Friday, July 11, 2008

Bruce Conner: 1933- 2008

Another one of the members of the beat generation died this week. I was looking up his art work (along with that of Neri and De Feo) and realized that I came to SF just four years too late. A lot of their work was dated 1962 and I came here in 1966, just in time to avoid the hippies whose interest in art seemed pretty shallow and completely bound up with drug use (not that the beats didn't take some pretty lethal drugs themselves).

I remember seeing a lot of his experimental films in some pretty back room types of places. All you had to do to get a contact high was breathe deeply (and not very deeply at that). They were in parts of the city that I won't go to at night any more but then, were full of artists apartments, studios and store fronts where we used to show our work. Ah, the days of cheap rent. We didn't make much money but we lived a lot better on less because this was really the city that knew how. The glory was already fading; many painters had already left and the Monkey Block was being torn down to make room for what would be the BoA Headquarters. But I valued what I could find of that time and lament its passing. I doubt if the much ballyhood hippie movement will leave anything as substantial in its wake.

From his Obit:

Mr. Conner never stayed with one medium for long, resisting the art world's inclination to identify every artist with a style and a biographical myth.

Asked once by a critic to mention some artists who influenced him, Mr. Conner said, "I typed out about 250 names," and instructed the writer to add that "limited space prevents us from printing the remaining 50,003 names on Mr. Conner's list of influences."

Mr. Conner announced his own death erroneously on two occasions, once sending an obituary to a national art magazine, and later writing a self-description for the biographical encyclopedia Who Was Who in America.

Excellent analysis of one of his films:
other films seem to have been removed due to "copyright" issues by a third party.


sfmike said...

Thanks for the phony obit details. That's great. And I think the "hippie" movement was part of a continuum, started by Allen Ginsberg and the Beats. None of it's really all that distinct. The Hippie Moment was basically a period of change and mass worldwide hysteria/reaction, culminating in the year 1968, which was just plain ugly. We're still dealing with the consequences, but Bruce Conner was definitely one of the guiding spirits.

namastenancy said...

I'm looking for links to his films- some of them are on line. Wikipedia has a good entry including this great part:
Conner reacted by attending openings, only to move among the crowd wordlessly pinning buttons that read "I am Bruce Conner" or "I am not Bruce Conner" to their clothes. Many send-ups of artistic authorship followed, including a five page piece Conner had published in a major art publication in which Conner's making of a peanut butter, banana, bacon, lettuce, and Swiss cheese sandwich was reported step-by-step in great detail, with numerous photographs, as though it were a work of art.

I remember seeing him in the Haight, casting equal parts scorn and humor upon the scene.

Anonymous said...

Ginny Lloyd, a mail and performance artist in the 80s, took me to one of his parties. Unfortunately I was tired from working and didn't stay long (stupid, I know!) but it was filled with older and wonderfully strange types.