Hecho en Mexico: Bruce Conner’s Border Crossings
In October 1962, the American artist and experimental filmmaker Bruce Conner (1933–2008) left Mexico City, having relocated there from California a year earlier. Driving north across the border into Texas, he arrived back in the U.S. during the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Though nuclear paranoia was already a major theme in Conner’s work, this talk argues that the timing of this cross-border homecoming—synced, as it was, to an especially tense moment of Cold War political theater—throws into relief the cultural politics of his early 1960s practice, particularly his embrace of psychedelic aesthetics. Focusing on the two films he made while living in Mexico, Cosmic Ray (1961) and Looking for Mushrooms (1959–1967), alongside drawings from his “Hecho en Mexico” series, this talk examines how Conner marshals the twin motifs of “border crossing” and atomic anxiety in order to illuminate the sublimated politics of race, gender, and nation in his practice at the dawn of the so-called psychedelic sixties.
Johanna Gosse is currently an Assistant Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Idaho and the Executive Editor of Media-N: Journal of the New Media Caucus. In 2015, she received an Arts Writers grant for her book project Imitation of Life: Ray Johnson’s Network Aesthetics. She has written four catalogue essays for the forthcoming Johnson retrospective opening at the Art Institute of Chicago this October, and she is coeditor (with Timothy Stott) of Nervous Systems: Art, Systems, and Politics since the 1960s, forthcoming from Duke University Press in 2021.