Bruno Booth studied science, and then he studied design, and then he became a street artist, and then his art started to find a home within the walls of galleries. At each stage of his artistic evolution, his work has become more personal, more deeply rooted in his experience of the world from the perspective of someone in a wheelchair. With his breakout installation Hostile Infrastructure at Melbourne’s Testing Grounds, Bruno now asks that you, too, suffer (a little at least) for his art.
“When Emma asked me to write an article for The Fulcrum Agencies new journal, we talked about how my practice has pivoted from illustrative graphics to participatory installations. In particular she was interested in how I’ve managed to translate my skills as a painter into producing my current work. Although it looks like I’ve made a radical shift, to me it feels like an extension of what I’ve been doing my whole life. I’ve tried many different things and have had three seemingly distinct careers, but really, they’re all related.
I grew up in a small village in Lancashire. There wasn’t much to do there apart from get into trouble, ride motorbikes (an enjoyable way to get into trouble), go camping if the weather permitted or hang out at friends’ houses getting high and listening to music. It was here that I decided I was going to become a famous musician. I was going to learn to play guitar/learn to rap, form a band with my mates, play our first gig and then decide to sign a record deal with EMI or DefJam. Things didn’t go exactly to plan. I never managed to get that major label deal, but music taught me to be creative, appreciate patterns and gave me a wealth of life experience. What it didn’t give me was a way to support myself, so in my early-20s I made a conscious decision and changed direction.
My second love was Evolution. Learning about Darwinism and natural selection at university was a trip. The idea that every living thing – including the chickens in my garden, the trees out my window and the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park – are the product of an impossible number of tiny, accidental changes over millennia had me hooked. I did two degrees in the Sciences and ended up working as a Hydro-geologist, a pivot that I had not intended and work that I didn’t really enjoy. So, I decided, once again, to make a change.
I started my career in the arts soon after turning 30. I studied Graphic Design at TAFE with the idea that I would work in the industry after I graduated. Again, the best laid plans have a habit of being derailed by life. Studying design introduced me to the world of contemporary art; grand ideas, personal narratives and a desire to communicate experiences. I went to exhibitions, attended artist talks and before I knew what was going on, I had changed direction again.
It’s true that the work I’m making now is a departure from what I was making a few years ago but to me it feels like an organic change. My work now is all about disability, the way people perceive it and the experiences that are awarded to me as a result of seeing the world a bit differently. All the jobs that I’ve done, people I’ve met and sub-cultures that I’ve been a part of feed into my practice. Yes, my work has pivoted, but I don’t see what I’m doing now as an end point at all. I fully expect to pivot again, the one thing I don’t know is when this will happen or what I’ll be doing next. I’ve always liked food so maybe I’ll start my own quince paste empire, who knows.”