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A woman’s butt, clad in shredded denim, fills the the picture field. The handle of a pistol peeks out from the waistband between thick suspenders. The photograph is titled The Kind of Woman Who Reads Len Bracken, and it hangs on a wall in Georgetown’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) DC.
The roguish Bracken, 43, launches into the story of his subject: “I was on my way to Berlin to write this novel [1991’s East Is Black]…and this woman comes into my cabin on the train and she’s talking to me and I see this gun…#and I find out that she’s an anti-terrorism cop…#.So I say, ‘Well, lemme take some pictures of you with the gun,’ and she was like ‘Yeah, sure.’…#Then I asked her if I could see what was in her top [shirt] pocket, and she was like, ‘OK,’ so I opened up her pocket, and she was like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ ’cause of course her breast was right there….She was very playful for a cop.”
Indeed, a more fitting title for the photograph might have been The Kind of Woman Whom Len Bracken Writes. The scene—strangers on a train, hints of underworlds both criminal and state-mandated, a glancing mistrust, a grazed breast—could have fallen from the pages of one of his books, many of which mix anti-capitalist philosophy with erotica.
But tonight the Southwest Washington–based photographer, filmmaker, author, and theorist is in a somewhat less intriguing atmosphere, entertaining friends and a few curious newcomers at a Sunday screening of his new anti-work propaganda film, The Lazy Ones. MOCA DC is hosting the weekly viewings in conjunction with its exhibition of Bracken’s experimental photography, which utilizes techniques ranging from kaleidoscopic lens to fish-eye perspective to, well, booty close-up.
The crispness of the photography contrasts with the roughness of Bracken’s film. Made over the course of two-and-a-half years on a $6,000 budget, The Lazy Ones follows a National Security Agency investigator (played by Bracken’s friend Fred Cox) as he uncovers the Work Elimination Front, a Baltimore-based anarchists’ group focused on eliminating “alienated labor” (read: work that you don’t want to do). The plot is broken up by talking-head digressions, clips of Bracken passionately advocating his ideology from beneath a ninja-like hood, and porn.
“The porn was my idea,” says Bracken pal and featured talking head Michael Zarowny, 39. “I said, ‘What you need is cognitive dissonance…a whole series of random images and things going on to counterpoint whatever you’re saying.’ [Bracken] was like, ‘Wow, that would take months to get all of that stuff together.’ So I said, ‘OK, well then—just throw in some porn.’”
Of Bracken’s penchant for mixing politics and sex, Zarowny says, “People might not sit and read a dissertation on something, but he can get the message out this way…#.It’s like, ‘Fuck Michael Moore! Len Bracken’s more interesting!’”
The ideals advocated in the film are as dreamlike and fantastical as their presentation—and Bracken admits that he has no set vision for achieving an end to work-driven “social domination”—but he does argue that change is possible.
“It’s the whole idea of withdrawing obedience,” Bracken says. “It can be kind of a covert thing, but on a big scale….If you steal a pen from work, if you poach a little time by going on the Internet—you’re resisting work….There’s a big spectrum.”
The Lazy Ones screens at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 27, at MOCA DC, 1054 31st St. NW. (202) 342-6230.