Saturday, October 11, 2008

WHY I STOPPED MAKING EXPERIMENTAL FILMS

I received this e-mail today concerning my recent posting on Bruce Conner's "Looking For Mushrooms"--

I am writing on behalf of Jean Conner, wife of the late Bruce Conner
and rights holder to all of his art and films. I have just viewed
your blog with Bruce Conner's LOOKING FOR MUSHROOMS available for
download, which must be removed immediately.

I understand this was posted as an homage and an effort to share his
work, however, Bruce Conner was strictly opposed to ever having his
work on the internet. He felt It destroyed his aesthetics, the
image quality, and the experience of the work itself. This is not an
appropriate way to revere Bruce Conner. Due to this clear violation
of copyright, this is an order to cease and desist. If this is not
addressed immediately, the Conner Family will pursue further action to
have this removed. I have informed the Kohn Gallery of the intent
for illegal duplication of the DVD which they have produced of
CROSSROADS and LOOKING FOR MUSHROOMS.

Please remove all contents of this page and any reference to this
material.

Regards,

Michelle Silva, on behalf of Jean Conner
The Conner Family Trust

My first response, as with any request I've received from an artist or representative, was to remove the offending material immediately as requested. In the past I've had no issues with the methods used in bringing the objection to my attention, but the threatening tone of this one along with some idiotic reasoning just made me need to address this.

This is a perfect example of why experimental film is now a dead genre. The egos, greed and uber-formalism of people like Conner, Brakhage and others of their generation resulted in comments like this:

Bruce Conner was strictly opposed to ever having his work on the internet. He felt It destroyed his aesthetics, the image quality, and the experience of the work itself.

Bullshit. You can't experience art in a vacuum, and these idiots destroyed any possibility of future audiences appreciating their work. First it was "oh, my films are meant to be watched on film only, never video". Well, guess what--Kodak isn't even going to be making film stock to make prints pretty soon. Then some gallery throws a bunch of money and faux-prestige their way, and suddenly it's ok to show your work on video. As long as you can charge $40 a copy for two short films.

Oh and, hate to break it to you, but soon EVERYTHING WILL BE DIGITAL AND ON COMPUTERS. Film is dead, video is on its way out. Deal with it, evolve, or the works of people like Bruce Conner will be forgotten.

It's this neophobia and unwillingness to embrace future technologies that killed experimental film as a viable art form and there's no reason for it. Art is about sharing, growing, trying new things (it is called "experimental" film after all....) and attitudes like this are what stiffle and kill creativity and what will make works like "Looking For Mushrooms" eventually obsolete except to the elitists. It's a damn shame.

6 comments:

Tim said...

Hi, Just came across your blog searching cause I've never seen Conner's films and sadly I can't find them anywhere on the net! I totally agree with you, though I'm kinda new at this experimental film thing, I just feel like I have so many ideas in my head I just have to get them out there any way I can, and I don't have time for elitism and greed! Man I bet Conner is laughing all the way to the heavenly bank at $35 a pop (I heard he lived in a mansion and drove a Cadillac!) Anyway, it sounds like you know what you're talking about and I was wondering what advice you might be able to give as I'm pretty new to computers, final cut and so on...I really want to make movies with a 'now' medium and avoid the pitfalls of single-minded dedication to tangible objects of art. (Although I must admit I'm still fascinated by celluloid--it's so cool and retro, I hope we will still be able to use it for certain things in the future.)

jay said...

Hi Tim, thanks for posting. Unfortunately it's becoming harder and harder to see great experimental cinema because of the limitations discussed. It's become an elitist exercise where you can only watch films (old or new) on overpriced 16mm prints from Canyon Cinema or the Video Data Bank, and even then they often won't rent to anyone but "institutions" (i.e. universities and museums). Makes sense, seeing as they're the only places that could afford them.

You'd think more people would embrace the internet as a means of distributing great work to the masses, but unfortunately greed and egos get in the way. The future of experimental cinema will be in the hands of those who say "fuck off" to the old, antiquated philosophies of elitism and greed, pick up a camera, put their visions onto video and distribute it to everyone they possibly can using the wonderful new technologies of distribution available.

LE CINEMA DU PAPA EST MORT

jay said...

Looks like I'm not the only one disgusted by the greed and neophobia of the Conner estate; a good discussion here:

http://blogs.walkerart.org/filmvideo/2008/07/08/bruce-conner-1933-2008/

ben said...

well said!

Peter said...

I totally agree with you! I don't have TV, don't watch DVDs, and do everything online (watch movies, tv shows, get news- EVERYTHING). I agree artists need to make money from their works, but once an artist is gone - their work should be public access. Greedy families deserve nothing of their ancestors except the respect they received.

siys said...

Odd, an artist who often worked from pilfering the work of others would be opposed to sharing his work online! How do you steal other work for your own art and then have the nuts to copyright it for yourself?

To a degree I understand the aesthetic of wanting people to see your films projected for the pure experience, but an artist has to surrender to the audience and not dictate how that art be appreciated.

No one would argue that a film projected is ideal to a lo-res compressed video online, however, being able to experience the past on current technology is where we are at right now and I am personally all for digitally preserving analog works.

I'm an artist and back in the day created several works* directly influenced by Conner. However, unlike Conner and many other artist, I am wholly opposed to copyrighting or selling my work and prefer to share it freely with all who care to experience it.

*Search "stevo in yr studio" on YouTube if you want to see them.

Thanks for sharing the "cease and desist" letter. Until I read it I wasn't clear on the exact reason all of Conner's films were removed from the Internet.

I do question, just how opposed Bruce was to his work online, because it is apparent that the major effort to remove all his work online has been after his death.