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Tony Conrad

Mike Kelley and Tony Conrad performing with XXX Macarena at the opening of “John Miller: The New Honeymooners,” Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York, January 18, 2008. From left: John Miller, Mike Kelley, Tony Conrad. Photo: Colby Bird.

AS IT HAPPENED, I became acquainted with Tony Conrad in the early 1980s before I knew much about his work. He was part of the East Village scene then and easy to get to know because of his open, unpretentious, and often bemused demeanor. Before this, I had seen him present some of his cooked films at CalArts in 1978—works made with film stock that was processed with heat rather than chemicals. This inspired Tony to try baking, broiling, pickling, and frying his footage. At the time, I failed to recognize that this was a kind of self-deprecating gesture, that he was known for The Flicker, 1966, widely regarded as a masterpiece of structural cinema, and that the cooked films, in contrast, literally gummed up the works of the filmic apparatus.

Fast-forward a few decades. In 2007–2008, Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York showed a series of my gold reliefs, and, during the opening,

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