Artist and filmmaker Bruce Conner’s (1933–2008) mobility was severely limited for the last five years of his life, when he rarely left the San Francisco home he shared with his wife, Jean. To aid in his physical navigation of its spaces, he worked with assistants to install a succession of solid brass handles in each and every room—surrounding the stove, down the boat-like stairwell, inside the recesses of the bedroom closet. At last count, the handles, a labyrinth of critical support, numbered 163. Still in situ after his death in 2008, the handles are arguably Conner’s last great work—at once physical and metaphysical, fragmentary and elusive, elegant and anonymous. Together, they draft the ghost architecture of Conner’s final years, transforming the pedestrian into something altogether different.
"It was the morning after Bruce died. The doorbell rang. I was surprised to see the UPS man who had been delivering in our neighborhood for many years with a large box. I couldn’t think. What could it be? Then I realized from the label that it must have been more brass handles. I keep thinking now about how flustered I was that morning. When he said he had a package for Bruce I just blurted out, 'Bruce is dead!' He was pretty startled and said he was sorry to hear that. I told him I didn’t want the package, I didn’t know what to do with more brass handles. He said it was alright, he would just send them back. And that's what he did."
Will Brown is a collaborative project founded by Lindsey White, Jordan Stein and David Kasprzak. Formerly based in a San Francisco storefront, Will Brown’s main objective is to manipulate the structures of exhibition-making as a critical practice. Will Brown recently mounted a solo exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive.