Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tony Conrad: Flickering Jewel

Program Two: Performances for Film & Sound

San Francisco Art Institute

Presented as part of the Twelfth Annual Activating the Medium Festival, Tony Conrad’s performance will be preceded by a collaborative piece by drone composer Brendan Murray and local filmmaker/projectionist Paul Clipson.

Elemental to Tony Conrad’s oeuvre is his work as a violinist, in which primal, enveloping drones create an oscillating ritual theater. In 1962 he co-founded the groundbreaking ensemble known as the Dream Syndicate. Wielding a drone both aggressively confrontational and subtly mesmerizing, he and his collaborators – including La Monte Young and future Velvet Underground co-founders John Cale and Angus MacLise – created some of the most revolutionary music of that (or any) decade. Utilizing long durations, precise pitch and blistering volume, Conrad and company forged a “Dream Music” that articulated the Big Bang of “minimalism.” With his return in the 1990s to recording, publishing and touring, Conrad engaged an entirely new generation of listeners with his unique and uncompromisingly antisocial, raging music. [Steve Polta]

We hungered for music almost seething beyond control – or even something just beyond music, a violent feeling of soaring unstoppably, powered by immense angular machinery across abrupt and torrential seas of pounding blood. Walt Whitman wrote that ‘all music is what awakes from you when you are reminded by the instruments.’ So it must be my conscious blood, in my veins, that swells behind my eyes on the unstanchable tide of the music’s careening violence; a voicelessly shrieking glee, gushing and unfulfilled; anger coming from somewhere; sweetness of virulence, energy, heated eyes, tension unrelenting, shrill shuddering lust endlessly recalculated in its spasm; focus of power. – Tony Conrad

See also: program one and program three.

Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Immersive Cinema is a series of concentrated, multi-part artist residencies. Begun in Spring 2008, each season’s chapter has surveyed the work of an active film/video artist, allowing them to creatively present new, previously viewed and in-progress work in personally significant contexts. Each series has featured the artist in-person and has been accompanied by a specially created, limited edition commemorative publication, available free at screenings. Following the March 2008 presentation of Jennifer Reeves: Light Work and the October 2008 presentation of Leslie Thornton: Tuned Always to a Shifting Ground, Cinematheque is proud to conclude the series with Tony Conrad: Flickering Jewel.

Time, time, time. Life should be abundant enough for each person to feel what it is to have their greatest pleasure in wasting time. – Tony Conrad

Radical filmmaker, composer/performer, artist and theorist, Tony Conrad has been at the forefront of experimental media arts since the early 1960s. Long associated with “minimal” music, underground film and collaborations with such iconoclastic figures as Henry Flynt, Jack Smith and LaMonte Young, Conrad is a true cross-disciplinary media artist. Working extensively with time as his true medium, he has made significant contributions in the fields of film, video and music and has developed, over the decades, complex and powerful theories on the libratory potentials of duration and the relationship of music theory to regimes of power. No mere academic, the visual and sound based work of Tony Conrad bristles with dizzying energy and always strives to transcend the intellect as it reaches towards the sensual.