Video Gallery: Bruce Conner – Eve-Ray-Forever
September 25 - November 11, 2007
Bruce Conner was a San Francisco-based artist and filmmaker who achieved legendary status since he first began showing his work in the late 1950s. His early artworks consisted of three-dimensional assemblages of cast-off objects, ranging from pure detritus to outmoded clothing and costume jewelry found in second-hand stores. At the same time that he was producing these assemblages, Conner made his first film, titled A MOVIE, in 1958. Like his assemblages, this 16 mm film was made entirely from pre-existing material, primarily newsreel compilations and condensed versions of B films intended for the home market. With its lightning fast editing and absurd collisions of disparate scenes, A MOVIE became an instant classic.
Conner's signature method of operation has been to collect fragments of pre-existing filmstrips from various sources, edit them together, and set them to a soundtrack, usually from a popular music source. As a result, he has been called the godfather of the music video.
EVE - RAY - FOREVER is a new video adaptation of a three-screen 8 mm Conner film from 1965, RAY, THREE SCREEN, which was itself based on Conner's 1961 16 mm film, COSMIC RAY, an homage to R &B singer Ray Charles set to a soundtrack of his 1959 hit, "What'd I Say." The film combined found images, including scraps of film leader, cartoons and ethnographic and military footage, with footage Conner himself shot.
The center screen in EVE - RAY - FOREVER is a video transfer of COSMIC RAY. On the two flanking monitors, portions of COSMIC RAY have been re-assembled with additional vintage footage. The videos feature the rapid-fire editing for which Conner is well-known. Since the videos are programmed to repeat automatically, and since each video runs a different length, EVE - RAY - FOREVER presents an ever-changing juxtaposition of images, never the same twice. As some images appear in all three videos, it is possible that once in a great while all three screens will flash the same image at the same time, much like a slot machine.
Much of the footage in EVE - RAY - FOREVER consists of countdown leader, production company logos, text, and geometric forms like circles and squares. Because of the three screens and the fast pace of the editing, the videos can work on a purely abstract level, a dizzying, syncopated, stroboscopic experience of black and white bursts. As such they pay homage to such early abstract avant-garde films as Hans Richter's Rhythmus 21 and Fernand Léger's Ballet Mécanique. But added to this is the footage Conner shot of streetlights and a female artist friend engaged in a shimmying erotic dance, as well as footage of military imagery. The insertion of these images establishes a link-at the height of the Cold War-between sexuality and military aggression that is simultaneously chilling, comical, and titillating.