Basel 2018
Paula Cooper Gallery
16mm film, black-and-white, sound, digitally restored (2016)
One of the foremost American artists of the postwar era, Bruce Conner created artwork in a vast range of media, including pioneering works of film. Shot by Conner on 16mm black-and-white film, BREAKAWAY surpassed in formal daring the majority of film work made at that time, and helped to define what would become the modern music video. Newly restored by Michelle Silva and the Conner Trust, BREAKAWAY is a dynamic five-minute homage to the female form, counterculture, pop music, and the kinetic possibility of cinema. Filming Toni Basil dancing and writhing frenetically to her song ‘Breakaway,’ with music by Ed Cobb, Conner’s camera moves around her in a kind of conjoined action, zooming in and out at dazzling speeds such that Basil seems to blur out of existence. Employing multiple frame rates, Conner fuses a sense of ephemeral evanescence in the figure with a sensual flickering of the celluloid. Rapid vibrations of dark and light as well as fast-cut film edits transform the image into a phantom of itself. In the film’s second half, everything is repeated backwards. As the song plays in a distorted reversed iteration, an abstracted mediation of film is brought to the fore.