Wavepool – Can you introduce your ongoing documentary project Funny Animal People? Where do you see the project going in the future?
Tommy Bruce – Funny Animal People is an ongoing photographic and written documentary project focused on the Internet subculture of the Furry Fandom. For the last few years I’ve been investing myself in the community and tracking my experiences at conventions, meet-ups and all types of furry events. I am interested in the furry community as a site of social transgression and intense identity construction. The community holds an important place in my own sense of identity, and I have taken it as my duty to construct an image that accurately represents the complexity and importance I have observed and experienced within it.
In regards to the other half of my work, which at a glance is very different from the documentary, I try to think of the two as opposite ends of my practice that I can bounce back and forth between whenever I hit a wall. I don’t see being completely done with the community anytime in the near future, but I’m specifically working towards a substantial book for the project, to come out in the next year or so.
Wavepool – Your other recent work focuses on everyday discoveries and encourages viewers to experience simple moments in refreshing ways. What is the most exciting part of your process when making this work? Do you set any sort of parameters for yourself?
Tommy Bruce – Coming up with a new idea for work usually starts with a snag in my attention. When I experience some phenomenon and can see within it some formal beauty – that is probably the most exciting moment. Often, it is the case that the “art” happens right before me, and from there it is about making something that describes the experience or captures the phenomenon. Also, whenever viewers see a piece and say, “I’ve noticed that before.” That is what I’m trying to get at. I’m trying to open doors with each piece that I make, to name and activate that which is already in front of you. The work finds it’s meaning in the endless possibilities that it suggests; it isn’t just about the light that I see in my bedroom at night, or the set of jet trails I saw one afternoon, it’s about helping you find an appreciation for the lights that you see every night, the clouds and jet trails that you see everyday.
Parameters play a big part in my process because I want my work to have a sense of facility to it. I try to make my pieces seem easy, like you could go out and make the work yourself. They are emblematic of an art idea more than they are discreet art objects.
Wavepool – It seems like performance or interactive art of some kind might fit well with your ideas. Do other mediums work themselves into your practice often?
Tommy Bruce – I work with photography a lot because of its inherent indexical nature, it is an easy way to suggest that what you are seeing exists in the real world, that what we think of as abstraction and formalism didn’t just come from our creative unconscious, but also from the physical world in all its spontaneous creation.
Like I said earlier, a piece begins with an art experience, and the work follows in an attempt to articulate that experience. So aspects of video, sculpture and performance enter into my practice by way of necessity. Sometimes time, movement and sound are integral to an experience, thus a video. Or the tactile or spatial nature of an experience is important, thus sculptural elements.
Wavepool – If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be? What would you make?
Tommy Bruce – Hmm, dream team wise, probably either Gabriel Orozco or Felix Gonzales-Torres. I love Orozco’s sense of overflowing creativity and playfulness. I’d probably want to just sit in a room full of windows and art supplies and just make things for a whole day, riffing on intuition.
For Gonzales-Torres, I have always been floored by his powerful use of simple metaphor and sentimentality. I have no idea what collaboration would look like between us, but I imagine his insights would be invaluable.
Wavepool – I see that you minored in Creative Writing while attending the Maryland Institute College of Art. Does your interest in writing relate to your interest in visual art in any way? Do the two ever intersect in your practice?
Tommy Bruce – I entered into the creative writing minor in the first place for the sake of my documentary writing. I wanted some support in developing my ability to articulate my experiences effectively and truthfully. But while on my path developing my written voice, I also picked up a strong interest in writing poetry. I’ve found poetry to be another way to express the same “art experiences” that my visual work focuses on, so I see it as just another tool in the same box. I sometimes find it easier to draft up a sketch for a visual piece through poetry, where I can interact more directly with a concept. Once I’m closer to understanding what exactly I’m trying to say, it’s easier to figure out what that should look like.
Wavepool – What are your plans for the future now that you are out of school?
Tommy Bruce – I’ve been living back in State College, PA and taking some time to decompress after four years of very wonderful, but very tiring, education. I’m working two jobs, saving up before student loans hit and applying to lots of residencies and grants. I’m hoping, with my new free time being out of school, to get into a very intense focused period working on a book for the documentary.
Around town I’ve started organizing artist collective events to try and build a strong local artist community, the first of which is was a local artist talk night, modeled after the Slideluck events out of New York. I’m hoping to turn that into a monthly series. Come the New Year I’m planning on getting back to a bigger city. I might be returning to Baltimore, NYC or a number of other places, depending on where the wind blows!
To see more, please visit Tommy’s website.