Brilliant and uncompromising, violinist Tony Conrad cut a swath through the pop-rock 60s with his loud, droning, minimal music. Applying his ideas about intensity and duration to experimental film, he made the perfectly titled The Flicker in 1966, opening the door for other filmmakers interested in heady, immersive formalism. A tremendous influence on avant-garde artists, in part for his collaborations with John Cale and Jack Smith, Conrads work in a variety of media (including conceptual art and video) remains largely unknown to the general public. But then, the Harvard-educated mathematician, musician, composer, filmmaker, and theorist never sought to comfort, or appease, the masses. For me, music and art just crap out when they don't step across into nonpolite spaces and outlaw territory, he told an interviewer in 1996. The job of an artist is to discover laws to violate that haven't been made yet. The 12th annual Activating the Medium Festival brings the man to town for Tony Conrad: Flickering Jewel, a trio of head-exploding events: He throws down the gauntlet with a free lecture April 3, raises the ante tonight with a violin performance, and caps his visit with a film and video program April 5.
April 3-5, 8 p.m., 2009