Looking for Bruce Conner
In a career that spanned five decades, most of them spent in San Francisco, Bruce Conner (1933–2008) produced a unique body of work that refused to be contained by medium or style. Whether making found-footage films, hallucinatory ink-blot graphics, enigmatic collages, or assemblages from castoffs, Conner took up genres as quickly as he abandoned them. His movements within San Francisco’s counter-cultural scenes were similarly free-wheeling; at home in beat poetry, punk music, and underground film circles, he never completely belonged to any of them. Bruce Conner belonged to Bruce Conner. Twice he announced his own death; during the last years of his life he produced a series of pseudonymous works after announcing his “retirement.” In this first book-length study of Conner’s enormously influential but insufficiently understood career, Kevin Hatch explores Conner’s work as well as his position on the geographical, cultural, and critical margins.
Hatch finds a set of abiding concerns that inform Conner’s wide-ranging works and changing personas. A deep anxiety pervades the work, reflecting a struggle between private, unknowable, interior experience and a duplicitous world of received images and false appearances. The profane and the sacred, the comic and the tragic, the enigmatic and the universal: each of these antinomies is pushed to the breaking point in Conner’s work.
Generously illustrated with many color images of Conner’s works, Looking for Bruce Conner proceeds in roughly chronological fashion, from Conner’s notorious assemblages (BLACK DAHLIA and RATBASTARD among them) through his experimental films (populated by images from what Conner called “the tremendous, fantastic movies going in my head from all the scenes I’d seen”), his little-known graphic work, and his collage and inkblot drawings.
About the Author
Kevin Hatch is Assistant Professor of Art History at Binghamton University.
—Bruce Jenkins, Professor, Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
—Scott MacDonald, Professor of Film History, Hamilton College; author of A Critical Cinema and other books
—Mark Toscano, Film Archivist and Curator