Bruce Conner


Conner A Movie
  • Bruce Conner
  • 1958
  • 16mm black-and-white film, digitally restored 2016
  • 12’
  • Courtesy of the Conner Family Trust and Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles

A pioneer of American experimental cinema and rhythmic editing, Bruce Conner lived and worked in San Francisco and was affiliated with the countercultural Beat Generation. A MOVIE (1958) was Conner’s first foray into assemblage film. Demonstrating an astute knowledge of the conventions of narrative cinema, Conner spliced together an astounding assortment of found images, creating a montage that eschews every attempt at a conventional reading. The opening shots present the viewer with a combination of opening and closing credits interspersed with what appears to be a soft-core pornographic image. In another reversal of cinematic convention, a rapid-fire succession of “action shots” runs like a Boy’s Own magazine adventure: cowboys and Indians, speeding cars, and a series of natural and man-made disasters. Indeed, unlike a movie, these images bear a closer resemblance to the “coming attractions” that usually precede the screening of a main feature: a montage of “action” that, like the pornography at the beginning of the film, inevitably promises more than it delivers. Conner’s editing, however, continually prevents these sequences from falling back on cliché. Each successive montage presciently acknowledges the emerging landscape of postwar America as presented in mass media, and forgoes the deadpan irony that would come to characterize much Pop Art in place of fidelity to the personal and autobiographical—a feature that is emphasized by the artist’s insistence on referring to these films as “home movies.”

Damian Lentini

Biography of Bruce Conner

  • Born 1933 in McPherson, KS, USA
  • Died 2008 in San Francisco, CA, USA
Bruce Conner studied art at Wichita University and the University of Nebraska, receiving a B.F.A. in 1956. He also attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School and the University of Colorado on a scholarship. From 1957 onwards he lived and worked in San Francisco, where he quickly became affiliated with the countercultural Beat Generation. Conner is known for his use of found-object assemblage in collage, sculpture, painting, photography, printmaking, performance and film. A pioneer of American experimental cinema and rhythmic editing, Conner weaved together decontextualized fragments of found footage and cinematic marginalia, such as newsreels, B-movies, stock footage, educational and industrial films. A Movie (1958) was his breakthrough work in this genre. He was also noted for his innovative structural employment of music (Cosmic Ray, 1961) and his critical approach to mainstream media and various themes of postwar American society, like the assassination of John F. Kennedy (Report, 1967) or the threat of nuclear war (Crossroads, 1976). The renowned Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles gave Conner a solo show in 1962. Conner was also included in the 1967 exhibition Funk Art, featuring figurative work from the Bay Area, at the University Art Museum in Berkeley, California.