It was 1998 and our film night HIPNOTISMO was just kicking off. Held in the old Theatreworks hall in St Kilda, we were nineteen and full of beans. Amiel, Dorian and I were excited to show Conner’s MONGOLOID, a found-footage music video before music video. We had the reel of 16mm film from the state film centre, the projector was in working order and we had a half-full auditorium of late-night buffs. The 1978 film cuts together post-WW2 science experiments, nuclear tests and monochromatic chemistry animations, all wildly out of context, with the plasticated future-retro new wave of Akron’s favourite sons DEVO pulsing behind the high-school science. All very influential to us young artists and film-makers. We doubled MONGOLOID with MONGRELOID, George Kuchar’s 1978 film of a man and his intimate relationship with Bocko the dog.
In a perverse twist Bruce Conner’s MONGOLOID is unavailable on YouTube, due to a copyright infringement notice. Did the estate of Conner submit an objection? It never ceases to amaze me how precious stake-holders can be with found-footage work, to the point of placing their own copyright symbol on the tail of a video. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. It comes from the unsolicited pile of visual culture around us, it goes back to it, given a spin by the consumer/producer. Value-added organic compost in the electrified slurry of appearances, images and signs.
R.I.P. BRUCE CONNER
DEVO play Australia and Japan in July and August – sing along with MONGOLOID very loud.