Bruce Conner's Crossroads and The Exploding Digital Inevitable by Ross Lipman
In 1958, A Movie established Bruce Conner’s reputation as pioneer of the unformatted documentary. In 1976, his film Crossroads set a new standard for what can be drawn from an immeasurable amount of archive material: The first underwater nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll took place in July 1946 and is said to be the most photographed event in human history. To this day, Conner’s montage from the original footage is the deepest meditation on the nuclear age. In particular the soundtrack and its sophisticated connection to the images transmit the experience of the unspeakable horror in face of the incomprehensible.
For ten years, documentary filmmaker, conservator and film scholar Ross Lipman has worked on the restoration of Crossroads. He presents his new digital edition of Conner’s opus magnum integrated into a two part “live-documentary-essay”: with sound documents, archive material and interviews – amongst others with composers Patrick Gleeson and Terry Riley - Lipman recounts the astonishing production history of Crossroads. In an entertaining and always surprising way, he points at the tangible marks that the nuclear tests left on popular culture. His sharp analysis shows, how the monstrosity, little by little, was aestheticized, banalized and made “utilizable” for political and ideological purposes. In times when individual global players revive the idea of nuclear weapon use as a real option, Lipman’s documentary essay can provide a potent antidote.
Ross Lipman is an independent filmmaker, archivist and essayist. His films have screened throughout the world and been collected by museums and institutions including the Academy Film Archive, Anthology Film Archives, and Munich's Sammlung Goetz. His 2015 work, Notfilm, was named one of the 10 best films of the year by ARTFORUM, SLATE, and many others and was screened at DOKUARTS in 2016. Formerly Senior Film Restorationist at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, his many restorations include Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep, Kent Mackenzie's The Exiles, the Academy Award-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, and works by Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Robert Altman, and John Cassavetes. He was a 2008 recipient of Anthology Film Archives' Preservation Honors, and is a three-time win-ner of the National Society of Film Critics' Heritage Award. His essays on film history, technology, and aesthetics have been published in Artforum, Sight and Sound, and numerous academic books and journals. His most recent film restorations are Thom Andersen's Eadweard Muybridge, Zo-opraxographer and the film Crossroads.