Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 7pm
Tony Conrad: Movie Show
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Presented with Primary Information
Introduced by Constance DeJong and Andrew Lampert
I want art to stand strong, to display how it manipulates its audience. I want it to take up their expectations, their sense of the world, their predispositions toward the way they think or use their language, and then to use these things perversely, politically, colorfully, “expressively.”
- Tony Conrad, “Dolomite: Having No Trust in Readers”
Tony Conrad (1940–2016) was an artist known for his groundbreaking art, music, films, and videos, although his work doesn’t fit comfortably within any of these disciplines. He eschewed categorization and actively sought to challenge the constraints of media forms, their modes of production, and the relationships of power embedded within them.
Newly published by Primary Information, Writings is the first collection to widely survey this singular polymath’s prolific activity as a writer. Edited by artists Constance DeJong and Andrew Lampert, the book spans the years 1961–2012 and includes fifty-seven pieces: essays originally published in small press magazines, exhibition catalogs, anthologies, and album liner notes, along with other previously unpublished texts. He devotes critical essays both to grand subjects—horology, neurolinguistics, and the historical development of Western music—and more quotidian topics, such as television advertising and camouflage. He also writes on media activism, network communications, censorship, and the political and cultural implications of corporate and global media. Its release has occasioned our show this evening.
Conrad’s writings on cinema form a substantial portion of the anthology, with entries concerning particular works of his like The Flicker, Loose Connection, Articulation of Boolean Algebra for Film Opticals, and the “Yellow Movies,” as well as numerous theoretical forays into the nature of moving image art. Our program surveys Conrad’s film and video output over several decades, marking his shift between these two technologies with a rare screening of Film Feedback, Conrad’s remarkable attempt to create the structures and effects of electronic feedback using celluloid. The screening also includes his final experiment in the flicker film, Straight and Narrow, made with his then-wife Beverly Conrad; early analog videotape documentation of Conrad explaining and displaying his fried and pickled films to an astonished audience at the Carnegie Museum of Art in 1974; his first video, Cycles of 3s and 7s, a digital exercise in computational rhythms; Movie Show, in which Conrad manipulates footage from of his earlier film Articulation of Boolean Algebra for Film Opticals; the rare musical performance video Accordion; and In Line, a psycho-reflexive study in maker-viewer power dynamics.
Straight and Narrow, Beverly and Tony Conrad, 1970, 16mm, 10 mins
“Straight and Narrow is a study in subjective color and visual rhythm. Although it is printed on black and white film, the hypnotic pacing of the images will cause viewers to experience a programmed gamut of hallucinatory color effects. Straight and Narrow uses the flicker phenomenon, not as an end in itself, but as an effectuator of other related phenomena. In this film the colors which are so illusory in The Flicker are visible and under the programmed control of the filmmaker. Also, by using images which alternate in a vibrating flickering schedule, a new impression of motion and texture is created.” - B&TC
Film Feedback, Tony Conrad, 1974, 16mm, 14 mins
“Made with a film-feedback team which I directed at Antioch College. Negative image is shot from a small rear-projection screen, the film comes out of the camera continuously (in the dark room) and is immediately processed, dried, and projected on the screen by the team. What are the qualities of film that may be made visible through feedback?” - TC
Lecture and Screening with Tony Conrad at Carnegie Museum of Art for Independent Film Makers Series, Carnegie Museum of Art Department of Film and Video, 1974, digital projection, 10 mins (excerpt)
Cycles of 3s and 7s, Tony Conrad, 1977, digital projection, 12 mins
“Cycles of 3s and 7s is a doubled statement. First and foremost, it is a commentary on computer art and the role of computers in video. Secondly, its arithmetic project has some bearing on the construction of musical scales. In reclaiming the computer as a performance instrument, I intended that the human operator must compete directly with the computer, doing what the computer does best. The selection of a simple hand calculator was a deliberate denial of the computer aesth/ethic of bigger, faster: computer art must be doable within even the most modest architecture. Cycles of 3s and 7s shows that it is not the answer that ‘counts,’ but the pleasure in getting there. Simple rote calculation is turned into rhythm and song; accuracy of gesture and count become a game. These are ‘stories’ about numbers, the kind machines should like to hear and tell—if they ‘liked.’” - TC
Movie Show, Tony Conrad, 1977, digital projection, 6 mins
“A curiosity, Movie Show looks backward to the era of structural films, particularly Ken Jacobs’s Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son. The clip of film used in this performance is taken from my Articulation of Boolean Algebra for Film Opticals, the work with which I closed out my interest in combinatorial and logical structures.” - TC
Accordion, Tony Conrad, 1981, digital projection, 5 mins
“A man, an accordion, a ladder, and a video camera. It’s as simple as that.” - AL
In Line, Tony Conrad, 1985, digital projection, 7 mins
“How peculiar that people like being an audience because they enjoy their submission to the authority of the program. This ritual of being dominated is a conspiracy with themselves that we enjoy but refuse to acknowledge. ‘Oh, no. I don’t like TV because I’m submissive; it’s because it makes me feel good.’ The programs are always carefully crafted to be sensitive to people’s self-protectiveness, even if they offer a good scare, or a good cry. Well, if this is all true, what happens when, by chance, you submit to a program that refuses to be polite about your closet masochism? That tells all?” - TC
Tickets - $8, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 6:30pm.
Above: Tony Conrad, diagram for Film Feedback, 1974.