Sexual Liberation From Pasolini to Bruce LaBruce

LONDON — Walking into a/political, viewers are immediately confronted with several screens displaying sex scenes. These scenes are fragments from The Visitor, Bruce LaBruce’s retelling of Pasolini’s Teorema (1968), the story of an enigmatic, sexually fluid stranger whose intimate encounters with each member of a bourgeois family turns their world upside down. LaBruce’s scenes are accompanied by production stills, clothing printed with the political aphorisms that appear throughout The Visitor, and a rough cut of the film itself.

Although LaBruce retains the basic plot of Pasolini’s film, through the former’s eyes, the figure of the outsider (Terrence Stamp in the original) is a refugee, adding a distinct political dimension that is absent in the almost otherworldly presence of Stamp’s Visitor. LaBruce uses the political upheaval of a bourgeois family’s encounter with an outsider as a vision of sexual liberation, with a political explicitness to match the sexuality on display. 

Throughout sex scenes, slogans and declarations — FUCK FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW; OH BONDAGE, UP YOURS — show up on screen in vivid shades of red and yellow. At one point, as the eponymous Visitor sexually climaxes, the words OVERRULE BRITANNIA flash on screen. This moment offers clarity on the intent behind LaBruce’s Visitor project (something that’s still evolving, as the film itself remains unfinished). LaBruce creates a new definition of (sexual) liberation by bringing together the political awakening of OVERRULE BRITANNIA — a sly subversion of “Rule Britannia,” the 18th-century paean to oceanic mastery and empire — with a moment of sexual bliss, showing that physical desire can lead the way to something more; once these characters have come together with the Visitor, are they able to redefine themselves in new, potentially radical ways. 

At dinner with the Visitor, each family member reveals something that’s changed through their sexual experience with him; the Daughter says, “you have impregnated me with hope for the future […] now I love everyone.” The Visitor is explicit in its language in order to keep political and sexual awakening within the same register — another line in this confessional dinner is “you have colonized the colonizer.” As the confessions continue, the camera pans along a dark space, always returning to the dinner table; each time this happens, another character is undressed, until only the Visitor himself is fully clothed, everyone else now able to bare themselves to the world.

Installation view of Bruce LaBruce’s The Visitor at a/political, London
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Installation view of Bruce LaBruce’s The Visitor at a/political, London (all images © Bruce LaBruce, courtesy a/political, photos Petr Davydtchenko)
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Installation view of Bruce LaBruce’s The Visitor at a/political, London

Bruce LaBruce’s The Visitor continues at a/political (6 Stannary Street, London, England) through October 28. The exhibition was organized by a/political.

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