Projection and discussion
Tony Conrad19 Oct 2022
The event is over
Having graduated with a degree in mathematics from Harvard University in 1962, Tony Conrad (1940-2016) quickly became a central figure on the New York experimental artistic scene in the 1960s and 1970s. A musician, composer, performer, filmmaker, writer and professor, the American artist developed a protean body of work that deliberately escapes all attempts at categorisation.
Having started in The Theater of Eternal Music, the group founded by composer La Monte Young, in which featured Terry Jennings, Dennis Johnson, Terry Riley, Marian Zazeela, John Cale and Angus MacLise, Tony Conrad became interested in film and participated as an actor, sound engineer and musician in the films of his friends: Jack Smith (Normal Love, 1963-1965, Flaming Creatures, 1962-1963), Ron Rice (Chumlum, 1964) and Piero Heliczer (Joan of Arc, 1967). Experimenting with the effects of the stroboscope on the mechanisms of visual perception, he set about making a series of flickering films, The Flicker (1966) remaining the most accomplished and most commented example. In an interview with Toby Mussman, published in 1966 in the review Film Culture [no. 41, summer 1966], Conrad reviews the hallucinatory effects produced by his film, indicating that he had envisaged them "in terms of coloured variations and abstract configurations, something like what we see when we shut our eyes and press lightly on the eyelid". Without any arithmetic progression or systematised structure, The Flicker constitutes a pure event of progressive intermittent and circular luminous projections whose frame rate is situated between twenty-four and four per second. Conrad applied the same processes for his film The Eye of the Count Flickerstein (1967), but this time by refilming the television snow scattering randomly on the surface of a television screen. In 1970 he completed his experiments by making Straight and Narrow (1970) with his wife, Beverly Conrad. The phenomena of flickering and light intensity were again used to reinforce the effects of coloured perceptions. Accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Terry Riley and John Cale (Ides of March), the film again testifies to the rigour of Tony Conrad's research into perception, which led him to invent a codification system for the colours contained in the light spectrum of cinematographic projection.
The Flicker, 1966, 16mm, black and white, sound, 30 min
The Eye of Count Flickerstein, 1967-1975, 16mm, black and white, silent, 7 min
Straight and Narrow, co-director Beverly Conrad, 1970, 16mm, black and white, sound, 10 min
Acknowledgements: LUX (London), Cinédoc (Paris). The National Museum of Modern Art preserves 16mm copies in its collections of the films The Flicker (1966) and Straight and Narrow (1970).
19h - 21h