Ostensibly capturing the pulse of contemporary art in California, this year’s Biennal expansively includes the works of more than thirty artists on site – and a dozen more have projects off-site from Joshua Tree to San Francisco. The inclusion of Bruce Conner’s fourteen-minute film loop, Looking for Mushrooms (1959-65/1996), a mesmerizing series of atomic mushroom clouds exploding in the Bikini Atoll, reveals guest curator Lauri Firstenberg’s bias towards social scrutiny and new media. Possibly one of the oldest works exhibited (nearly all the works were made within the last two years – if not specifically for the show), this film harkens back to activism fueled by drug-fueled mind expansion. The more recent works are more sober and range from mechanical hydraulic tops spinning a silk skirt to a barrage of political signage on the lawn in front of the museum: most have the spare, practical feel of the thinking work often created in the art school-driven milieu today (Orange County Museum of Art, Orange County)

[I tried to find the film on youtube, but apparently Bruce Conner has not “authorized” any web release of his work, but if you click on any of the images, which are originally from the National Archives in Washington DC, you can PURCHASE the DVD. Get with the times people. Wouldn’t a viral video of the work be so much more in step with bridging the activism of the sixties with the activism of today?]

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