100 Frames: Breakaway (1966)

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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.

Bruce Conner (1933–2008) was a director, actor, and cinematographer. Born in Kansas, he studied at Wichita State University and later at the University of Nebraska, where he graduated in 1956 with a B.F.A. He moved to San Francisco in 1957, soon becoming recognized for his nylon-shrouded assemblages of found objects combined with collaged or painted surfaces. In the late ’50s, Conner made a series of short experimental films that established him as one of the major figures in postwar independent filmmaking. He continued to work in various media, including inkblot drawings, photograms, collages, and black wax sculptures. His work, featured in countless exhibitions in the United States and abroad, was the subject of a major traveling survey organized by Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center in 2000. In 2016, It’s All True, a retrospective of Conner’s career, opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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. Over the past decade, his work has been featured in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Inhotim Museum in Brazil, the Seattle Art Museum, the Barbican Center in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.