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Stills from Bruce Conner’s Breakaway   (© Bruce Conner)

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Esopus 3 (Fall 2004)
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100 Frames: Breakaway (1966)

Film by Bruce Conner; poem by Doug Aitken

Bruce Conner’s nearly 20 short films range in length from 10 seconds to 37 minutes. One of his best-known, and this issue’s “100 Frames” selection, is 1966’s BREAKAWAY, which takes its name—and its soundtrack—from a two-and-a-half-minute pop song released that same year by the film’s subject, singer and actress Toni Basil. Using a handheld 16mm camera, Conner filmed Basil dancing, leaping, kicking, and posing in a variety of costumes (and states of undress) over the course of several hours, then edited down the footage to create one of the key works of experimental cinema. The frames are reproduced on a 17" x 22" removable poster, which is accompanied by a poem written especially for the issue by artist Doug Aitken.

Born in Kansas in 1933, Bruce Conner moved in 1957 to San Francisco, where he soon became recognized for his nylon-shrouded assemblages of found objects combined with collaged or painted surfaces. In the late ’50s, Conner began making a series of short experimental films that established him as one of the major figures in postwar independent filmmaking. He has continued to work in a variety of media, including inkblot drawings, photograms, collages, and black-wax sculptures. His work, featured in countless exhibitions here and abroad, was the subject of a major traveling survey organized by Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center in 2000. Conner short films include Easter Morning, His Eye Is on the Sparrow, and Looking for Mushrooms.

Los Angeles and New York-based artist Doug Aitken’s work has been featured in the 1999 Venice Biennale (where his piece Electric Earth won the Primo Internazionale), the 2000 Whitney Biennial, and The Museum of Modern Art, among other venues. The subject of a Phaidon Press monograph in 2001, Aitken has also directed music videos for Fatboy Slim, Barenaked Ladies, and ZZ Top.