Show and Tell #9
Film screening: Tony Conrad, The Flicker, 1966
Jack Smith, Flaming Creatures, 1963
Introduction by Marc Siegel: Flickering, Flaming
March 6, 2020

Flaming Creatures_1
Jack Smith, Flaming Creatures, 1962-63, Film Still, Copyright Jack Smith Archive, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Friday, March 6, 2020, 6 – 8 pm
Show and Tell #9
Film screenings:
Tony Conrad, The Flicker, 1966
16 mm, b/w, 30 min
Jack Smith, Flaming Creatures, 1963
16 mm, 45 min

Flickering, Flaming—an introduction by Marc Siegel, Professor for Film Studies at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
(in English)

With the double presentation of The Flicker and Flaming Creatures, the Kölnischer Kunstverein is showing two films in the framework of the current exhibition, both of which were made as collaborations between Tony Conrad and Jack Smith in the early 1960s in New York and caused scandals. Under the title Flickering, Flaming, film theorist Marc Siegel will outline the unexpected production of the flicker film from Tony Conrad’s experience with Jack Smith.

In 1962, Conrad graduated from Harvard University and moved to New York City, where he associated primarily with experimental musicians and underground filmmakers. He even became roommates with the notorious filmmaker Jack Smith, who prompted Conrad to apply his musical experiments to making movie soundtracks. Conrad’s own career as a filmmaker began on March 5, 1963, when he, Smith, and Mario Montez, Smith’s muse, became entranced by the flickering light of an old projector. Conrad had learned in college about the effects of this phenomenon on brain waves, and so he attempted to make a mind-altering film of nothing more than black and white frames, based on “harmonies” between the frequencies of the flickering light—a procedure similar to his work with sound frequencies. Praised by critics for its structural qualities, audience reactions at the premiere of The Flicker at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on September 15, 1966, ranged from nausea to hallucinations.

Tony Conrad produced the soundtrack for Jack Smith’s legendary film Flaming Creatures. Smith’s films are characterized by an unusual low-budget aesthetic and innovations that immediately attracted the praise of the critics. But the open approach to sexuality led to censorship: in 1964 the film triggered one of the biggest scandals in film history and was banned. Soon after, Smith began to use the medium of film not as an independent work, but as a component of performances. Flaming Creatures, probably his most famous film, celebrates a tumultuous harem party with boundless erotic excesses in glamorous black-and-white images.

Marc Siegel is Professor of Film Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. His book A Gossip of Images is forthcoming from Duke University Press. In 2014, he edited a special issue of the journal Criticism dedicated to Jack Smith. He is a founding member of the Berlin-based art collective CHEAP. In 2009 he co-curated a massive festival at the Arsenal-Institut für Videokunst and HAU in Berlin, called LIVE FILM! JACK SMITH! Five Flaming Days in a Rented World, which had a spinoff version in Frankfurt/Main at Mousonturm and the MMK Museum of Modern Art in 2012. In this context, he worked with Tony Conrad.

The program is part of the exhibition TONY CONRAD at the Kölnischer Kunstverein.

The events in the framework of Show and Tell are sponsored by:


With the kind support of: