Stewart Home: The Unquotable Interview

The esoterically erudite Stewart Home walks us through the influences for his upcoming Glasgow International exhibition Re-Enter the Dragon, at Queens Park Railway Club.

Feature by Andrew Cattanach | 30 Mar 2016

Talking to Stewart Home is overwhelming. He’s an artist, novelist, art historian, activist, proletarian and communist. Down the phone he tells us about Bruce Lee, witches, martial arts, dynastic conflict in China, Amadeo Bordiga, Dada, punk, Jean Baudrillard, the Letterists and Situationism (please, just Google them).

The Skinny has called him to speak about his exhibition Re-Enter the Dragon at Queens Park Railway Club, which opens this month as part of Glasgow International, and every answer he gives requires a miniature history lesson. Although this is perfect (otherwise we wouldn’t have a clue what he was talking about), it more or less renders everything he says unquotable.

However, he does state one thing quite clearly: "You know what, I bloody love kung fu movies." So much so in fact that he’s included one in the exhibition – only he’s given it a re-edit and added a new soundtrack, which he hopes will allow the audience to read new meaning into the original film (insert here a brief lecture on the role of détournement in Situationist cinema and particularly the work of René Viénet… or just Google it).

The film that he’s gone and chopped up is one belonging to the subgenre known as Bruceploitation. What are Bruceploitation films? They are films that have leading actors that look a lot like Bruce Lee (Lee-alikes), cashing in on Lee’s success after his death in 1973. Some of these films used marketing techniques that were intended to deceive audiences into thinking they were getting the real thing, and thus the stars had names such as Bruce Lei, Bruce Lie, Bruce Lai and Bruce Ly.

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Home has been a big fan of Lee since he was a child, and has subsequently found himself interested in the works of the great Lei, Lie, Lai and Ly too. But one Lee-alike has come to interest him above all the others: the Pilipino Ramon Zamora, who is the star of the film on show at Queens Park Railway Club.

Zamora’s movies, according to Home, represent the hybrid culture of the Philippines, revealing a mixture of Polynesian, Chinese, Spanish, and American influences, with both Buddhist and Catholic imagery throughout.

"It’s a very curious amalgamation of things because the Pilipino culture is such a hybrid culture," says Home. "And of course, I’m very much in favour of that. Cultural hybridity is something that I’d celebrate."

But when he’s not celebrating cultural hybridity, Home can often be heard getting irate about authenticity, and once wrote that the ‘desire for authenticity is the most cynical of all the pseudo-needs manufactured by bourgeois ideologists.’ Thus, one begins to understand why Zamora the Lee-alike appeals to Home’s artistic sensibilities. He is a fake and a fraud, but in a good way.

"It’s a kind of boner-inducing hell."

In another work on show at the exhibition, Home gets up to a bit of inauthenticity himself. He’s taken some old photos of a now-dead witch he once knew and morphed his own image into the pictures. Ostensibly, it looks like Home with breasts, an odd amalgam of sexy underwear and sports gear, and a pair of strappy sandals, posing on a tiger-skin rug. It’s a kind of boner-inducing hell.

"I have an interest in the balancing of male and female in the human," Home says. "It’s not a transgender thing, it’s a conception of gender being different from sex – so gender being something cultural or spiritual."

And so the exhibition goes, pinging back and forth between the hypermasculinity of the kung fu movie genre and the occult androgyny of Home with a set of witch tits. What more could you ask for?

Stewart Home, Re Enter The Dragon, Queenspark Railway Club, 8-25 Apr