Tony Conrad died last Saturday. Most of you are wondering, who is that?
If you are interested in video art and experimental film, you should know his name. Conrad made “The Flicker,” one of the most influential films of the experimental film movement in the ’60s. Indeed, an experimental film listserv is called the flicker.
“The Flicker” is a film that consists only a few frames, alternating black and white, repeating at different rates. The experience of seeing it though is something special. Everyone has a different experience – some see color, others see patterns. Some should not see it at all. Its strobe-like effect can trigger epileptic seizures; there is even a warning before the film. While many at the time were making minimalist experimental film, “The Flicker” turned it into a subgenre. So many great filmmakers point to this at their inspiration.
Conrad made other films and was known as an experimental musician. He also taught at the University of Buffalo for many years and led one of the best university experimental film programs in the world.
If you want to see “The Flicker,” I strongly suggest trying to find a 16 mm print for the full experience. But if you can’t get your hands on a print and a working projector, you can see some of it on YouTube
This excerpt is short, but has is a reasonable transfer.
This one is longer but not as good.
If you do watch it this way, turn up the sound make make it full screen. And if this piques your interest, do some reading on Conrad. He had a profound impact on the world of experimental media.