Blog Post 6: Cutting In

Hi everyone,

After our cutup session Friday, this coming week we plunge headlong into a range of media arts centered on rearranging and remixing found material — next week we’ll look at the sonic aesthetics of hip-hop sampling and remixing, but this week’s focus on found footage film is an important aesthetic precursor of that art form.

Wednesday we focus on Bruce Conner, including the films screened at the Tang yesterday, the “Speaking of Found Footage” interview with Conner, and the article on history and the archive by Baron, both in the packet. Since this is our first day of our first full week thinking about remixing and rearrangement, let’s use this blog post to begin to develop a framework for understanding this form: what’s important about it, in terms of form, culture, history? How does it both resemble and differ from the more “straight” appropriation we’ve been talking about so far? You’re free to pursue this in whatever direction seems significant to you, as long as you engage in some close discussion of the material for Wednesday, putting at least one of the Conner films in dialogue with at least one of Wednesday’s readings.

Reminder: Your writing should go in the comments section for this post — click on the link near the top of this post where it says “Leave a Comment.” It should be at least 300 words, and is due by midnight Tuesday, October 10. If you have any questions, let me know via email.


19 thoughts on “Blog Post 6: Cutting In”

  1. The most important part of the cut-up film, especially an “archival” one such as Conner, is that it meets severe limitations with the promise of endless accessibility. Video archive sites such as YouTube and general audio/visual archives suggest that anything can be seen, replayed, and understood, but as Baron so rightfully pointed out “both cinematic and written histories share the problems of the excess and inexhaustibility of the archive — there are always too many documents and too many possible ways of reading them” (Baron 3). Conner’s movie, “A Movie”, perfectly captured the inexhaustible nature of the archive by jamming a huge range of film clips into one (a lot of which seemed like early cuts that America’s Funniest Home Videos might have used), but it is extremely possible that Conner wished to use other footage that he simply could not find. Whereas with words, anyone can write the specific sentence they want, the medium of film is a trickier beast to tame. For instance, even if I wanted to, I could not easily get Jared Leto to act as the Joker for my own personal movie that I wished to film, but I could easily write about Jared Leto acting as the Joker in my script. When appropriating film, directors are much more limited than those appropriating words because not all the desired information of a clip can be recreated from scratch.

    At the same time, the audio part of a cut-up film can do much to close the gap between dreams and reality for the appropriating director. Conner’s 37-minute film of “Crossroads” was of two halves; one was the appropriated film of the hydrogen bomb test and audio picked up by the original cameras (though slightly desynced) , the second was the same footage with an atmospheric soundtrack laid on top of it. The peaceful nature of the soundtrack did much to ease the pain of watching the highly-destructive, highly-terrifying footage in my mind. That fact is itself extremely scary. Crossroads not only makes a powerful point about the dangers of the hydrogen bomb by showing its destructive force in slow motion, but makes a very different and equally powerful point about the strength of audio and music in changing how an audience receives a message. It felt like half the audience at Whole Grain took a nap when that soundtrack came on despite the shocking imagery. So even though appropriated films may not be able to get what they want via the visuals, they can still make their point in the selection of audio.


  2. In “History, the archive, and the appropriation of the indexical document,” Jamie Baron describes “archival footage”—which he says is often referred to as evidence of the past. While these archives carry meaning on their own, they can be manipulated or simply recontextualized into pieces with different meanings. Baron states, “Each of these images is compelling even if—at least without added narration and contextualization—its precise meaning is sometimes obscure. While we often rely on written word for a glimpse into history, archival footage and the way it is portrayed can make history “perceptible”.

    The assassination of JFK, while an important death in American history, was a death nonetheless. Bruce Conner himself reminds us, “What was obscured was the confrontation with death, and that here was a man shot and killed… Almost immediately there were gross political exploitations of his image to promote political action that Kennedy would have been opposed to.” (Conner, 84) In “REPORT,” Conner not only confronts death itself, but he confronts the emotional response from those close to the action and to the President. The film begins with JFK and his wife riding in the back of a car, smiling at cameras and fans. This plays over and over, emphasizing life and blissful ignorance to what was about to come. Often, when faced with a political death, the public forgets that these are people who smile and love and go about their business everyday. Soon, there’s screaming and images of guns and a casket, with the sound of a frantic reporting of the incident. The final image is a woman pressing a button that reads “SELL,” which symbolizes the motivation for all politicians and news companies to exploit the President’s death.

    Only in this depiction of JFK’s assassination, in which Conner juxtaposes the happy innocence with the tragic murder, can we so blatantly face the issue at hand: when you’re in the spotlight, the most tragic and personal events in your life will be taken advantage of. All of these images come from archives, yet the public probably only saw them in the news, the platform from which people are profiting from the assassination. Bruce Conner uses the same images to shed light on the problematic nature of the media and politics.


  3. Reading through Bruce Connor’s own thoughts about his found footage compilations definitely caused me to further appreciate the specific form of filmmaking. It’s a nice image: one of a passionate young man who does not have the financial means to entertain that passion conventionally and instead, goes on to do so in his own way. Regarding the actual content of his work, particularly “A Movie,” I like the comparison he made to the news. He writes, “if you listen to a news program on the radio it may report ten events in a row. It’s no different than A MOVIE. Something absurd next to a catastrophe next to speculation next to a kind of instruction no how you’re supposed to think about some political or social thing” (Conner, 85). This comparison offers an interesting idea on how montage can represent our society’s overall fixation on instant gratification, and how at any given second, we can be exposed to hundreds of pieces of information and not devote true thought or emotion to a single one.

    The film I found to be the most fascinating this past Saturday was “Report,” as it had me thinking about the death of JFK—and the death of public figures as a whole—in a way that I had not thought of before. From a multitude of perspectives, I watched the chaotic media spectacle that ensued following the death of the President and I couldn’t help but think that nobody seemed to be acknowledging that they were dealing with—in simplest terms—a dead man. Funny enough, Bruce Conner articulated this exact phenomenon, saying “the assassination was transformed in the media by political, social and economic pressures. What was obscured was the confrontation with death, and that here was a man shot and killed… Almost immediately there were gross political exploitations of his image to promote political action that Kennedy would have been opposed to” (Conner, 83-84). JFK was seemingly not allowed to be mourned for as a man, rather he was mourned for as our president. Perhaps what I also enjoyed most about “Report” is that, out of the five films, it evoked within me the most coherent and straight forward reaction.


  4. Bruce Connor’s films introduce a new way of appropriating history and art using multi-modal techniques that enhances the archival content and changes the context of history. His film, A Movie, meshes together various “American” historical events and cultural themes like Western films and a tightrope walker in a choppy style that was difficult to follow as a real movie. I found it entertaining to watch as he included various flashy cuts to graphics of “A Movie” and “The End” that separated different scenes. In Connor’s interview, he says his motive for creating A Movie stemmed from being “aware that there was a “universal movie” that was being made all the time” (78). Being the first of this kind of film, he used the cliches from everyday American culture and morphed it into an audiovisual experience that could declare something meaningful about the way we experience our lives. I couldn’t find much meaning through the decisions of putting clips together besides that it encompasses the talents of Americans, past events and tragedies that have occurred, preserving history in an artful way.
    Jaimie Baron describes archival footage as “creating the past rather than simply preserving it (Baron). The act of producing and manipulating archival footage structures history in a way that makes it less objective. In a case like Bruce Connor’s films, he created a unique form of viewing and learning about history that is biased, but more meaningful in his editing and production techniques that are more sensory for viewers. Baron also describes audiovisual media as “seem[ing] ‘closer’ to the past they represent and are potentially seductive in their seeming transparent textuality” (Baron). Like A Movie, because the archival footage is edited and visually stimulating, it creates an entertaining environment that alters the consumption of history. I don’t believe Connor’s motives were to present history in an objective way, but make a statement on cultural artifacts that mean so much to us. His films both make us think about the way in which Connor produced them and why he chose certain footage, but also the appropriation of these cultural events and history’s effect on us as a society.


  5. Something that struck me from the interview with Bruce Connor was his comment on his own work, stating “I don’t believe that anything like A MOVIE, existed in film prior to 1958 … as far as my experience was concerned” (78). It’s a confident, but not ridiculous claim to make; Connor’s first film was unique in its use of stock footage, determined to engineer a film of iconic images into a more explicitly “universal movie” than even the films he reports watching (78). As a form, film is inherently multimodal simply in the fact that one can present their audience with both sound and image simultaneously; both of these elements can be appropriated from other sources and placed in conversation with each other in a film. In Marilyn Times Five, Connor weds the image of a lookalike of pop culture icon Marilyn Monroe with a sensual song performed by Monroe herself; the effect achieved and likely intended is to further the illusion that Arline Hunter (the lookalike) is Marilyn.
    Use of found footage complicates history in the sense that video documents of poignant events are radically re-contextualized depending on the filmmaker’s choices. “I started REPORT as soon as the day Kennedy died,” Connor recalls (83). While Connor maintains that the film is a response to this crucial moment in history, he also asserts that REPORT is “[his] death, your death, it’s everyone’s death. He’s a figure that symbolizes it” (84). By replaying the car driving over and over and over, advancing the footage ever so slowly and from various angles, almost maddeningly so, Connor raises in his audience the anxiety felt by knowing what’s going to happen, and on a deeper level, the anxiety of their own mortality. He uses this widespread found footage to make a larger claim about history and Kennedy’s assassination; everyone who saw or filmed it had their own perspective of the event. He uses found footage to illustrate these incongruences but overall media and civilian sense of panic and loss.
    In terms of appropriation, I’d say the most interesting claim Connor makes is that “all footage is found footage for a film editor, if the editor has not made the film” (84). I have some questions as to what this implies for collaboration, but overall I interpret this quote to mean that film is a medium that requires constant tweaking and contextualization of footage, regardless of whether that footage was shot specifically for your project or not.


  6. Connor claims, “All footage is found footage for a film editor […] The editor’s role is to work with given images, put them together and, perhaps, made them do things that were never there in the original intent” (84). There are many parallels between found footage films and traditional films. Any film is a collaborative artwork (with more than one artist bringing it to life, i.e. actors, directors, editors). Found footage is another kind of collaborative artwork – just with anonymous contributors, being pulled together by an editor.

    The work of a camera always results in a distance between the cameraman. The image is always just that – an image, a recording – not the direct work of the hand of an artist (as a painting or drawing would be). A photograph or film can never be the direct archive of a physical object, it is merely a recording of that object. “Documentary has always implicitly acknowledged that the ‘document’ at its heart is open to reassessment, reapropriation and even manipulation” – but this is the same for any recorded film (Baron). Found footage films highlight this degree of separation: a cameraman is – in effect – always “finding” the footage he records, somewhat detached from the art he produces because it was never done by the direct contact of his hand – it is a recording of what already existed before. Traditional film history is full of explicit found-footage moments, which Conner refers to, “I became aware that there was a “universal movie” that was being made all the time. It’s classic images. It’s the Mona Lisa, it’s the Sistine Chapel, it’s the Statue of Liberty, it’s all these symbols, except it is in film” (78).

    Additionally, found footage seems to be a deconstruction of traditional film. Traditional film has an underlying structure, a cohesive narrative, that connects the work of many artists. Found footage is merely abandoning the idea of the cohesive narrative, focusing instead on the subtext that lies inside the very images themselves. Connor remarks, “you can create an emotional response which is very different from what was socially agreed upon as a narrative structure” (79).


  7. Cutting, mixing, and rearranging film can be an important tool and form of artistic expression to portray certain meaning, whether socially, politically, historically, or otherwise. This form has the potential to highlight important aspects of our culture, and draw ties between otherwise separate issues. By cutting pieces of footage together that otherwise do not belong in a sequence, it places them in a way that makes the viewer skeptical of why they were put together. Does this hold a deeper significance? Is the filmmaker calling out a problem or aspect of society that one may not have noticed? The juxtaposition and choice of specific clips is critical to the film as a whole. It can be argued that everything is a choice when working with rearranging film, so the filmmaker must have an intention or end result in mind.

    Through his creation of REPORT, Bruce Conner explains that the film is meant to draw attention to all of the ways death is exploited and reused in our culture. He argued that “ there couldn’t have been more cameramen, reporters, witnesses, and yet all of it is fragmented into thousands of points of view” (84). This shows us that even something that was so clearly documented can be interpreted and construed in a multitude of ways in order to benefit the one talking about it. He uses these ideas to inspire his film in which he plays the radio reports of the day Kennedy was shot over different short clips that are each repeated numerous times, to really ingrain the moment into the viewer’s mind. In response to the exploitation of Kennedy’s death by media outlets, Conner explains that “the death became an object that was played with in ritual, tribal observances”. This idea of ritual observances is translated through the film by the repetitive nature of the film.


  8. For some reason, maybe because I really love the movies, but I appreciated Bruce Conner’s work more than the cutups we read and looked at for last week. A Movie was actually, in a lot of ways, inspiring—for more than one reason. Bruce Conner mentions, in the reading, that he was inspired by ‘third-rate, cheap movies that came out of Poverty Row in Hollywood”, he then continues to talk about the shots of the Brooklyn Bridge from the same position used as an establishing shot. In his movie A Movie, he uses stock footage and found footage from different genres and different kinds of films to put together something far beyond experimental. As he talks about, Conner is trying to make something original from unoriginal pieces—meaning he is taking something whole, chopping it up and making it his and ours. He made something truly associational. These pieces, that he took and edited, now mean something to me. I associate each image to an image I have already in my mind—an idea, a feeling, and an emotion.
    This is why his work resonates with me—it allows me to project my own feeling onto images that are strung together by an artist. Now looking back, I suppose that the cutups could do the same but it is more strenuous for the mind to associate words and other words with feelings, at least in my mind. There is no doubt Conner is appropriating images from someone else but, maybe because they’re not necessarily of familiar faces, it allows me to disassociate myself with the images while associating myself with them at the same time.
    In a historical sense, his work might not have had the same resonation with people living in the 1950s or 1960s. Maybe these images had different associations because they were more familiar with certain people. However, so much time has passed for my generation that we can watch his films now with such a high degree of separation that we are left to do nothing else except project ourselves onto his work.


  9. In viewing Conners films, perhaps the thing I was most struck with was the way in which the audience could still extract some semblance of organization from Conner’s films even though they were cut up. Though there was no plot or point per say, there was definitely consistency and intentional formatting (obviously). We saw this in the Marilyn video because the organization of shots was very sequential. Conner had one shot and stopped, then started the same shot again – this time letting it play a little longer – and then stopped, and repeated the process, starting and stopping, until we saw the whole clip. Conner even mentions that he loved to watch “anything that moved” and that he would play movies “over and over”. (Conner 82). His fascination with movement perhaps was the inspiration for his films that have quick cuts and sporadic movement. His fascination with movement manifested into a creation of movement driven films (not just through on camera action, but movement in cutting and editing). In Conner’s “Report” (though there was inherently a plot due to the content of the film) he again utilized sequence over plot. The reason that Conner is successful is that, while he forgoes convention, he still creates cohesive pieces that if nothing else are visually pleasing, and that people will enjoy watching.
    Conner says “My approach to filmmaking, whether I have shot the film or taken footage from another film is not different. All footage is found footage for a film editor, if the editor has not made the film. My technique is no different despite the fact of having shot the film myself or not. The editor’s role is to work with given images, put them together and, perhaps, make them do things that we never there in the original intent” (Conner, 84). If Conner treats all footage as found, I wonder what he thinks about ownership? Would he believe that the footage he finds and incorporates is now his?


  10. In Professor Aldorando’s Film class, we talked a lot about indexicality’s relationship to documentary film. The tension at the core of documentary films is that their implicit claim is to only ‘document,’ to merely record events already in progress and to relate information, but every filmmaker has a highly specific point of view which shapes the film’s argument. Just because the events being shown to us on film mirror reality does not mean that they are being shown to us without bias. Baron’s excerpt makes this even more explicit: “the difference between the document and documentary is a difference in temporality and sequenciation…it is the act of sequenciation of documents that generates the interpretive meaning that is fundamental to both documentary as it is edited and history as it is written” (Baron 10). Bruce Conner’s films play with both the ideas of document and documentary by using archival footage to create short films with experimental narratives. As I learned in Professor Aldorando’s class, as well as from my own experience, an uninformed film viewer can mistake the indexical relationship between film and reality for objective truth, and this becomes even more exaggerated with archival footage. The closest Conner comes to the conventional documentary is his film Report, a film clearly about the single event of JFK’s assassination, using both archival film and sound to create the effect of almost a newsreel. However, Conner takes his film a step beyond most documentary filmmakers, making his commentary on the assassination conspicuous throughout the piece. The intercut footage of a matador and bull create an Eisensteinian montage, drawing the viewer’s attention to the showmanship of the affair and the horror of turning such a thing into a media spectacle. Overall the film reads as a critique and a lament rather than a conventional archival portrayal, demonstrating the importance of sequenciation.


  11. For understanding this form I think it’s important to remember some key elements that Baron reminds us of — “despite the very different contexts from which they [cut-up films] emerge, all of these images might be referred to as ‘archival footage’ and understood as evidence of past events”(Baron). In addition, they “offer us a glimpse of a world that existed but has been erased and overlaid with different faces, current fashions, and new technologies” (Baron). While I don’t agree with the “world that existed but has been erased” idea, there is credibility in the idea that this form is somehow able to change how we interpret history. This capability to change how we view history is similar to how Conner’s way to make “A Movie” was to “glue one piece of film to another”. That method is analogous to what Hayden White terms in his piece “Metahistory” as “reframing historical representation in terms of their construction rather than in terms of simple truth or falsehood”(Baron). Thus, when thinking of the cut-up form, we can’t take it as a literal ‘archival footage’ due to the aspect of reframing. It very much resembles the way we appropriate today because it’s taking things that are very prominent to us to glean meaning or create new meaning. In terms of how we view appropriation in our class so far I think it’s more appropriate to call this translation. According to the films that Conner has created like “Report”, they seem to draw us back to the “original” (the archival footage of a man dying) while also making a “new commentary”(that maybe this death shouldn’t be used as object-for political reasons and what ever else the images were beginning to represent) and thus creating something new altogether.


  12. Throughout this course, we’ve been constantly referring back to the democratization of the arts and of media, and Bruce Connor’s films are no exception. He gives the filmmaker a new avenue of making original film, rather than the conventional style of recording film as filmmaking. Of his process, he says, “It was actually much cheaper to buy a hundred feet of film already developed and processed, than to buy a hundred feet of film, shoot it and have it processed. It would cost about five or xix times more to shoot your own film” (Connor 80). He injects art into a process taken for granted by those who do not make films: editing, at the same time revealing how much easier it is to get into found footage filmmaking, opening the art to more people. He is the beginning of the movement that Baron characterizes as the event that caused the need of a redefinition of the idea of archive. He is the filmmaker using “repurposed home movies, home video collections, and now the user-generated documents accessible through online digital databases along with, or instead of, documents found in official archives” (Baron 4). His followers, those influenced by his style of found footage subvert the system that originally made the artform closed off further by archons in charge of their archives. I find this art to be less offensive to the original film artist, considering the skill and effort put into editing a film. Of course, the tradeoff in this further democratization of filmmaking is the further muddying of the so-called archival record. This is not to say that more films recorded somehow muddies the record, but rather and individuals perception of film as objective descriptions of events rather than sometimes skillfully edited pieces of propaganda, occasionally constructed by Nazis.


  13. I found the Jaimie Baron reading to be a perfect companion to the Bruce Conner films we watched on Saturday. I was able to identify several of the things I noticed during the viewing in Baron’s writing, much to my delight. For instance, what went through my mind the entire time I was watching was that Conner was “curating” an emotional experience with his films. While I want to compare what he was doing, mixing images and tones and creating something bigger than the sum of its parts, as something like mixing colors to create a new one, but I don’t seem to be able to let go of that metaphor. I suppose he was doing something like that, but the results were more like the filmic version of a Georges Seurat painting, in which the proximity of the adjacent colors (clips) made me experience both of them differently than if I were seeing them alone, but obviously they had been arranged as opposed to changed, so the result was not quite a mix of the two. I was reminded of the effect of Conner’s films by a quote of Baron’s, in which he describes the appropriation film as “produc[ing] a particular effect or evok[ing] a particular kind of consciousness.” Another passage from the same page echoed something that I was thinking about during the viewing. Baron states that “the act of reconceptualization that generates in the viewer a sense of textual ‘difference’ always offers the possibility of critique…” For some reason, I agree with this statement regarding the Conner films, but would contest it if it was brought up while we were talking about cut-ups. If any of my classmates agree with me, I would really like to get their take on why. For me, the difference in medium is the reason I feel this way. Someone could slice and dice and rearrange Shakespeare to their heart’s content, but all the words they include in their final piece could be identified in an untold amount of other pieces of literature, which essentially makes a cut-up just another bit of writing, regardless of its origin. The exact shots used in Connor’s films, while some of them may have been stock footage that appear in other things, are still unique in ways that words cannot be. Different shots of a surfer will look different no matter what, even if those differences are miniscule. But the words “shots of a surfer” will read exactly the same, whether I ‘wrote’ them or quoted them just now. I imagine that opinions on the Conner films will be divided, as they were when we talked about cut-ups, but I am definitely on the side that takes the work in question seriously this time.


  14. In his introduction, Jaime Baron argues that the validity of New Historicism is deeply rooted in the amalgamation or archival footage and photographs and that the archive had, and is, undergoing a transformation. “It is not only official state and commercial institutions that have been collecting audiovisual media” and “there are always too many documents and too many possible ways of reading them” (3). So then what exactly would Baron consider appropriation? It can be many things, including, and most importantly, the relationship between the viewer and the text.
    Additionally, in Connors films, we see that he, perhaps, has obtained such media but is completely drawn to that fact. He understands that certain media is non-impressive and can be drawn and amalgamated to look like something meaningful. And, in his films, there is a message that anybody can take from viewing, and maybe too many ways of perceiving. In his piece, Connor writes: “That is, it’s supposed to be my culture. I don’t feel that way.” This means so much on so many social and political levels, but even more so, it shows us something. It tells his viewers that he really doesn’t identify with something. Meaning, perhaps, that he doesn’t wish for his viewers to. He wants them to make their own meaning.


  15. The Bruce Conner film that I found particularly interesting was Cosmic Ray (1961). When discussing new and rare archival footage, film scholar Jamie Baron writes:
    “Indeed, the ideas of both ‘archivalness’ and rarity seem to promise truth-value as well as an experience of evidentiary revelation. The footage has been found, and it therefore has an aura of being directly excavated from the past. The sense of ‘foundness’ of the footage enhances its historical authority because what has been ‘found’ has not (ostensibly) been fabricated or shaped by the filmmaker who repurposes this footage.” (Baron, Found Footage and the audiovisual experience of History, 6).
    When Baron’s concept of found footage is wrestled with in tandem with Conner’s Cosmic Ray (1961), one must deal directly with the aesthetics, meaning, and implications of Conner’s film.
    Although for the most part Baron engages with archival films, and their respective implications in regard to history, the author raises an interesting point when it is invoked that previously unseen archival footage is to be considered by the canon as rare. Conner’s Cosmic Ray (1961) uses archival footage that is culturally prolific (nuclear bomb tests, a naked woman, Mickey Mouse, and footage of U.S. Troops). One must agree that if these clips were shown to an audience individually, as separate pieces of archive, Baron could not call it new or rare footage. However, through the process of appropriation and editing, Conner is able to transmute what would have been previously considered old and outdated footage into something far more interesting, rare, and new.
    To this extent Conner is using historical archives and cultural iconography to evoke emotion in his audience. Conner writes, “Since there was a movie I wanted to see, and didn’t see it being made, I decided it had to be my job to make it. And absolutely nothing was being taught in schools on how to make films. I couldn’t take a class in filmmaking. I had to invent my own ways of making movies. All I could learn was how to glue one piece of film to another,” (Conner, 82). Instead of a camera, Conner’s tools to make a film were films themselves. Cosmic Ray (1961), while showing seemingly random images, has a feeling of coalescence about it. Set to Ray Charles’s What’d I Say, images cut back and forth in a rhythm and time that often matches and compliments the track that the film is set to. What was random separately, now joined together by Conner’s “glue,” makes sense and arguably feels right. While Baron suggests that found footage has “an aura of being directly excavated from the past,” Conner seemingly excavates, but also creates something far more cohesive than if they were never excavated from history in the first place.


  16. What is the value of archival footage without context? As a type of historical record, context is necessary in order to fully understand the value of it. There is not a better place than this is shown than in the incomplete Nazi propaganda film “Das Ghetto.” Discovered after the war, the film was, “…used as a flawed but authentic record of ghetto life… These images were subjected to a radical rereading with the appearance of another reel in 1998: 30 minutes of outtakes showing the extent to which scenes had been deliberately staged,” (Baron). The need for historical context is show by the fact that a film created to normalize the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust was treated as historical fact for half a century.

    The need for context is also seen in Bruce Conner’s short film, “Crossroads,” which depicts the explosion and aftermath of a hydrogen bomb test. While the devastation that the most devastating type of bomb ever created by mankind is very obvious, the film does not answer the question, “Why does this exist?” In order to not repeat the mistakes of the past, people must remember their history, and the Cold War Era that still has significant lingering effects to this day.

    Removing the historical context is an important part of a remix, but at the same time, art is supposed to be a reflection of the time that is created. A film like Conner’s “A Movie” could not have existed before the time in which he created it because it is tied to the emergence of consumer technology that allowed him to mix together several different aspects of “found footage, ” remake and re-contextualize it into something vague semblance of a plot, and distribute it as art. “A Movie” could not have been created earlier because there was neither the technology nor any social structures to support such an endeavor.


  17. What stands out to me most about this form is its accessibility. It is accessible to the maker in that it only requires the ability to edit, sans advanced editing skill or unique equipment. It is accessible to the viewer in its lack of conventional narrative but combination of images that can, with the participation of their audience, present themselves as coherent.

    This genre capitalizes on the human desire to fill in gaps and create stories. Furthermore, it illuminates our innate inability to view things in orders that read as nonsensical or uncomfortable to us. Conner first makes it clear to his audience that any sort of true detectable narrative will not exist within “A MOVIE” when he first reveals the title card “The End” at a point which is definitively far from the film’s end, and displays it again upside down shortly thereafter.

    A primary difference between Conner’s work and the cut-ups we studied last week, then, is the lack of randomness. That is not to say that none of Conner’s work is random; it certainly feels as though it is. But Conner’s films are more carefully curated than cut-ups are. He seeks to make thematic points, which he discusses as reflections of the “real world” (85). Also, rather than pulling his source material from a single pool, he seeks variety.

    Conner’s medleys— his juxtaposition of spliced-together footage with songs that keep moving forward— sew together a notion that we, as viewers, are supposed to be taking away something fairly deliberate from his work. Though it is unclear what that something may be, perhaps, on a most basic level, the form itself serves as a critique of the “archive fever” Baron describes.


  18. Bruce Connor’s works, mixing together video clips from a variety parts of American culture and history, were unique and revolutionary among the other films of this time. However, both the interview with Connor and Baron’s essay acknowledge the prevalence of appropriated video footage, but for less self-referential purposes. Connor discusses how his influences for his films drew from sources such as low-budget movies that utilized the same exact scene or footage as background or transition in their otherwise original movies. He also referenced movie trailers and weekly short-movie series in revealing to him “that you can create an emotional response which is very different from what was socially agreed upon as a narrative structure” (Connor 79). Connor’s films certainly lacked this clear narrative structure, and instead are a compile of clips in a haphazard stream, which he notes resembles flipping through television channels. However, a more relevant comparison in today’s society would be to a social media stream of viral videos. Utilizing footage of real events and other aspects of popular culture, Connor portrays an image of reality in an artistic form, similar to Warhol and other visual appropriation artists we studied.
    By viewing Connor’s works in a museum and understanding them as art, we are asked to understand and analyze them more critically and not as objective representations of reality. Jamie Baron discusses how the study and discourse surrounding history shifted in putting more emphasis on understanding the framework through which historical events are written and depicted in specific ways. Historians and other scholars questioned the nature and objectivity of archival as well. Baron references Foucault who “saw [archives] as a particular structure of power in which particular kinds of documents are kept in a particular order” (Baron 3). Connor’s work subverts such structure and uses or possibly appropriates the methods of more recent historical and archival practices to use footage he believed was “curious or interesting, absurd or peculiar” (Connor 83). Instead of attempting to portray an objective narrative of history, Connor’s works use found footage to bring forth a discussion on how historical and archival narratives are created; thereby expanding the definitions of both art and archives.


  19. Bruce Conner states, “Many times when making the films, I have not been able to consciously understand what they are communicating. I’ve been able to talk about them after the fact, but that doesn’t necessarily represent what they are ” (83). As a renowned artist, most people might have expected Conner to understand the method behind his own madness. Yet, he claimed talking about his films did not really settle what they are or what they mean. So do they have a meaning? Does this meaning matter?

    In A MOVIE, random sequences of American events flash across the screen. There seems to be some type of continuity to these videos, or something profound connecting them all, but as Conner stated, he doesn’t even understand his own work. As viewers, commentators and consumers, we ultimately want to understand what is presented to us, even if it’s in the most abstract of forms, we inherently want to make sense of it. We need to digest it in a way that makes sense to us or at least leaves us feeling that we know a little bit of what’s going on. Even as I watched A MOVIE, I was trying to connect the dots and find the bigger picture of what it all means. But in reading how Conner is still confused himself even as the creator, I think this is where the importance of rearrangement and assemblage come in. If Conner doesn’t understand the work itself, why should we? I think it’s good that we’re left to our own creative devices to create something new that forces us to push the regular boundaries of thought . Conner claims how all footage is “found footage for an editor,” and even though it’s the same footage, the original intent is gone. I like the idea of being suspended over this abyss of unlimited possibilities as to what A MOVIE could be about, or the endless new meanings given to the “found footage.” The plethora of possibilities brings to a light a new conversation that causes us as viewers to not only question Conner’s intent, but our own thought process, why we think the way we do, and why we’re so compelled to put everything into a box. In A MOVIE, Conner is freeing these boxes and creating a new space that allows more expansive thought not confined to any type of high art, pretentious standards.


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