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Tony Conrad

The First Amendment Network, Studio of the Streets, 1990–93, still from a public-access cable TV show on public television, Buffalo. Right: Tony Conrad. © Tony Conrad Estate.

PICKLING, HAMMERING, electrocuting, cooking—Tony Conrad’s impish assault on the physical substrate and ideological underpinnings of the “seventh art” has been a key influence on me ever since I started making cameraless and direct films in 2003. Conrad embodied the prankster, the comic, the do-it-yourself ethos. His work was messy, it was funny, it was organic; it embraced the everyday and flaunted its economy of means. At times, it was violent. In live performances, he hammered or electrocuted film onstage, then processed it and played it back. If the movies endlessly depict violence, Conrad’s cinema—his “action films”—makes that violence literal.

Conrad was one of my art heroes. The more I got to know his work, watch him perform and give lectures, and see his exhibitions, the deeper my understanding of the breadth and coherence of his practice over its many decades

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