Dream Technologies: Early Works of Tony Conrad

Presented with Cineworks and Western Front

Tony Conrad (1940-2016), who died in April, was an American filmmaker, musician, composer, writer, and teacher — a pioneer of both structural film and drone music (including collaboration in the group Theatre of Eternal Music, also known as The Dream Syndicate, with Marian Zazeela, John Cale, Angus Maclise and La Monte Young). A dynamic visionary, Conrad abandoned and dismantled traditional Western musical composition, influencing bands such as Sonic Youth, and condensed the principles of film to bare essentials of embodied subjective experience, famously in The Flicker (1966), a work considered a cornerstone of structural filmmaking. In honour of the artist and his contributions to experimental cinema and to music, Cineworks, Western Front, and The Cinematheque present five of Conrad’s early short films on 16mm (all preserved and managed by Canyon Cinema in San Francisco) and an experimental music interlude, drawn from one of Conrad's important early musical collaborations.

Warning: This event includes flickering light and is potentially hazardous for photogenic epileptics or photogenic migraine sufferers!



Articulation of Boolean Algebra for Film Opticals (Finale) (1975) 10 min.
Articulation of Boolean Algebra for Film Opticals is one of the most austere and highly structure-dependent films ever, made without images other than six patterns of alternating black and white imposed upon the full surface of the film strip.

Film Feedback (1974) 15 min.
Made with a film-feedback team which Conrad directed at Antioch College. Negative image is shot from a small rear-projection screen. The film comes out of the camera continuously (in the dark room) and is immediately processed, dried, and projected on the screen by the team. What are the qualities of film that may be made visible through feedback?

Straight and Narrow (1970) 10 min.
Straight and Narrow is a study in subjective colour and visual rhythm. Although it is printed on black and white film, the hypnotic pacing of the images will cause viewers to experience a programmed gamut of hallucinatory colour effects. Straight And Narrow uses the flicker phenomenon not as an end in itself, but as an effectuator of other related phenomena. In this film the colours which are so illusory in The Flicker are visible and under the programmed control of the filmmaker. Also, by using images which alternate in a vibrating flickering schedule, a new impression of motion and texture is created.

Eye of Count Flickerstein (1967) 7 min.
The sustained dead gaze of black-and-white TV "snow," captured in 1965 and twisted sideways, draws the viewer hypnotically into an abstract visual jungle.

— Sonic Interlude — Curtains are drawn across the screen for this experience: a deep-listening journey through expansive topographies of electronic sound, by Tony Conrad and early collaborators. 28 min.

The Flicker
(1966) 30 min.
This is a notorious film; it moves audiences into some space and time in which they may look around and find the movie happening in the room there with them. Much has been written about The Flicker. It is a library of peculiar visual materials, referenced to the frame-pulse at 24 frames per second. All flickering light is potentially hazardous for photogenic epileptics or photogenic migraine sufferers.

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Membership in The Cinematheque, Cineworks, or Western Front will be accepted for this event.
Film notes by Canyon Cinema.