Only a few years ago, it would have been a stretch to claim that net art owed a substantial debt to the history of avant-garde filmmaking, but the advent of video sharing has in many ways converged two heretofore distinct traditions. Given the enormous popularity of video mash-ups and artistic remixing, we must therefore give note to the recent passing of filmmaker and artist Bruce Conner, who created mind-blowing re-edits of found-footage on 16mm way back when the Internet was but a mere twinkle in a Pentagon-subsidized computer engineer's eye. Conner was first known in Beat-era San Francisco for his collages, paintings and assemblages, but began making his mark on cinema in 1958 with A Movie, a stream-of-consciousness montage made from films purchased at a local camera store; its dreamlike structure, Conner later said, was influenced by TV channel-surfing. Later, Cosmic Ray (1961), an Atomic-bomb dance party set to Ray Charles's "What’d I Say", grooved to a Pop-political pulse and presaged the music video, while his powerfully minimalist Kennedy assassination study Report (1967) was one of the earliest artistic uses of serial looping and pure flicker, processes that became integral to structural filmmaking. Conner's later involvement with punk and New Wave resulted in one of his most famous works, a drop-dead brilliant film set to Devo's Mongoloid (1978), and collaborations elsewhere with David Byrne, Brian Eno and Toni Basil, among others. Conner left us earlier this week, following a long illness, but saw his legacy celebrated in a 2000 touring show, puckishly titled 2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story Part II. So the next time you get psyched over the latest online video concoction by Oliver Laric or John Michael Boling, take a moment and think of Conner, who might someday be considered one of the great forefathers of 21st century art. - Ed HalterImage: Kim Stringfellow, Bruce Conner, 1995.
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