Departing from the stock footage that characterizes Bruce Conner’s earlier films, LOOKING FOR MUSHROOMS (1959–67/1996) is his first color film and consists of footage he shot while living in Mexico in 1961–62, as well as some earlier shots of him and his wife, Jean, in San Francisco. Building on the rapid rhythms of A MOVIE (1958) and BREAKAWAY (1966), and introducing multiple-exposure sequences, it is a psychedelic, meditative travelogue of rural Mexico, featuring sumptuously colorful images of the natural world, villages, and religious iconography. Most of the footage was shot while the Conners roamed the hillsides seeking psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, sometimes joined by psychologist Timothy Leary, who appears briefly in the film. Conner showed early versions of this film as a loop. In 1967 he added a soundtrack: the song “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles. In 1996 he created a longer version of the film that repeats each frame five times, which he set to music by experimental composer Terry Riley.
LOOKING FOR MUSHROOMS. 1959–67/1996. 16 mm film (color, sound), 14:30 min. Music: “Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band” (1968), composed and performed by Terry Riley. Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Accessions Committee Fund purchase), with the generous support of the New Art Trust. Courtesy Conner Family Trust
This is the first in an ongoing series that makes film and video works from MoMA’s collection available online.