R.I.P. Bruce Conner

With the Ford Foundation grant all of a sudden instead of being an artist that had made a couple of short films, I became a filmmaker who dabbled in the arts“.

Bruce Conner 

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Bruce Conner died Monday. I’ve always loved the wide breadth of what he embraced. It was inspiring. I just watched his “Report” last month. Wide breadth is certainly not words that describe the “creative community” here in Hollywood, churning out kiddie crap for adults. Has our whole culture been reduced to infantalism, typified by our ‘president’?

Mencken said in 1920:

As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.  On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.   

What’s in theatres now?…Batman: The Dark Knight, The Mummy, Iron Man, Speed Racer, Hellboy II…What’s going on? Have people lost the ability to think? Or rather, why do they feel most comfortable with entertainment that requires little thought and makes no demands on them at all. This is why you’ll find me in museums and libraries and not movie houses.

Ironic, ain’t it?

I’ve seen two Conner exhibits since I’ve been in LA. Both sparcely attended.

Maybe that will finally change. It’s the old story.

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(from the NY Times)

Bruce Conner, San Francisco Artist With 1950s Beat Roots, Dies at 74

by Ken Johnson

Bruce Conner, an artist internationally admired for his haunting, surrealistic sculptures and groundbreaking avant-garde films, died on Monday at his home in San Francisco. He was 74. His death followed a long illness,….

A key figure in the San Francisco Beat scene in the late 1950s, Mr. Conner first became known for his assemblages made from women’s nylon stockings, parts of furniture, broken dolls, fur, costume jewelry, paint, photographs and candles. These works, created between 1957 and 1964, had the aggressive appearance of avant-garde sculpture but at the same time seemed old and musty, like broken-down junk found in a forgotten attic or props for a scary Hitchcock-like movie. They were a vehement rejection of the optimistic, consumerist spirit of mainstream American society.

In the late 1950s, Mr. Conner also began an influential parallel career as an experimental filmmaker. Under the influence of his friend and fellow filmmaker Stan Brakhage, he created collages of found and new footage. Mr. Conner’s first and best-known film, “A Movie” (1958), is a 12-minute sequence of clips from old movies, newsreels and other sources set to lushly romantic music. Intermittently funny, erotic, horrifying and tragic, it is a wry commentary on the conventions and clichés of commercial media and a poetic, alternative vision of what filmmaking can be. (Some credit Mr. Conner as a major influence on MTV-style music videos.)

In 1991, “A Movie” was selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Mr. Conner began work on a film called “Report” (1967), which consisted of images and sounds taken from television coverage of the event interspersed with commercial imagery. Another film regarded as an avant-garde classic is “Crossroads,” (1977) in which official footage of a hydrogen bomb explosion on Bikini Atoll replays repeatedly at increasingly slower speeds to mesmerizing and paradoxically beautiful effect. “America Is Waiting,” (1982) a three-minute film Mr. Conner made in collaboration with the musicians David Byrne and Brian Eno, is one of several of his films that can be seen on YouTube.com.

A restlessly inventive and unpredictable artist who avoided typecasting and irascibly resisted the demands of the commercial gallery system, Mr. Conner worked in a surprising variety of media and styles from the 1960s on. He created intricate mandala drawings using felt-tip pens and, using cut-up old engravings, did collages reminiscent of works by Max Ernst. In the 1970s, he made ghostly photograms of his own body, and from the late 70s on he produced delicate ink-blot drawings — grids of small, Rorschach-like shapes executed by blotting small puddles of ink between the folds of accordion-pleated sheets of paper. “A lot of things I’ve been involved in I’ve done because nobody else was doing them,” Mr. Conner once told an interviewer for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

Bruce Guldner Conner was born in McPherson, Kan., on Nov. 18, 1933. Growing up in Wichita, he was interested in art from an early age. After first attending Wichita University (now Wichita State University) he graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1956 with a bachelor of fine arts degree. He continued his art studies on scholarship at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and had his first solo exhibition, a show of paintings, at the Rienzi Gallery in New York in 1956. After a semester in New York, Mr. Conner went on scholarship to the University of Colorado, where he met Jean Sandstedt, whom he married in 1957. She survives him, along with his son, Robert, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area; a sister, Joan Conner, and brother, William Nicholas Conner, both of Wichita; and a granddaughter.

Soon after their marriage, he and his wife moved to San Francisco, and Mr. Conner fell in with figures who would later become well-known members of the Beat generation, including the visual artists Wallace Berman, George Herms and Jay DeFeo and the poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure. Mr. Conner led a peripatetic life in the ’60s. In 1961 and 1962 he, his wife and their young son lived in Mexico for a year. After running out of money, they went to Boston, where he spent time in the company of the LSD gurus Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert before falling out with them.

Back in San Francisco at the height of the hippie era, he collaborated in producing light shows for Family Dog at the Avalon Ballroom. From then on, Mr. Conner made San Francisco his home, and while continuing to create art, withdrew from the art world. Mr. Conner’s works have been included in many major group exhibitions, including “Life on Mars: The 2008 Carnegie International” at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, where the photograms of his body, called “Angels,” are currently on view. In 2000, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis organized the first retrospective exhibition of Mr. Conner’s work, “2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story, Part II,” which traveled to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and other museums. “I think Bruce will eventually be recognized as one of — perhaps the — most important West Coast artist of his time,” said Peter Boswell, who organized the Walker exhibition and is now the senior curator at the Miami Art Museum.

He added that he considered him on a par with Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. “He was an artist who never got his due,” Mr. Boswell said.

envy life caught in the rain

Harmonies In My Head (Independence Day Edition)

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group or any controlling private power.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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cop shoot cop
any day now (from Release, 1994)
the fall wolf kidult man (from Imperial Wax Solvent, 2008)
cheap time glitter and gold (from Cheap Time, 2008)
the action 13 more bread to the people (from Nigeria Rock Special, 1973)
fabulous diamonds track 7 (from Fabulous Diamonds, 2008)
jacques dutronc in the cave (1968?)
thomas function can’t say no (from Celebration, 2008)
seun kuti & egypt 80 fire dance (from Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, 2008)
blood red shoes i wish i was someone better (from Box Of Secrets, 2008)
the futureheads sale of the century (from This Is Not The World, 2008)
don caballero bulkeye (from Punkgasm, 2008)
asiko rock group lagos city (from Nigeria Disco Rock Special, 1974-1979)
mark stewart loner (from Edit, 2008)
the feelies doin’ it again (from Time For A Witness, 1991)
volcano suns descent into hell (from The Bright Orange Years, 1985)
boris & merzbow black out (from Rock Dream, 2008)
melvins the kicking machine (from Nude With Boots, 2008)
firewater
borneo (from The Golden Hour, 2008)

Light Show At The Last Supper

“I think that every artist dreams of renewing the forms which came before, but I think very few can be considered to have achieved that. We are all dwarves standing upon the shoulders of the giants who preceded us, and I think we must never forget that. After all, even iconoclasts only exist with respect to that which they destroy.”
Peter Greenaway

Peter Greenaway performed a trompe-l’oeil with Di Vinci last week which I found quite interesting for it being, at it’s core and exercise “in seeing”. And as far as I know, did something that has never been done previously…by anyone.

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You can read a of it review here.

I strongly urging you to watch the condensed two minute video version of the event found here. What intrigues me most is that the painting is in itself one of the famous, perhaps THE most famous frozen moment in time and yet Greenaway creates the sense of time passing during the portrayed event as if allowing the painting to “come alive”.

It’s weird and you should see the clip.

Metropolis Rediscovered

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A few days back it was announced that they found all (but one) of the missing scenes from Metropolis, (in Argentina of all places!) A single dupe neg made from a now non-existent nitrate negative. Of all the classics that have lost segments, Metropolis has long been one (in my mind) MOST needing the holes filled as it bordered on the incomprehensible. It’s telling that it is known today almost solely due to it’s images, not story.

For film restorers and cinema-goers alike, this find is a BIG deal as it is possibly the most famous German film in the world. Koerber says that this week’s magazine in Die Zeit has stills and the background of the find. I can find Die Zeit easy enough…now reading German is another story altogether.

For more, you can read the article in Variety as well as in the online version of Die Zeit (in an English language translation), The Guardian, Reuters, and a quick blurb from AFP.

I wrote the woman that found the film today jokingly asking her to search for the missing reels of Greed and London After Midnight as maybe she’s on a roll!

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

A cautionary article from The Atlantic Monthly:

What the Internet is doing to our brains
by Nicholas Carr

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“Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial » brain. “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.” I can feel it, too.

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading.

Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle. I think I know what’s going on.

For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets—reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike footnotes, to which they’re sometimes likened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.)

For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price.

As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.

My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski. I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing.

Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. “I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader,” he wrote. “What happened?” He speculates on the answer: “What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”

Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”

Anecdotes alone don’t prove much. And we still await the long-term neurological and psychological experiments that will provide a definitive picture of how Internet use affects cognition. But a recently published study of online research habits, conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think.

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