Bruce Conner, a pioneering collage filmmaker and Beat-era assemblage artist, died yesterday. He was 74. Conner is best known for his experimental cut-up films made from found footage and TV advertisements. In the decades since his first gallery shows in the 1950s, Conner collaborated with the likes of DEVO, Terry Riley, Brian Eno, and David Byrne. From Wikipedia:
Conner's first and possibly most famous film, entitled A Movie (1958), combined his thrift store hunting process and his use of still photography. It is referred to as the piece that brought Conner to notoriety. In skillfully editing stock footage, Conner created abstract metaphors of mankind's violence. He subsequently made nearly two dozen non-narrative experimental films.
While Conner was living in Massachusetts in 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Conner filmed the television coverage of the event (near Kennedy's birthplace) and edited and re-edited the footage with stock footage into another meditation on violence which he titled Report. The film was issued several times as it was re-edited.
According to Conner's friend and fellow film-maker Stan Brakhage in his book Film at Wit's End, Conner was signed into a New York gallery contract in the early 1960s, which stipulated stylistic and personal restraint beyond Conner's freewheeling nature. 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.