Doing the City: Urban Community Interventions
Curated by 80wse staff curator, Michael Cohen, 80wse
NYU/Steinhardt School of Art and Art Professions
September 12 - November 3, 2012
Opening September 12, 6 - 8 pm
80WSE is proud to present the first institutional solo survey of work by Tony Conrad in 22 years. Tony Conrad is a pioneering American avant-garde video artist, experimental filmmaker, musician/composer, sound artist, teacher and writer, whose work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, Documenta, Venice Biennale, Tate Modern, LA Museum of Contemporary Art, and many others. He exhibits at Greene Naftali Gallery in New York and Galerie Daniel Buchholz in Berlin and Cologne. His film The Flicker was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art's exhibition, The American Century.
In the early 1970s Conrad produced several series of works that severely stretched the limits of “film,” including his cooked and electrocuted films, and the “Yellow Movie” series, which is represented today in numerous museum collections.
Conrad's most famous film, The Flicker (1966), is considered a key early work of the structural film movement. The film consists solely of completely black and completely white images, which, as the title suggests, produces a flicker when projected. When the film was first screened several viewers in the audience went into hypnotic trances or became physically ill because of the rapid light flashes.
Conrad has been a faculty member in the State University of New York at Buffalo since 1976, in the Department of Media Study. His art was prominently featured in the catalogue and exhibition "Buffalo Heads" at Germany's Center for Art and Media Technology (ZKM). This renowned exhibition and catalogue documented the work produced by Conrad, Paul Sharits, Hollis Frampton, and others who taught in this program during its 70's heyday.
In music, Conrad was a co-founder of the Theatre of Eternal Music, nicknamed The Dream Syndicate, which included John Cale, Angus MacLise, La Monte Young, and Marion Zazeela, and utilized intonation and sustained sound to produce what the group called "dream music" (and is now called drone music). The group is considered by many music aficionados to be an important precursor to both contemporary rock music via the Velvet Underground and avant-garde minimalist music. In fact the Velvet's name was coined when Lou Reed and John Cale found a book entitled The Velvet Underground, which had belonged to Conrad, after moving into his former apartment on Ludlow Street in New York City.
Conrad's first musical release was Outside the Dream Syndicate, a 1972 collaboration with the German "Krautrock" group Faust, considered a classic of minimalist music and drone music. This was followed by releases on Table of the Elements, including Early Minimalism Volume 1, a four-CD set, Slapping Pythagoras, Four Violins (recorded in the 1960s), Outside the Dream Syndicate Alive (with Faust, from London 1995), Fantastic Glissando, and the 1968 recording Joan of Arc. He also issued two archival CDs featuring the work of late New York filmmaker Jack Smith, with whom he was associated in the 1960s.
Conrad has composed more than a dozen audio works with special scales and tuning for solo amplified violin with amplified strings. Conrad has played and collaborated with Rhys Chatham, Charlemagne Palestine, Jennifer Walshe, Tony Oursler, Eli Keszler, and many others. He was chosen by Animal Collective to perform at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival that they curated in May 2011.
Conrad’s early career is the subject of an important study by Branden W. Joseph, Beyond the Dream Syndicate : Tony Conrad and the Arts after Cage (Zone, 2008),
The Exhibition at 80wse:
The exhibition at NYU is loosely based around the theme of community and intervention, a theme chosen site-specifically, in relation to the NYU Steinhardt's Art Department's history as part of a School of Education. Two major “new” films of Conrad's, originally produced forty years ago, will be premiered in this survey.
"Loose Connection" (1973/2011) is an experimental documentary of family life on West 42nd Street, where Conrad lived in the early 1970s with Beverly Grant, the “Queen of the Underground,” and their son Ted. It uses a specially designed rotating camera mount that radically interrupts the viewer’s spatial orientation - a “space shutter,” to speak in the structuralist film language of the 70s.
“Waterworks” (1973/2012) records a summer solstice street celebration Conrad and Grant produced as a neighborhood event in the middle of Times Square in 1973. The film’s focus on natural spectacle and counter-culture pageantry provide a missing link to the art films of Jack Smith and Kenneth Anger.
Also shown are episodes from “Studio of the Streets” (1990-94), the Buffalo-based 8mm News Collective’s popular cable TV community activist program, seen now for the first time since it was shown at Documenta IX in 1992.
These important experimental films have been in Conrad's archive for decades; digital technology has lowered their completion costs to the point where they can be exhibited for the first time today.
The experimental documentaries on view in this exhibition consist of interventions into the public space of New York City in the 70's; the Buffalo works update this process in the then forward looking formats of video and public access cable in the following decade, with valuable implications for today’s online social networking.
Tony Conrad Performances at 80WSE:
Currently planned are two performances of Conrad's pioneering early minimalist music. Written in the 80's, these works from Conrad's archive are being premiered at 80WSE in live performance for the first time.
Tony Conrad Catalogue and Panel:
In keeping with the well-received catalogues 80WSE has produced for its previous exhibitions "Marlene McCarty,” "Gran Fury," and “Papertails,” the gallery will produce an 84 page full-color catalogue devoted to Tony Conrad's work. Essayists include:
Branden W. Joseph, The Frank Gallipoli Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art and Director of Art Humanities at Columbia University
Tabea Lurk, digital media conservationist, Director of ArtLab Conservation and Restoration department, Hochschule der Künste Bern (HKB).
Andrew Lampert, artist, filmmaker, programmer Anthology Film Archives
Jay Sanders, curator – Whitney Museum of Art, professor SVA. Sanders was a lead curator of this year's Whitney Biennial.
These essayists will also convene for a panel on Tony Conrad's work at NYU's Steinhardt Art Department in late October 2012. Conrad will participate as well. Moderating the panel will be 80wse curator Michael Cohen. The panel was organized by Michael Cohen and Tony Conrad.
Screenings at Anthology Film Archives in conjunction with the "Tony Conrad: Doing the City" exhibition at 80wse:
80wse is proud to be collaborating for the first time with downtown New York’s most prestigious institution for avant-garde film, Anthology Film Archives. The screenings wereorganized by Anthology Programmer Andrew Lampert and Tony Conrad to complement and expand upon the themes and issues of the 80wse exhibition.
October 10, 7:30 pm: Cable-access productions by Tony Conrad not included in the NYU exhibit. Hosted by Tony Conrad
October 11, 7:30 pm: Newly finished/incomplete/rediscovered/recovered film and video works of Conrad's from the 70s and 80s. Hosted by Tony Conrad.
October 13: Anthology Film Archives Essential Cinema series. Screenings of Tony Conrad's classic films THE FLiCKER, STRAIGHT AND NARROW and FILM FEEDBACK.
Anthology Film archives is located at 32 Second Avenue New York, NY 10003
For further information please contact:
Michael Cohen, 80WSE Curator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Edward Holland, 80WSE Registrar, email@example.com