Mea Culpa (1981). Music by Brian Eno & David Byrne.
"Bruce Conner, a San Francisco artist renowned for working fluently across media, died at his home of natural causes on Monday. He was 74. Mr. Conner was one of the last survivors of the Bay Area Beat era art scene that included Jay DeFeo (1929-1989), Wallace Berman (1926-1976), and Wally Hedrick (1928-2003). "We were all anonymous artists here in the '50s," Mr. Conner told The Chronicle in 2000, shortly before the opening of his retrospective "2000: BC The Bruce Conner Story, Part II," at the de Young Museum. Despite an enviably long record of gallery and museum exhibitions, Mr. Conner met with little recognition outside the worlds of contemporary art and independent film. Born in McPherson, Kan., in 1933, Mr. Conner arrived in San Francisco in 1957. Schooled in art at Wichita University, the University of Nebraska and Brooklyn Art School, Mr. Conner first got noticed for the short films he assembled from scavenged documentary and B-movie footage. Several of his films, including "A Movie" (1958), a sort of paean to human failure, and "Crossroads" (1977), are regarded as classics of independent filmmaking, even though Mr. Conner shot no original footage for them. "Crossroads" replays, at ever slower speeds, official footage of a hydrogen bomb detonation on Bikini Atoll, until repetition - 27 times - and slow motion transfigure its colossal destructiveness into something hypnotically beautiful. In the early 1960s, Mr. Conner made grotesque assemblages out of common household objects that ridicule consumer society's attachment to personal possession, including more precious sorts of artwork. They remain some of the most powerful inventions of their kind in American art. He went on to make obsessively detailed abstract drawings, large-scale photograms (with the help of Edmund Shea) in which his figure appears made of light, and collages of old wood engravings in the manner of Surrealist Max Ernst. 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. Mr. Conner is survived by Jean Conner, his wife of more than 50 years, and a son, Robert. No memorial event is planned as yet."
(Kenneth Baker, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday July 8, 2008)