this computer shit everywhere, and Photoshop, Director, Internet and everything else come out. I figured if non-musicians could fake it with a drum machine, I could fake being an artist. Its the paradigm of our era: fake everything. Post-reality.

Alt-X: Where do you place your art in the tradition, what context?

RB: It kind of makes me think "Whose tradition?" as opposed to the (italics) tradition. In the era of post-reality all histories are recombinant .. . a sort of spun out mish-mosh of all possibilities contaminating one another, the context being the vertiginous mass of mediated electronic space. I love the Internet, its totally out of control.

Alt-X: What about the Internet? You are one of the pioneers of electronic media.

RB: That question makes me think of covered wagons full of computers. I like the Internet because it is a non-hierarchical dissemination structure. You don't have to beg to be published, shown, broadcasted or whatever. That way the views on the net are less propagandistic, or the culture is less trendy (as in narrow and disposable), or commercial. Most media is about rich people maintaining power, wealth and cultural hegemony by controlling public opinion. The Internet is like a library where anyone can put a book on the shelf, and your book becomes part of the index, through links, so communities form around common interests, ideas and their linkages. Art is not controlled by the fickle tastes of curators, critics, the rich, or the academic elite. On the net art is cheap to make and distribute by anyone who wants to, and can inexpensively be had by all, anywhere on the globe.

Alt-X: What do you think of other non-digital art?

RB: A lot of artists using non-digital media get paranoid when I talk to them that computers are taking over. This is bad 70's sci-fi. I like a lot of different things around, and I like it when people are involved in a huge variety of cultural pursuits. Artists are so paranoid or are such rah-rahs about their particular pursuit or style. Its so neurotic. What a bore.

Alt-X: Could you talk about your early art work? The posters and the media stuff.

RB: Well, these ideas came up in 1990, and were sort of a critical response to the street art of the 80s. I hung a bunch of huge posters everywhere that had my face in them, and said BUYME or SELL ME in them. I was making satire of artists who made it commercially by hanging ostensively P.C. art everywhere on the streets -- and selling expensive art to rich people (in gallerys that are run by art princesses) . I do love street/public art. The audience is so much broader. There are three classes of people who go to gallerys and museums: tourists, rich elite, and art scene people. Snore. At least the tourists have cool tacky clothes. Anyway the Internet is like the ultimate street art because it is posted to the world (and nobody covers it over with posters for Stallone movies).

Alt-X: You are one of the first people to use Macromind director in a creative way. Talk about this please sir?

RB: Was I really the first? Can I be in the Guinness book of records? I am amongst the first wave of a decently sized group of artists and writers that are using these newish technologies while thinking about what we are doing with them critically (as opposed to making stupid games and encyclopedias). The tendency is to use computers experimentally (to assess their potential), to analyze the technology theoretically using digital art as an ideological springboard, or address various issues and politically galvanize culture through new digital media and communications. It is a global movement, and I expect it will grow dramatically.

Alt-X: I wanted you to talk about your work as it is related to the gay experience? Are you politicized or is it a purely esthetic rebellion?

RB: My homo sensibility slips into (excuse the expression) everything I create regardless if it is addressing queerness directly or not. The gay experience is very formative to my style and ideology. Similarly, it seems like anything esthetic or cultural is politically charged by nature. Just being homo is politicized without doing anything. Norman Rockwell is political by nature because of his complicity to certain dubious views or values, although he created great images to hang dicks on.

Alt-X: Who are some artists that have influenced you?

RB: Photography people like Gilbert and George... they made huge colorful photo collages. I'm attracted to the colors in a juvenile kind of way. People who fucked around with media are cool, like (lets kick a dead dog) Andy Warhol. It relates to the way digital media replicates and mutates and reverberates. Artists can use this to galvanize culture (its like anti-propaganda). R.U Sirius calls it "repurposing." The situationists (to name another influential artist Guy Debord) called it Detournement. Christine Tamblyn (another influence) called it semiotic intervention. She is a theory head from S.F. State, where I will be teaching Computers as Art Media next fall, and also where I got my Masters. All of the people up there are very important to the scene. George Legrady is really taking off. Lynn Hershmann is from there, as well as many others. The other people I've hung with are writers. Avital Ronell, Arthur Croker, Maggie Morse, Marina La Palma... they have fed me a mass (should I say mess) of ideas that finds its way into my work all of the time.

Alt-X: Could you describe any of your art openings?

RB: Yes, but I don't feel like it. These days I'm more interested in having openings in cyberspace, on the net. Everyone come to my new site and have some virtual wine and cheese. [you can find Bruce's home-page at]

Alt-X: I was thinking about CD-Rom and the so-called interactive media, how they combine painting, performance, photography, poetry, etc. How do you see your work related to this world?

RB: Well I've done a little of everything and alot of some things, so its perfect for me. I can put text, sound, video, still images and whatever else they are cooking up into one form of presentation and duplicate/mediate it to the max.