Tony Conrad by Judith Samper
A pioneering force behind the evolution of minimalism, violinist and composer Tony Conrad’s performances employ a droning, mesmerizing performance idiom of long durations, amplification, and precise pitch to explore new worlds of sound. This evening as part of Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain, Conrad plays solo, plus the lo-fi analog drones of LA multi-instrumentalist Lee Noble playing a solo set, and a collaborative performance by Damon McMahon aka Amen Dunes with Xander Duell and visual artist Tom Thayer.
The collaborative performance by Amen Dunes and Tom Thayer pairs McMahon's plaintive, sonorous composition, primarily for voice and guitar, and Thayer's evocative projections, consisting of strobing digital color forms and analogue abstractions. The result is a rare formal and affective consonance. McMahon and Thayer are joined by collaborators John Jines and Xander Duell. This work is presented in collaboration with magazine and editorial collective Triple Canopy, who originally commissioned and premiered the piece in 2012.
Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain– a two-month festival celebrating ISSUE Project Room's 10th anniversary– revisits seminal past projects and initiates new relationships with over 60 artists working across disciplines of sound, dance, performance, and literature. Presented as a series of 24 evenings of provocative double billings, Ten Years Alive blurs the boundaries between divergent disciplines and practices and celebrating the vibrancy of the Brooklyn experimental arts community.
Polymath Tony Conrad is known by many names: composer, filmmaker, video artist, media activist, writer, and educator. Associated with the founding of minimal music and underground film, he is well known for his pivotal role in the formation of the Velvet Underground and as a co-founder The Dream Syndicate— who utilized intonation and sustained sound to produce what the group called "dream music", what we know now as drone. Conrad has composed more than a dozen audio works with special scales and tuning for solo amplified violin with amplified strings. Conrad has played and collaborated with Rhys Chatham, Charlemagne Palestine, Jennifer Walshe, Tony Oursler, Eli Keszler, and many others. In the early 1970s Conrad produced several series of works that severely stretched the limits of “film,” including his cooked and electrocuted films, and the “Yellow Movie” series, and "The Flicker" (1966), which is considered a key early work of the structural film movement. Conrad’s work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, Documenta, Venice Biennale, Tate Modern, LA Museum of Contemporary Art, and many others. He exhibits at Greene Naftali Gallery in New York and Galerie Daniel Buchholz in Berlin and Cologne. Conrad’s early career is the subject of a study by Branden Joseph, Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts after Cage (Zone, 2008). Conrad is a founding member of the ISSUE Project Room Board.
Damon McMahon is a musician based in Brooklyn. He performs under the name Amen Dunes, which in September released Spoiler (Perfect Lives, 2013), follow-up the release Through Donkey Jaw (Sacred Bones, 2011). Amen Dunes releases another album with Sacred Bones in March 2014. Tom Thayer is a visual artist based in New Jersey. His work was recently included in the 2012 Whitney Biennial. He is represented by Derek Eller Gallery in New York, where his exhibition “Crossing the Methane River” was on view last year; his recent collaboration with artist Dave Miko, "Baseless Legion of Architects Rent Asunder," was exhibited at Eleven Rivington this spring.
Coming from a multimedia artist, Tom Thayer’s installations are highly theatrical sight-sound environments featuring handmade backdrops, puppet-like figures, stop-motion collage animations, and vintage audio and image-making equipment. For his performances, he improvises on an array of self-made musical instruments, performs live animation and video mixing, and manipulates the objects in the installation to generate a quivering constellation of moving and static forms.
Los Angeles based multi-instrumentalist Lee Noble built his signature sound around vintage, dusted analog drones. But unlike many lo-fi electronic artists of this time, he doesn’t limit himself to synthesizers only. Lee is also well-versed in guitar, adding melancholic, folkish passages to his all-machine music.
Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain is made possible, in part, by “Lead Presenter” support from Robert Bielecki and HBO; “Festival Sponsor” support from Robert Longo, Margo Somma & John Hamilton, and Sixpoint Brewery; with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and with the support of ISSUE Project Room’s Members.