Tony Conrad stands among the pinnacle of modern artistic practice; a pioneering and influential experimental filmmaker, musician, composer, artist and educator whose body of work can rarely be traced within the framework of just one discipline or school of thought. A longtime educator in conjunction with his expansive practice, Conrad’s work moves at a sprint through ideas and constructs, and has remained influential on much of the artists who worked around and with him. One of these artists was Tony Oursler, who met Conrad in 1979 and performed in a number of Conrad’s films, ultimately forging a bond that would lead to a range of collaborations and pieces. Among these is TC: the most interesting man alive, a short biopic piece that incorporates a range of cinematic, graphic, narrative and autobiographical approaches to produce a new form of biopic about the late artist Tony Conrad.
TC is a performative mixture of written, oral history and improvisation sequences, shot over a period of approximately six months in Oursler’s studio in New York City, each time inviting new combinations of performance and autobiography to intermingle and blend together. Structured around various notable points in the multimedia artist’s life, from childhood through his formative creative years, it serves as much as an autobiographical testimony from the artist, and a portrait of the creative world around him, as each artist and friend gives their own take on “TC.”
“You know if you’re talking about your own life, then you’ve got a lot of things you can draw on, you can fall back on all kinds of things you make, you remember. You can’t really go wrong because according to what they say, all stories are autobiographical,” Conrad states at the beginning, a subtly comical twist on the format he quickly dives into, and fills with the same sense of the comedic and creative. The work ultimately presents itself as just this type of fusion, mixing interpretation and translation into a piece that is as much a loving homage to the artist’s work and life as it is an homage to his process and body of work. Fittingly, the work seems to pose the question of history and its progression, whether one’s combined contributions and actions will echo down the halls of history, or will gradually fade from memory. Are we merely a collection of our experiences and actions, or will our contributions to the world live beyond us? For an artist whose work has constantly expanded questions of time and human experience, few works could serve as such a fitting memorial.
The show is on view through August 10th.
— D. Creahan
Tony Oursler: TC: the most interesting man alive [Lisson Gallery]