Debut: Brontez Purnell's 100 Boyfriends Mixtape #3

A new video by the fearless artist “drowns the cat” by ditching narrative.

Having had the very unfortunate experience of being a writer in Hollywood, I can fully attest that—next to people who work in fashion—TV is the LOWEST form of art and boasts some of the most overpaid and over-celebrated dumbasses that have ever walked the face of this planet. It’s an industry of so many made-up narrative rules and people who are all too willing to talk to me like I had the words “dumb cunt” written on my forehead. So many fucking people in Hollywood play a HUGE hand in making sure that DUMB SHIT multiplies itself into perpetuity: for 100 years, good vs. evil has been sold to us in such a mundane and mechanical formula that we tend to believe all things run in this artificial, linear order, bending towards the status quo (good guy vs. bad guy, with the losing, bad guy almost aways being Black, homosexual, poor, or some other form of “other”). I’ve been accused often in my writing of having characters that boast no development, and of too often privileging their inner landscape over story movement. What I often ask those who say that, as well as you, the reader, is to take a self-inventory: if you were to look over the story of your life, would there even be an actual “story”? Our stories are more a set of seemingly disparate memories, floating around at once, than ANYTHING one would read in that AWFUL fucking book Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need (I’m currently writing a book about dislinear film narrative called OH GOD, JUST LET THE FUCKING CAT DIE ALREADY).

In this spirit of dislinear film narrative, 100 Boyfriends Mixtape 3: Fuck Boy Anthem/How I Spent My Summer Vacation is a choreofilm/video zine mixtape that was made in intervals in the summer of 2020; it’s one of three mixtapes in a series I’m conceptualizing as video zine versions of my 20-year running print zine Fag School. The videos also give my recently published book of short stories, flash fiction, and stories told-in-verse, 100 Boyfriends, its name and inspiration.

Brontez Purnell's 100 Boyfriends Mixtape #3 [MATURE CONTENT]

I made the first mixtape in 2014, after I starred in Naked Sword’s indie porn movie I Want Your Love (2010); the producer asked me to write and direct a short, so I pitched the idea for the first installment. I made the second one, 100 Boyfriends Mixtape (The Demo), in 2017 as a commission by activist art non-profit Visual Aids, for The Whitney Museum’s screening A Day Without Art. Both are more or less narratively traditional, which I hated. My original intention was for them to be chopped up, screwed together, and non-narrative, which I was routinely talked out of by the Naked Sword producer and seemingly EVERYONE; telling stories from a marginal identity, I was told, required being ESPECIALLY pristine and overly well-spoken in order to get people to sympathize with me. But after graduating from Berkeley in 2020 with an MFA in Conceptual Art Practice, I was feeling like an expensive piece of art pussy, so I decided to finally have my way and make the version I had always wanted to see in the world; and so, 100 Boyfriends Mixtape #3: Fuck Boy Anthem/How I Spent My Summer Vacation was born.

The work is in the choreofilm and choreopoem tradition, which combines poetry, music, dance, and song in innovative ways. In particular, Yvonne Rainer’s A Film About A Woman Who (1974) is a HUGE favorite of mine because of how its text, photographic stills, and found images aid—but more importantly, DISRUPT—its narrative. But there are PLENTY of other films that are in this lineage, like Maya Deren’s A Study In Choreography for Camera (1945) and Meditation on Violence (1948). Deren was the personal secretary for choreographer Katherine Dunham, whose technique I studied at Berkeley. A Black woman from Chicago, Dunham set Black folkloric forms of dance to modern technique. Deren, for her part, would later become the mother of American experimental film, and more or less codified the choreofilm format. Alongside Rainer and Deren, Bay Area luminary Marlon Rigg’s Tongues Untied (1989) has loomed large in my inspiration bank, as has the work of Ntozake Shange, whose original choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf (1976) combines text with movement in radical ways. The production started in the theater workshop of gay, Black, experimental Bay Area dancer Ed Mock, about whom I wrote and directed a documentary called Unstoppable Feat: The Dances of Ed Mock (2018). I was taught about these artists early on in school, and they became embedded in the DNA of my storytelling practice, first as a dancer and then as a filmmaker, etc. The choreofilm form was the main inspiration for the Brontez Purnell Dance Company’s film Free Jazz (2013), and now it structures my other film endeavors. It’s this history of disruption, recalibration, and non-narrative form that 100 Boyfriends Mixtape 3 builds on.

There was certainly a time when the style I’m pushing here may have been considered avant-garde, but when one considers how we metabolize information these days via social media—when an image of a black man being shot by a cop runs next to a cat meme running next to how to make a vegan cupcake—we are in the very age of the dislinear. Every day our brain subconsciously absorbs very disparate information and turns that into a narrative FOR us. What I generally ask of the audience watching 100 Boyfriends Mixtape 3 is not to look at it as an experiment in avant-garde story telling from the past, but rather of the very NOW. It documents how we’re currently processing narrative everyday, but in a crazy, disjointed, surprising form redolent of our time. ♦

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