80 Washington Square East, NYU

Tony Conrad

Doing the City

September 12 – November 3, 2012


The exhibition at NYU is loosely based around the theme of community and intervention, a theme chosen site-specifically, in relation to the NYU Steinhardt's Art Department's history as part of a School of Education. Two major “new” films of Conrad's, originally produced forty years ago, will be premiered in this survey.

"Loose Connection" (1973/2011) is an experimental documentary of family life on West 42nd Street, where Conrad lived in the early 1970s with Beverly Grant, the “Queen of the Underground,” and their son Ted. It uses a specially designed rotating camera mount that radically interrupts the viewer’s spatial orientation - a “space shutter,” to speak in the structuralist film language of the 70s.

“Waterworks” (1973/2012) records a summer solstice street celebration Conrad and Grant produced as a neighborhood event in the middle of Times Square in 1973. The film’s focus on natural spectacle and counter-culture pageantry provide a missing link to the art films of Jack Smith and Kenneth Anger.

Also shown are episodes from “Studio of the Streets” (1990-94), the Buffalo-based 8mm News Collective’s popular cable TV community activist program, seen now for the first time since it was shown at Documenta IX in 1992.

These important experimental films have been in Conrad's archive for decades; digital technology has lowered their completion costs to the point where they can be exhibited for the first time in this exhibition.

The experimental documentaries on view in this exhibition consist of interventions into the public space of New York City in the 70's; the Buffalo works update this process in the then forward looking formats of video and public access cable in the following decade, with valuable implications for today’s online social networking.

A man in a white suit sits in a white chair facing a projection on a wall in a dark room. The projection features two people on stage playing instruments.
Two people are seated in a dark room facing a television screen that is mounted on the wall. On the screen are three figures. The television is the only source of light in the room.
Image of a work on the wall. The work has sketch of an old fashioned antenna television on the right and a sketch of an open window on the left. In the corner of the room is a black, rectangular object.
A large window illuminates the room. Around the floor are placed construction objects such as orange cones, a wheelbarrow, dirt, cinderblocks, and drywall on a blue tarp.
Two people in a dark room are sitting in foldable chairs face a projection on the wall. In the projection there is a blurry projection of outside a movie theater with passers by in the foreground.
A projection on a white wall. The projection features a woman and the words "Studio of the Streets" in yellow writing over the image. In the background, a darker room features a different projection. In this projection a woman in a green winter coat faces a figure whose back is to the camera.