Bruce and Me
About Bruce and Me
I arrived late to a sushi house in Los Angeles, 1982. Bruce was already there and mad. Three or four cups of sake later he went face down on the table. Seems his liver was not his friend. I didn’t know Bruce and I knew nothing about his work and that he was a very famous artist. A mutual friend, Larry Roberts, had brought me to dinner that night because he thought Bruce and I should meet.
Some months later I was at Mount Rushmore. I bought a rubber tomahawk and sent it to Bruce with a note reading, “Dear Bruce, use this to shave your ass.” I am not sure why I did it, but I did. My gift confused Bruce and that made me happy.
Then Bruce started sending me things that I didn’t want, a terrible movie about Bigfoot, handwritten notes about astrology that made no sense, and a really awful UFO flick that he said he loved. This back and forth went on. I almost always misspelled his name on the packages I sent, Connors, Conor, Coneres, etc. To this day I have to look up how to spell his last name.
1988 and I am in South Africa working on a story. My hotel has been bombed, my girlfriend has dumped me, and our mutual friend, Larry, is dying of AIDS. I managed to get Bruce on the phone. He was at some opening of his art. I told him about Larry and Bruce dropped everything and immediately contacted Larry. I liked Bruce for that. It is something that has come back to haunt me lately.
Bruce started calling me in the late 90′s. He was mad that Warhol had gotten famous off his ideas, he was mad that people wanted him to sign his paintings, he was mad at his galleries for not selling his work, he was mad that his various assistants kept walking out on him because he acted like an old cranky bear. He was mad that his body was giving out. He could only work a few hours in the morning. I began sending Bruce paintings and photographs and collages. Some of them teased him, I kind of made fun of Bruce’s famous artist role. I think he liked that. He wrote me once, “Your paintings are mildly insulting” and I took that as a compliment.
2006 and I go off the deep end. I am on the Burma border doing another story and I am paranoid. I am certain that I am going to be locked up in a little cement room with one light bulb and then beaten senseless with a rubber hose. This was not an unfounded fear given where I was and what I was doing. In any case the stress got to me in a big way. My drawings and notes to Bruce changed. They were, well, paranoid. I sent him a series of photographs that I called “still life”. They were photographs of other photographs that were surrounded by pill bottles. And there were cryptic messages scrawled on postcards that were also included in the photographs. Bruce’s response to my work was different. He had studied the photos trying to figure out what medication I was on. Turns out we were on the same drugs. Then he called. He left a message that was truly kind. I think he felt my pain and wanted to help.
2007 and I am in Tanzania doing another story. I find out that my love of ten years has left me for a married man with two kids and I start to get really nutty. I don’t eat, shower, sleep… and then I am sent back to Burma. I send Bruce a few postcards that I scribble while drunk in some dive in Bangkok. I tell him I have gone mad.
2008 and Bruce calls me. I am too weird to pick up the phone. He calls again. I am still too weird to pick up the phone. He calls again, too weird… A few weeks later I read in the paper that Bruce has died.
My Advice Is Not Worth Taking
I make films; lots of them, so I guess you can call me a filmmaker. But I also take bushels of photographs that I have no idea what to do with. And I make paintings and music too. BRUCE AND ME was a way to smash all this stuff together and get rid of some guilt at the same time. The piece is kind of like a film only different. I tried something new. I figure the worst that can happen is that I fail miserably and I am used to that. My advice, get used to failure. It really doesn’t hurt that bad.
How I Made The Darn Thing
The images are a combination of photographs, letters, and paintings that went back and forth between Bruce and me. They were collaged in Photoshop. I put the collage images into iPhoto to give them motion then added a soundtrack using Soundtrack Pro. Then I made a movie file of the iPhoto slide show and, presto, there you have it.
About Trent Harris
Trent Harris is the mastermind behind such cult film classics as Rubin And Ed, starring Crispin Glover, Plan 10 From Outer Space, with Karen Black, and Beaver Trilogy, with Sean Penn and Groovin’ Gary. Beaver Trilogy was listed by the London Guardian as one of “Fifty Lost Masterpieces”. It also hit the “Top Ten” list of Art Forum Magazine. You can check out those and other of Harris’ work at his website.
Harris’ films have screened at:
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
- Museum of Modern Art – Vienna Austria
- The Lincoln Center – New York
- British Film Institute – London
- Sundance and at dozens of other festivals worldwide
Harris holds Master Degrees from the University of Utah and the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He is also the author of two books, Mondo Utah, and The Wild Goose Chronicles and has produced dozens of documentaries for television.