Education Center, Mezzanine, Theater 3
Bruce Conner. CROSSROADS (promotional still). 1976. 35mm film (black and white, sound) transferred to video, 37 min. The Museum of Modern Art, New York and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Accessions Committee Fund purchase), with the generous support of the New Art Trust. © Bruce Conner 2016. Courtesy Conner Family Trust

In conjunction with the exhibition BRUCE CONNER: IT'S ALL TRUE, this half-day symposium examines Conner's relationships to artistic communities in and outside of California; his collaborators in the fields of poetry and music; female subjects; and his crucial involvement with avant-garde cinema and underground film communities. Kevin Hatch, Assistant Professor of Art History, SUNY Binghamton, and author of Looking for Bruce Conner (2012) will serve as the keynote speaker. Participants include Anastasia Aukeman, Assistant Professor, The New School, and author of Welcome to Painterland: Bruce Conner and the Rat Bastard Protective Association (2016); Michael Duncan, art critic; Melissa Ragona, Associate Professor of Visual Culture and Critical Theory, Carnegie Mellon; and Sheldon Renan, writer, director, and producer. Exhibition co-curators Stuart Comer and Laura Hoptman moderate.

Tickets ($20; $15 members and corporate members; $8 students, seniors, and staff of other museums) can be purchased online or at the information desk, at the Film desk after 4:00 p.m., or at the Education and Research Building reception desk on the day of the program.

This event will be live-streamed.


1:00 p.m.

Introduction by Stuart Comer and Laura Hoptman, co-curators of the exhibition

1:15 p.m.

Keynote: Kevin Hatch, Assistant Professor of Art History at SUNY Binghamton and author of Looking for Bruce Conner (2012)

Not Thinking of You: A Letter from Bruce Conner

Among Bruce Conner’s many artistic mediums are the letters—sometimes serious, sometimes funny, and always fascinating—that he exchanged with figures ranging from other artists (like Wallace Berman and Ray Johnson) to pop culture celebrities (such as Dennis Hopper and John Lennon). Not only do these letters offer an unexpectedly intimate portrait of a particularly elusive artist, but they also point to something larger: a vision of an ideal art world, realized in epistolary form and unencumbered by the limitations and boundaries of a rapidly codifying art market.

2:00 p.m.

Anastasia Aukeman, Assistant Professor at The New School and author of Welcome to Painterland: Bruce Conner and the Rat Bastard Protective Association (2016)

Bruce Conner and the Rat Bastard Protective Association

Aukeman’s talk on Bruce Conner and the inflammatory, close-knit community of artists that he named the Rat Bastard Protective Association will uncover a story that has not yet been told—of the subversive and, until now, almost secretly influential work of the artists and poets whose political, social, and aesthetic concerns animated broader discussions throughout the United States.

2:30 p.m.

Michael Duncan, art critic

I Love A Mystery: Bruce Conner and West Coast Art & Literature

Duncan’s presentation will provide a context for the multifaceted aspects and tones of Bruce Conner's work in the art and literature of the West Coast. An atmosphere of creative cantankerousness had already been established in the San Francisco scene when Conner arrived in 1957. The work and activities of his predecessors and peers fostered experimentation and a willingness to say no in order to say yes to authenticity.

3:00 p.m.

Break (refreshments in Cullman Building mezzanine)

3:15 p.m.

Melissa Ragona, Associate Professor of Visual Culture and Critical Theory at Carnegie Mellon

UnderSound: Bruce Conner’s Sonic Structures

Ragona will address the idea of undersound as one of the major conceptual structures of Conner’s sonic work across installation, sculpture, photography, cassette, and film. Borrowing from Michael McClure’s notion of an “undersoul,” a term Conner embraced as a way to position many of his works, this talk will examine the variations of visceral forms achieved through the syncopated rhythm/cuts (sound to image edits), as well as his slow moving, emergent sonic and optical structures. Conner wanted to get at something beyond what some claim was his “invention of Music Video” (especially the sort that was premiered on early MTV). His use of rock n’ roll, minimalist music, readymade sound, and silence created sonic vectors that travelled across bodies, atomic disasters, advertisements, and newsreels with political and aesthetic ferocity.

3:45 p.m.

Sheldon Renan, writer, film director, and producer

Bruce Conner, Funk, Film, Leader, (me), Bruce Conner

Renan will describe Bruce Conner’s attempt to commit “filmicide” by making a film that would destroy his filmmaking career. The only time Conner showed Leader, the audience “unplugged the projector and took away the screen.” On a 1967 panel chaired by Renan, Conner hurled the only copy of Leader into the audience and questioned the legitimacy of historians to pigeonhole artists. Renan will use this and other personal experiences to help understand how and why the unpredictable Conner changed film forever.

4:15 p.m.

Plenary session with all participants, moderated by Stuart Comer and Laura Hoptman, co-curators of the exhibition, with Q&A with the audience

This event accompanies BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE.