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Tony Conrad

Tony Conrad played a vital role in the organization of both Minimal Music and the Structural Film.

At the IMPAKT-festival Tony Conrad performed a piece for violin and string ensemble, in which he quoted himself and reflected upon his own role in Minimal Music.

The following selection of Tony Conrad’s film and video work was presented at IMPAKT-festival.

Long-shot/Run/Dead (1986-1990, 11 min., video)
The First Intermediate Period, around 2025 BC, saw a remarkable array of innovations in Egyptian thought and civil order. After the death of Pepy the First, the longest-reigning monarch in history, none of the numerous claimants to his sacred throne was able to reverse the dire drought which announced the modern incursions of the Sahara into Egypt; one after the other the ‘seventy pharaohs in seventy days’ was secretly denounced and executed. In the same period, Egypt was visited by refugees filtering in across the eastern and western sands.
Local power-wielding nobles went unopposed for the first time in a Millenium, and they aspired to the same privileges as pharaohs in the afterworld (‘the west’). For the first time, man and women won rights of private ownership, of contracted marriages and of entry to the West (with a proper burial). Remarkably, individuals began reflecting upon the world around them in writing and the first introspective literature was invented. ‘Long-shot/Run/Dead’ immerses itself in this concentration of catastrophes and covers areas concerning family, gender, writing, law, civil order, religion, personal identity and death.

Lookers (1984-1990, 3 min., video)
An analytical crisis ensues when the viewer’s activity is accounted for within the work: without a (historical) closure, there can be no criteria of quality, nor a universal reference for judgment. Postmodern discourse has at least made a down-payment on this cost to theory. ‘Lookers’ seeks a different answer by moving against the tide; it explores the inclusion of discipline itself within the realm of interactions which encompass the work and the viewer.

The Eye of Count Flickerstein (1967-1975, 7 min., film)
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as Thomas Richards points out, is “a creature capable of both sudden and lasting mutations of form” and “as a mutant, Count Dracula poses a direct threat to the order of things…”

Straight and Narrow (1970, 10 min., film)
Just as Benham’s top forces the eye to find delicate hues in the pattern on a moving black and white disk, this film explores the minimal sterility of its four sets of stripes into tumultuous subjective action and colour. Produced with Beverly Grant Conrad, with music by John Cale and Terry Riley.

4-X Attack (1974, 2 min., film)
Made by hammering the film to shreds in the dark, ‘4-X Attack’ is a filmic record of pressure rather than light. The small roll of war surplus machine-gun film had to be developed by hand in a net; the cataloguing and reassembly of the fragments like a dinosaur or an ancient pot took three weeks using tweezers and a glass.

Redressing Down (1988, 18 min., video)
The sexual economy of television space. In the body of television, the audience is objectified as furnishings for the architectural and social spaces of a protagonist. The commodification of television space inverts the sexual distance between the violated (consumed) body of the subject and the (non-present) viewer. ‘Redressing Down’ uses the distance between the body and architectural/environmental space as a metaphor for the relationship between maker and viewer. It invokes the body in relation to personal living space, in that personal living space constructs an essential site for mediated social activity. A series of vignettes each of which grips the viewer in a setting of psychic expectancy constructs a psychological and cultural ‘virtual reality’ – each viewer’s feedback into the tapes is their own theatrical construction of the tape’s event.

No Europe (1990, 14 min., video)
‘No Europe’ is an ironic white American recasting of native American culture in pre-colonial history, told as a dream.

In Line (1985, 7 min., video)
A trisection of the spectator’s power over their own image language: word, trance and command are installed as valences of the artist’s license; revealed as figures of parental authority. How peculiar that people like being an audience because they enjoy their submission to the authority to 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 care or a good cry. Well, what happens when you submit to a program that refuses to be polite about your closet masochism?

 


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