[-empyre-] Welcome to OCTOBER on -empyre- and Margaret Rhee (t0ny's feminalist collaborations)

Paige Sarlin p.sarlin at gmail.com
Wed Oct 2 06:33:30 AEST 2019

Thank you, Margaret and Renate.

It's hard to know where to begin. Tony Conrad thought and worked at the
intersections of play and collaboration across decades and media. Playing
with others on stage and off was serious fun for him. We don't always call
the sort of "playing the audience" that tony did “collaboration” -- but
tony did.

In the vein of more recognizable forms of collaboration, tony and I played
music together almost everyday. I'll say more about our collaborations
later in the week -- but I've attached one of our recordings below.

For today, though, I want to tell a story about TC's collaboration with
another one of his wives to get us thinking about the structural conditions
that enable play and collaboration.

The late David Pendleton included Straight and Narrow (Tony and Beverly
Conrad, 1970) in his film program at The Flaherty Film Seminar the summer
after tony died. The theme that year (2016) was “Play.”  It was an
absolutely perfect choice -- the film embodies TC’s radical commitment to
play-- and to the joy it produces. It’s my favorite of all his films. The
first time I saw the film, I was at a screening in London and tony was
seated right beside me. I turned to him and said -- it’s the snoopy happy
dance… my snoopy happy dance… experimental minimalist white boy style.

I’m not sure the peanuts reference meant much to him -- but the film still
has the same happy-making effect on me. I played it yesterday for my class
of 110 undergraduates and it’s kept me humming "Ides of March" -- the John
Cale and Terry Riley tune the film is set to -- since then. I’ve been
teaching this Introduction to Media Study class and screening The Flicker
every year for the last 6 years. When tony was alive, he’d come to the
class -- he’d say absolutely nothing about the film and we’d hit play
(sorry cinephiles -- there’s no 16mm print of The Flicker at University at
Buffalo). He and I would sit on the edge of the stage and look out at the
students and watch them watch The Flicker. Never the same twice, he said,
for him or for them.

Yesterday, I watched tony and beverly’s  film do what tony was so good at
-- it cleaned the slate for me and my students. Wiping assumptions right
off the table, tony loved to pick the needle up during a broken-record
debate and reset the game. No, the basic of unit of cinema is not the shot
or the cut, but -- the frame. And constructing a film out of black and
white frames means that light and sound play the room with you and me in

About a week after I saw Straight and Narrow for the first time, I asked
tony: so tell me what did beverly do on the film? He paused for only the
briefest of seconds and said, “She raised ted (their son).” He talked with
beverly about the film while she was keeping their life afloat, tending to
the apartment, cooking, cleaning, all the maintenance work of social
reproduction. Dumb struck by his answer, I said nothing. Tony broke the
silence a few minutes later and said “you know, no one has ever asked me
that question…”

I was amazed -- in 1970, he had understood authorship and collaboration on
a whole other level. Beverly Grant Conrad deserved as much credit for
conversation, care, ‘women’s work,’ and social reproduction as he did for
conceptualizing and filming each frame. Tony had recognized the social and
political situation of his own productivity -- that his partner’s labor was
the condition of possibility for his “work” and “play.” The film announces
that Beverly is the co-author each time it plays. Perhaps Beverly
instigated the inclusion. But tony made it clear that he’d thought of it as
“their film” from its inception.

Something different than thanks, acknowledgements, or credit -- there is a
structural challenge in tony’s conceptualization of his collaboration with
beverly which confronts us with a deeply feminist question (or perhaps a
feminalist? minimal-feminist?): what are the material, economic, social,
cultural, and affective conditions necessary for collaboration and play?
How do structural conditions shape and enable artworks that celebrate or
involve play and collaboration?

TC PS Voice Cello.11.15

Paige Sarlin, Ph.D. (she/her
Assistant Professor / Department of Media Study / University at Buffalo/SUNY
p.sarlin at gmail.com / paigesarlin.info

On Tue, Oct 1, 2019 at 4:02 PM Margaret Rhee <mrheeloy at gmail.com> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Dear everyone,
> Thank you Renate for your incredible curation and mentorship with
> --empyre--, it's such an inspiring community of thinkers, artists, and
> activists. I loved the discussion on Trans last month, and hope to continue
> these threads. For this month I'm pleased to share a forum "On Practice
> and Play: Gestures Across Genres." The forum was inspired in part by Tony
> Conrad's work and practice which spans across film, music, writing, and
> theory. For this forum, we're honored to have artists, thinkers, and
> creators who play across media and disciplinary divides and  to celebrate
> innovation in cross-disciplinary art practices. For the first week, we
> begin with a focus on Tony Conrad's work on art/collaboration/and play and
> we're honored to have artists Paige Sarlin, David Grubbs, and Kathleen
> McDermott join us for the discussion. Please see below for their
> biographies and we look forward to hearing more about their work and
> insights on collaboration/play/art in Tony's collaborations, their own
> practices. As always we welcome --empyre--members to contribute and join
> the conversation.
> my best,
> Margaret
> ----
> *On Practice and Play: Gestures Across Genres *
> In this month's -empyre- forum, we take up the question of productivity
> and and the politics of play, and how playing across genres, mediums,
> forms, disciplines, and departments, etc. makes for new kinds of innovative
> art, thinking, and community; and in doing so, better intervenes and
> gestures toward transformative futures. The current conspiracy-us versus
> them- culture perhaps exemplifies the problem of singular thinking and the
> need for creative, eclectic, and innovative practices more than ever. We’re
> interested in artists, thinkers, and activists with practices that cross
> over boundaries and intervene in dichotomous logics. With attention to
> justice, we explore how multiple forms of art practices prompt us to
> reimagine different kind of worlds, as strategy and survival. Initially
> inspired by Tony Conrad's work, as his practice spans across film, music,
> writing, and sculptures, we playfully ask how play lends itself to more
> libratory ways of creation and practice.
> We begin with the first week on media and new media art in
> conversation with Tony Conrad's playful work across mediums, we then move
> into a second week asking questions on poetry and playing across the
> visual, cinematic, and theoretical, the third week is dedicated to the
> theme of ethnography across forms such as photography, film, and poetry,
> and the forth week focuses on the ways artists advocate for decolonial and
> racial resistance through playing across genres and forms. While seemingly
> diverse, we hope the loosely organized topics lends itself to connections
> between the weeks, and across themes presented. With attention to questions
> such as capital, creativity, institutional critique, and justice, we’re
> honored to have the following artists and thinkers join us for this
> conversation and reflect on the possibilities of practice, gestures, and
> play.
> We also invite our -empyre- subscribers, whose own work broadly resonates
> with the themes of practice and play, to join the conversation. What are
> the ways your practice has played or plays across genres? Have you faced
> institutional challenges in crossing disciplinary divides, and if so, how
> did you overcome them? Is play and practice productive and/or political? We
> welcome our guests and all -empyre- subscribers to actively participate and
> post this month and share your practices and experiences of playing
> across genres and any questions that arise. Thank you again to our featured
> guests, and we're honored for their participation. We look forward to
> the conversation.
> *On Practice and Play: Gestures Across Genres *
> *Week One: Art/Collaboration and Play *
> *Honoring the play of Tony Conrad *
> (October 1)
> *Paige Sarlin *
> Paige Sarlin is an artist, scholar, and political activist. She holds a
> Ph.D. in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University and an M.F.A. in
> Film/Video/New Media from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
> Her first feature-length documentary film, *The Last Slide Projector*,
> premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2007.
> "Illuminating Obsolescence: Eastman Kodak's Carousel Slide Projector and
> the Work of Ending," her corresponding essay, was recently published in *The
> Routledge** Companion to Media Technology and Obsolescenc*e (2019). From
> 1999 to 2010, she was an active participant in the 16Beaver Group in New
> York City, a platform for the discussion of the intersection of art and
> politics. Her writings have been published in *October, Re-Thinking
> Marxism, **Discourse**, **Camera Obscura, **The Journal of Aesthetics and
> Protest, *and* Framework: A Journal of Film and Culture*.  She is in the
> process of finishing her book-length manuscript entitled *Interview* *Work:
> The Genealogy of a **Documentary** Form*.  She is Assistant Professor in
> the Department of Media Study at University at Buffalo, SUNY.
> Married to Tony Conrad at the time of his death, Paige was involved in the
> conceptualization and realization of the recent exhibition *Introducing
> Tony Conrad: A Retrospective*. Her essay "In Person, On Screen, In
> Context, On Tape," appears in the catalogue
> <https://www.artbook.com/9783960983361.html>. Tony and Paige's
> collaborative composition "Tony Conrad's Amplified Drone Strings" premiered
> at the Big Ears festival in 2016. Since then she has performed the piece
> with David Grubbs, MV Carbon, Jennifer Walshe, and others at the Tate
> Modern in London, The National Gallery in Washington DC, and the Clemente
> Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center in New York. Her next book
> project is a collection of essays about Tony Conrad; entitled *You Know
> Who You Are*, the book is structured around an investigation of "the
> acknowledgement" as an aesthetic form.
> *David Grubbs *
> David Grubbs is Professor of Music at Brooklyn College and The Graduate
> Center, CUNY.  At Brooklyn College he also teaches in the MFA programs in
> Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA) and Creative Writing.  He is
> the author of *Now that the audience is assembled* and *Records Ruin the
> Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording* (both Duke
> University Press) and, with Anthony McCall, *Simultaneous Soloists* (Pioneer
> Works Press).  In the spring of 2020, Duke University Press will publish *The
> Voice in the Headphones*, Grubbs’s second experiment in music writing in
> the form of a book-length poem.
> Grubbs has released fourteen solo albums and appeared on more than 190
> releases; his most recent solo recording is *Creep Mission*(Blue
> Chopsticks, 2017).  In 2000, his *The Spectrum Between*(Drag City) was
> named “Album of the Year” in the London *Sunday Times*.  He is known for
> his ongoing cross-disciplinary collaborations with poet Susan Howe and
> visual artists Anthony McCall and Angela Bulloch, and his work has been
> presented at, among other venues, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, MoMA,
> the Tate Modern, and the Centre Pompidou.  Grubbs was a member of the
> groups Gastr del Sol, Bastro, and Squirrel Bait, and has performed with
> Tony Conrad, Pauline Oliveros, the Red Krayola, Will Oldham, Loren Connors,
> and many others.  He is a grant recipient from the Foundation for
> Contemporary Arts, a contributing editor in music for *BOMB**Magazine*, a
> member of the Blank Forms board of directors, and director of the Blue
> Chopsticks record label.
> *Kathleen McDermott *
> McDermott’s work utilizes a combination of sculpture, open-source
> electronics, performance and video, to explore the social ramifications of
> the relationship between bodies and technology; an artistic research method
> she refers to as *absurdist electronics*. Absurdist electronics promotes
> the use of absurdity as a counter to both the solutionist utopia promised
> by tech companies, and the atmosphere of doom often prophesied within
> science fiction. Drawing on the Dada principle that absurdity can be an
> appropriate response to feelings of alienation, McDermott seeks to solve
> her own specific struggles with socialization and work, through humor and
> over-engineering.
> In contrast to narratives of the future that are disproportionately
> focused on virtual bodies and bodies represented by data, McDermott’s
> inventions emphasize real-time physicality by deliberately intervening in
> physical space, to a ridiculous degree. She often creates electronics which
> can respond to sensors and environmental input, but that cannot be
> controlled by the wearer directly, complicating the agency of the human
> actors in the scene. Examples include a dress which creates a cloud of fog
> based on a reading of the wearer’s stress level, and a mechanical brooch
> that opens to reveal a cinnamon bun when the wearer begins to sweat. The
> items are worn publicly, either by McDermott or a proxy, and the
> documentation is edited into narrative videos and GIFs, taking cues from
> infomercials and advertisements. She then produces tutorials for
> technically recreating the works in the series, which she distributes
> online and through workshops.
> http://www.kthartic.com/
> https://urbanarmor.org/
> *Week Two: Poetics and Play *
> (October 8)
> Truong Tran
> Lynne Sachs
> Kenji Liu
> *Week Three: Queer Ethnography/Methods and Play *
> (October 15)
> Kale B. Fajardo
> Erica Rand
> Jerry Zee
> *Week Four: Racial and Decolonial Practice and Play *
> (October 22)
> Craig Santos Perez
> Maria de Los Angeles
> Gabriela Cordoba Vivas
> On Mon, Sep 30, 2019 at 10:51 PM Renate Ferro <rferro at cornell.edu> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Dear -empyre-
>> Welcome to October already.  The leaves are falling here in Ithaca and
>> the furnace is on.  I am feeling the impending darkness of autumn creeping
>> into my afternoon activities.  I can only imagine the light where so many
>> of you are.
>> We welcome a month of discussion on Practice and Play: Gestures Across
>> Genres organized by Margaret Rhee to celebrate innovation in
>> cross-disciplinary art making.  Many of you will remember Margaret's
>> discussion on Robot Poetics in May of 2017
>> http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/2017-May/009683.html
>> Margaret is an incredible poet, writer and artist.  We are so lucky to
>> have her on our -empyre- Editorial Advisory Board.  She brings warmth to us
>> from Buffalo, New York this month with her diverse set of guests.
>> Her biography is below.  Margaret will post the first post of the month
>> tomorrow.
>> Welcome Margaret and thank you. We look forward.
>> Renate
>> Margaret Rhee is a poet, scholar, and new media artist. She is the author
>> of Love, Robot, named a 2017 Best Book of Poetry by Entropy Magazine and
>> awarded a 2018 Elgin Award by the Science Fiction Poetry Association and
>> the 2019 Best Book Award in Poetry by the Asian American Studies
>> Association. Her poetry chapbooks include Yellow and Radio Heart; or, How
>> Robots Fall Out of Love, and forthcoming collection Poetry Machines: A
>> Letter to a Future Reader, a collection of lyrical essays on poetry, and
>> the intersections of cinema, art, and new media. Currently, she is
>> completing her monograph How We Became Human: Race, Robots, and the Asian
>> American Body. She was a College Fellow in Digital Practice in the English
>> Department at Harvard University and a member of MetaLab @ Harvard. She
>> received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in ethnic studies with a designated
>> emphasis in new media studies. She is an Assistant Professor in the
>> Department of Media Study at SUNY Buffalo and co-leads Palah 파랗 Light
>> Studios, a creative space for poetry, participation, and pedagogy through
>> technology.
>> Renate Ferro
>> Visiting Associate Professor
>> Director of Undergraduate Studies
>> Department of Art
>> Tjaden Hall 306
>> rferro at cornell.edu
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> --
> Margaret Rhee, Ph.D.
> College Fellow in Digital Practice (2018 - 2019)
> Department of English
> Harvard University
> Assistant Professor in Media Theory (2019)
> Department of Media Study
> SUNY Buffalo
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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