Media Arts Program

Tuesday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m.

$8 general, $6 students/seniors, $5 members

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Tony Tuesday 4: New York City Underground

still from Scotch Tapestill from Scotch Tape
still from Chumlumstill from Chumlum
still from Flaming Creaturesstill from Flaming Creatures
still from Flaming Creaturesstill from Flaming Creatures

This selection of films—which will be projected on 16mm film—showcases Tony Conrad's early work within New York City's underground film scene during the 1960s. Conrad's earliest foray into experimental filmmaking found him creating the soundtrack for Jack Smith's early short film Scotch Tape (1959–1962) and Smith's later classic feature Flaming Creatures (1963). Conrad made his own first film, The Flicker* in 1966, and Eye of Count Flickerstein the following year (1967)—a harbinger of video to come?—while continuing to contribute soundtrack work to films by Jack Smith, Ron Rice, Piero Heliczer, and others during this era.

Curated & Introduced by Laura McGough.

*The Flicker itself is not being shown as part of this Tony Tuesday program, but can be seen—also projected on film—installed at the Albright-Knox as part of Introducing Tony Conrad: A Retrospective.

Total running time: 91 minutes.

Chumlum (1964) by Ron Rice
16mm, color, sound, 26 minutes
(Tony Conrad, sound technician)
Print source: The Film-Makers' Coop.

"Chumlum was selected as one of the 330 films in Anthology Film Archives' Essential Cinema Repertory Collection as chosen by the selection committee of Stan Brakhage, James Broughton, Ken Kelman, Peter Kubelka, Jonas Mekas, and P. Adams Sitney."

Scotch Tape (1959-62) by Jack Smith
16mm, color, sound by Tony Conrad, 3 minutes.
Print source: The Film-Makers' Coop.

Before viewing Jack Smith's Scotch Tape (1959–1962, 3 min.), "Conrad had virtually no interest in movies as an art or in visual art per se; this experience would incite in him the desire to be a filmmaker and, eventually, a visual artist" (Branden W. Joseph, Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts After Cage).

Flaming Creatures (1963) by Jack Smith
16mm, black & white, sound by Tony Conrad, 43 minutes
Print source: The Film-Makers' Coop.

"Smith shared an apartment with artist Marian Zazeela for a period in the early 1960s. He published The Beautiful Book, a series of photographs with Zazeela that began to develop the aesthetic of Flaming Creatures. Smith conceived the film as a vehicle for Zazeela. However, she began working with composer La Monte Young and was unable to participate in Smith's project. After she moved out, he became roommates with Tony Conrad and replaced Zazeela with Sheila Bick. He filmed Flaming Creatures in mid to late 1962. He held shoots during weekends on the roof of the 48th Street Theatre. Dick Preston offered his loft above the theatre for use as a prop department and dressing room. Smith had observed the effects of using out-of-date film working on Ken Jacobs' Star Spangled to Death and decided to use the technique after seeing Ron Rice's The Flower Thief. He used stolen Army surplus Kodak Plus-X reversal film. The reels were out-of-date, giving parts of the film a foggy or high-contrast texture.…

"Smith shared an apartment with Tony Conrad, who produced the film's soundtrack. The two lived in a building on the Lower East Side, where Angus MacLise lived and René Rivera (later known as Mario Montez) moved. They held informal group sessions during the evening which Conrad recorded. The soundtrack incorporates 'Siboney' by Ernesto Lecuona, 'Amapola' by Joseph Lacalle, and various pasodobles. Smith began screening unfinished versions of Flaming Creatures to friends. Piero Heliczer held a benefit for the film at painter Jerry Joffen's loft. Jonas Mekas discussed a private screening of the film through his column in The Village Voice, and Conrad produced a second version of the soundtrack for the film's theatrical premiere.…

"Tony Conrad produced two CDs from the Jack Smith tape archives subtitled 56 Ludlow Street that were recorded at 56 Ludlow Street between 1962 and 1964."

Joan of Arc (1967) by Piero Heliczer
16mm, 12 minutes, sound by Tony Conrad.
Print source: Anthology Film Archives.

"Joan of Arc is a 2006 album by minimalist composer Tony Conrad. The piece, which lasts unbroken for over an hour, was originally written by Conrad as a soundtrack to accompany Piero Heliczer's like-named short film. Joan of Arc is something of a stylistic departure for Conrad, who is best known for his work with minimalist violin, exemplified by his most famous album Outside the Dream Syndicate. Joan of Arc instead showcases Conrad's improvisational technique on the pump organ. The album is one of a series of lost-and-found minimalist recordings released by the independent label Table of the Elements. Conrad originally recorded the piece in 1967 for the soundtrack to Piero Heliczer's 12-minute short film Joan of Arc. However, he was not aware of the length of the film, so he played continuously for the length of an entire reel-to-reel tape in the hope that it would be enough for Heliczer."

Eye of Count Flickerstein (1967) Directed by Tony Conrad.
16mm, black & white, silent, 7 minutes
Print source: Canyon Cinema.

"The sustained dead gaze of black-and-white TV 'snow,' captured [on 16mm] film in 1965 and twisted sideways, draws the viewer hypnotically into an abstract visual jungle.

Anthology Film Archives

The Film-Makers' Coop

Canyon Cinema