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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

More reflections on Bruce Conner

BruceConnor_Caulfield_2927800-1.jpgThank you for your thoughts about Bruce. We have lost an amazing artist… Bruce was firmly opposed to display of his films on-line, and on his behalf as an attorney I made numerous requests for removal. Now that Bruce has died, all copyrights are now held by Jean Conner (Bruce’s wife), and she has explicitly directed that I request and otherwise take action to have all on-line postings of Bruce Conner movies removed immediately.

That photo alone! Godspeed Bruce Conner. Writes Mike Plante: “He took film leader, a ‘secret’ part of film, and reedited it as featured content. He reinterpreted found footage into his own heavily political – and often hilariously entertaining – short films… In his shorts, you see the roots of today’s political satire, music videos and commercials, from slick editing that gives meaning under the surface, to landscape emo moments… Successful in the art world, he stayed DIY his entire career. Often fighting for his work to be displayed or projected correctly and with his personal attention, he never sat back and simply sold items…. When hired by San Jose State to teach a painting class, they wanted a set of his fingerprints and signature. He stated he couldn’t sign their forms as his signature made something art, according to galleries. Not to mention his fingerprints and touch appeared on artwork and was his property. They agreed to make a limited edition of his application with fingerprints and signatures, forcing the government to play by new, esoteric rules… Conner was cantankerous and one-of-a-kind. He would wear an American flag pin. When asked why, he said, “I’m not going to let those bastards take it away from me.” Sigh391685445_c29683db67.jpgAn obit by Kenneth Baker, art critic at SF Chronicle: “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.” Conner’s punk portfolio, “Mahubay Gardens,” is up at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archives, and at the link. The Walker Art Center blogs. Conner may have influenced George Lucas. John Yau talks to Conner at Brooklyn Rail. Conner: “ArtNews had a regular series, with pieces like “Jean Dubuffet Makes a Painting.” It included the artist’s signature and photographs documenting the product being produced. As I saw it, it was a product being produced because the camera was there, and, when somebody is observing the performer’s action, that always alters things. I decided it would be interesting to submit an article to ArtNews about Bruce Conner making a peanut butter sandwich, peanut butter being one of my favorite foods and main standbys during periods of economic distress. I also decided that it should be compulsively and precisely detailed… I asked Tom Garver to come to my apartment and take photographs as I built this sculpture and also while I ate it, which I didn’t tell him I was going to do. I set up a tape machine to record the entire process so we could time every action exactly to the second so that, in the article when it says the time is 11:35 and 10 seconds a certain action is happening. By timing the tape after the fact, it was possible to do that as precisely as possible. I then wrote the entire article. I wrote about building the sandwich and then about eating it. I asked Thomas to put his name on it because I knew ArtNews would not print it if it did not have an established, professional voyeur commenting and presenting the event. He said fine. However, he would not put his name to me eating the sandwich, which took place precisely at noon.” Exhibit photos by Steve Rhodes. Conner’s artist page at LA’s Kohn Gallery. Prints at Gallery Paule Anglim. A Conner ink blot. Prints at Magnolia Editions. Bio at Carnegie International. More photos at Flickr.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon