Jennifer West on Tony Conrad's 'Yellow Movie' at MOCA

This is a work on paper: on studio white seamless paper, normally a backdrop used in film shoots. There's a black frame painted with latex house paint, then inside is this citron-tinted low-luster enamel paint. I'm the ultimate film nerd, so I saw the yellow shape as a film screen right away because it's exact same ratio as a 16- or 35-millimeter film projection. Someone else might just see as a yellow rectangle.

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But the other thing that connects it to film is a sense of duration. Tony Conrad said he wanted to make a movie that lasts a lifetime, using this yellow screen as a light recording device. He purposely chose everyday materials that will age the most, the cheapest ones that he could find — a very punk rock and DIY decision. So now, 40 years later, the house paint is cracked, the citron-tinted paint has yellowed, and the paper has yellowed. I think it's a beautiful analogy to film's physicality. Film emulsion fades over time and turns pink. Film is a physical object that falls apart as it ages. For a very short period of time he was a stay at home dad and made films in his kitchen: he cooked film, he baked it, he electrocuted it, he pickled it. He's one of my heroes.

—Jennifer West, as told to Jori Finkel


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