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FRIDAY

A disorienting rush of images jumbles across the screen: guns firing, Mickey Mouse, a striptease, flashes of light, a reversed piece of a dental-education film—all cut to the stomping rhythm of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say.” It’s 1961, and Bruce Conner has just invented the rock video. That film, Cosmic Ray, did not presage the artist-filmmaker’s work on commercial promo shorts; he’s always kept his independent outlook and mode, editing black-and-white stock footage into unexpected montages in a style loosely derived from both Eisenstein and the Marx Brothers. But Conner did go on to do live light-and-film shows at the Fillmore during the Jefferson Airplane era, make a film with dancer-singer Toni Basil 16 years before “Mickey” made her a star, and edit other shorts to Devo’s “Mongoloid” and David Byrne and Brian Eno’s “America Is Waiting.” Music and semiclad dancers are recurring motifs of Conner’s films, but so are A-bomb explosions, like the one at Bikini Beach (pictured), and the John F. Kennedy assassination, which is the “subject” of Television Assassination and a major element in Report. Since 1981’s America Is Waiting, Conner has worked mostly on his drawings, and, indeed, this retrospective marks the Hirshhorn’s recent acquisition of one of his pen-and-ink pieces. Yet such shorts as A Movie and Take the 5:10 to Dreamland argue that the artist did some of his most distinctive work with sound and light. The program screens at 8 p.m. Friday, March 30, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 7th and Independence Avenue SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Mark Jenkins)