Although his work ranged from assemblage pieces - collage sculptures made from nylon stockings, parts of furniture, broken dolls, fur, costume jewellery, paint, photographs and candles, reclaiming objects that had been discarded and neglected - to mysterious mandala designs, photograms of his own body, ink-blot, Rorschach-like drawings and avant-garde films, all had a blend of humour, iconoclasm and intransigence.
Always afraid of selling out, Conner, as a committed oppositional artist, gradually withdrew from the art world in the late 1970s after he became part of the San Francisco punk scene, working as a staff photographer for the "punkzine" Search and Destroy. During that time, he spent most of his nights at a club called the Mabuhay. "I lost a lot of brain cells at the Mabuhay," he explained. "What are you gonna do listening to hours of incomprehensible rock'n'roll but drink? I became an alcoholic, and it took me a few years to deal with that." Yet, despite the woozy atmosphere, he delivered sharp and characterful photos.
Influenced by dada and surrealism and the found objects of Marcel Duchamp, Conner first gained attention with his assemblage art, exhibiting at the Alan gallery in New York. His movie-making dated back to when he ran a film society at the University of Colorado. He invited Stan Brakhage to show his experimental films there, and Brakhage advised Conner to make films. The consequence was Movie (1958), a 12-minute collage of stock or found footage which moves from the comic (crazy races, a chase scene involving cars and cowboys) to the disturbing (shivering refugees, an execution, air crashes), questioning the way we view a film.
In 1967, he had his first experience of commercial film-making when he shot a 14-minute film on location during the making of Cool Hand Luke, starring Paul Newman, in which his friend Dennis Hopper had a small role. It was released unedited (Hopper claimed that "much of the editing of Easy Rider came directly from watching Bruce's films").
Conner continued to make his own short films including Crossroads (1976) in which the 1952 atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll becomes a thing of terrible beauty when shown in extreme slow motion from 27 different angles. As countercultural as ever, one of his last films was America Is Waiting (1981), which lampoons US military might to a song by Brian Eno and David Byrne.