Warhol’s “Empire”: Six hours of footage of the Empire State Building shot July 25, 1964. I viewed it slowed to more than seven hours on Jan 12, 2014, at James Fuentes gallery in New York. I published my account of that screening in The New York Times. These are the complete notes taken while I was there. (Image courtesy Jame Fuentes, NY ©2014 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Institute)
11:25 - Numbers on leader.
ESB is pale and foggy – overexposed?
Other buildings also visible on horiz.
11:26 - Looking down at keyboard, I’m afraid of missing something! This fear bound to dissipate.
11:27 - I notice the scratches on the film as interesting. This too cannot last!
IPhone buzzes in pocket w text. Will I check it? Several hours from now, can’t imagine I wont.
I feel EXCITED, like at beginning of Marvel film.
11:29 - nb that scratches can be white or black – on neg or print. Never noticed this before. Do I care?
Four minutes have gone by. Can I keep writing at this rate for 7 hours? Will anyone want to read my notes, especially me?
Weird curved edge to the frame – gotta ask projectionist why.
11:30 – I’m still alone with the movie – the projectionist has walked away. I figured he’d be beside me throughout, but why would he?
11:31 – I’m alone w one of world’s great artworks. Like being alone w the Mona Lisa. But no point in stealing Empire – they’d just make another print. Why doesn’t it circulate absolutely freely, in copies in every library? Maybe MoMA is worried that it won’t be properly screened.
11:32 – Grain spinning in spiral. Do other movies have same? Projectionist talks to me, and it seems WRONG. But why not? Did ppl feel so free to talk when it premiered at City Hall Theater?
11:34 – He sees grain as spinning counterclockwise – I see it clockwise. I ask if he’s lefthanded, on the off chance we’ve discovered a new result of handedness. Nope. He’s a righty.
11:35 – But nb that I hadn’t even NOTICED the grain until he mentioned it. How many other “artifacts” will I notice, because there’s no plot or event to distract me.
11:36 – Mekas SAID that it was all about the surface of the film, turns out he was right.
11:38 – Kenneth Curwood, the projectionist, says that the grain started spinning when he put on wider lens, to increase image size. The longer, 2” lens made the grain rise like “seltzer bubbles,” he says.
“Gee” I say – to quote Warhol.
11:40 – Just realized I cld check my email if I wanted to, because of the WiFi in the gallery. I will not check my email. I will not check my email. I will not check my email.
11:41 – CONCENTRATE on the IMAGE, Blake. Ignore the FACT of doing stuff in the gallery, or being here taking notes, of YOU as viewer.
11:42 – ESB looks SMALL! Has little presence on the screen.
11:43 – Kenny the Projectionist points out that they probably had a manual iris, so they simply set an exposure and left it, guaranteeing that the image would get darker and darker – instead of increasing the aperture as the scene got darker, to give us more detail on the building.
11:44 – AW thought the ESB would come across (no pun intended) as phallic – joked that the film might therefore be censored! But not much of a woody, when you see it onscreen.
11:45 – Not the whole of ESB, just top half.
11:46 – Has anyone taken minute by minute notes on this before? “I’m going to say no,” says Kenny the Projectionist.
11:47 – Little jumps in exposure – indicate splicing out of some (damaged?) frames.
11:48 – Spoiler alert! Kenny the Projectionist tells me about some building lights that go on and off in 7th reel!
11:49 – I really DO have to be careful not to type so much I miss something. Or rather, typing prevents the full experience of the film as DULL. No notes for the next five minutes.
11:50 – SEE! I was typing, and missed the moment when a light went on on the spire of a smaller skyscraper (which may not still exist?)
11:51 – OK, NOW I’m not typing for 5 minutes (unless I get some brilliant apercu that I can’t hold in my mind for 5 minutes)
11:59 – The sun is setting, and we’re very quickly losing the lovely little skyscape at right, that looked so much like a scenic cut-out.
12: 00 - ESB is looking more than ever like a brute structure in the middle of nothing – all detail has been lost in it.
12:01 – Scene had looked so very much like a Whistler, or a Stieglitz in his Pictorialist mode (Andy loved that period in deco arts) or even a Sugimoto building photo. That is fading as light does.
12:02 – Lights go on on ESB – but I was typing so missed the actual frame to frame moment where that happened. (Need to learn to touch type, to keep eyes on movie screen. Won’t happen in next 7 hours. Although that last sentence WAS successfully touch tyoed.)
12:03 – Very pretty now, dramatic, as the lights at top of tower glow bright, and rest of building is black, and losing definition against the darkening sky. Only other visible detail is the light on top of the other skyscraper at l. (What is it? Can I get a vintage photo showing same view by daylight?)
12:06 – Nb that the scene seems TOTALLY 1930s, NOT 1960s. Because it’s a silent black and white film, with grain, and its only subject is the art-deco heroic ESB.
12:07 – Grain no longer at all visible on the dark screen – not actually at all sure when it disappeared. Screen of laptop IS interfering. Shutting it down for 5 mins.
12:08 – Light leak flashes on screen at end of reel, as they changed reel.
12:09 – With new reel, enough time has elapsed (one joint’s worth?) for sky to have gone totally black for first time, and framing has changed slightly.
12:10 – I’m STILL the only person in gallery. How weird. Where is everyone?!
12:11 – Kenny the Projectionist has decided to leave some of leader visible at beginning of each real, as he changes them, to evoke the fact that originally, acc to Mekas, they didn’t have two projectors, so there was a break between reels.
12:11 - Hey – Weird lab effects make the film briefly solarized!
12:13 – Take-up reel falls of projector – Kenny runs to fix it. But actually that probably evokes the unprofessionalism of early underground screenings!
12:16 – Film resumes. (I should have had a second-timer going, so these notes would match actual timing of the film – I’ll just have to subtract three minutes from the times on these notes to get at real reel time)
12:17 - Now whole screen is entirely black, except for lights on ESB, and glow of one light atop the smaller skyscraper. I’d always thought that when they said “the lights go on on the building” they meant the lights in the offices themselves, not just the floodlights at top. Goes to show … something.
12:18 – Dates from before era when lights in offices stayed on into the night, with nobody in them.
12:19 – The ESB was SO much more romantic when it was just floodlit, as a monument – like Notre Dame or the Lincoln Memorial – instead of being turned into an LED extravaganza that marks the day’s events. (A few days back, for Christmas, it actually had candy-cane stripes that spun up the tower. Made it look like the world’s biggest barber’s pole.)
12:21 – Light went out on smaller building at left – and I must have been looking away, cause didn’t notice the frame when it happened. Then for a few minutes the light flashes, not regularly, but on for a few seconds then off for some, then a quick flash, then a long.
12:22 - AT LAST – the famous tourist flashes, from people taking pictures of Manhattan from the ESB. Did they really think their little flashbulbs would light the whole city below? (At about this date, my old grocer grandfather used to think the bulb on his Kodak instamatic could light up the view from a plane).
12:25 – Doesn’t take long for ESB to stop seeming the focus of the movie, as a building. At this point it’s a kind of metonym (or is that a synecdoche?) for itself – the lights on the spire standing for the whole structure. And pace Warhol, definitely not phallic.
12:26 – Mekas wrong to say that it’s all about the surface of the film and its artifacts. Those mostly disappear once the screen goes mostly dark. But I guess the scratches will be fascinating again once there’s not a thing on screen.
12:28 – One little light below the top of the building – barely visible. Must be a lone office with a light on. How could it be that no one is working at night in the ESB? Or is it just because of a lens aperture too closed to register anything except the bright floodlights at top?
12:33 – I guess I’m a talkative guy (say it ain’t so), but imagine if I were talking , second by second, the way I’m typing, that much response to the world would be intolerable. (I once tried it, on a walk with my wife, when she accused me of sharing too many of my observations about what we were seeing. After about five minutes it was INSANE.)
12:35 – Another five mins w/o typing, then.
12:36 – Oops. People who came in three minutes ago have left again. Alone again w my masterpiece.
(Really wish these notes were live streaming. That would have been SO much fun…)
NOW I’m not typing for five minutes.
12:41 – Good timing. Light on top of smaller building has gone out. A major event, in Empire land.
It’s back on.
Another gallerygoer enters.
12:46 – He leaves.
How could no one know or care about this? Tweeted it out to my followers.
12:47 – Not even a trace of the building, except for its floodlighting. Looks like an x-ray of itself.
12:52 – Just realized that Warhol, Mekas etc had to have been sitting in pitch blackness as they shot, or lights would have been reflected in the window.
12:54 – New reel. In the last seconds, a light leak leads to a moment of the ESB as a gray solarization on white background.
This reel has more dirt on the negative, leading to flurry of white spots.
What is this movie’s negative like?
12:57 – Feels like the scene is getting darker, but that can’t be. Only thing that can happen next is that the lights go out. Will my attention not flag, as nothing happens? But I DID miss tiny moments of action before, so I’m still nervous about missing something. Without a plot to give structure, you’re left never knowing what’s next, and what you might miss, or have missed already as you looked away. It’s been 1.5 hours, and already I’m pretty sure my eyes have never stayed fixed on one object for so long. (Except for brief moments when Tweeting out this event, and the occasional glance at my computer screens – minimized now that it turns out I CAN touch type, if forced to, and willing to bear tiwht errors.)
1:07 – Was this shot on positive film (as Screen Tests were)? Did it need an interneg to get printed? Would anyone but a tech nerd care? Andy certainly didn’t.
1:09 – So so SO tempting to tweet and follow responses to mine as I go – but that would fundamentally corrupt the original, 1960s, meditative experience. Anyone have some acid for me?
1:18 – Tons of lab artifacts on this reel. Swirls of badly mixed chemicals; moments where the film almost washes out (light leaks?) They reveal sudden flashes of grain.
1:20 – These film artifacts seem like a real relief from the monotony of the film. But truth is I haven’t felt much monotony. Taking notes creates eventfulness. Note-taking always a recipe against art fatigue….
1:30 – Just had discussion w Kenny the Projectionist about what it would be to watch this on acid, and how we’ve lost the ability to think of drugs in serious experimental terms of the early 60s.
Damn. That discussion made me miss the light going off on the smaller skyscraper. Wait, it’s back again, now flashing. A real thriller, this film…
1:31 – Lunchtime …. With eyes fixed on screen, eating supplies I brought. No need yet for the Five Hour Energy I bought for the first time.
1:37 – Can’t believe I ate that in 6 mins. Was eager to get back to the movie.
1:38 – Reel 4 – Definitely darker blacks than in 3. Also less dirt.
*** (Putting in three stars wherever I say something I may want to find again later…) Watching Empire is very much about the fact and experience of this kind of durational watching, rather than about the ESB, or film as a medium, or what’s on screen. So once again a work by Warhol is essentially performative – about its making or watching, but not about itself or its content or qualities. Warhol was interested in the social as much as the experiential. He loved messing with people – his actors, his acolytes, and his viewers.
1:46 – But in worse focus than other reels.
1:47 – Does the act of taking notes actually transform, maybe falsify, the experience of the piece as it was meant to be? An easy, event-filled replacement for the boredom that is supposed to happen in Empire.
1:48 – Still no more visitors to the gallery.
When else does one sit so long in one seat? A long airplane ride. Hey, I COULD get up and walk around. Avoid DVTs.
***This is very different, epistemologically (and ontologically?) from a still photo showing exactly the same subject. We know this is being shot over time, and that in fact there was an entire, lively city moving around as Empire was being made. This is an entirely accurate record of what was visible through that window, but entirely innacurate testament to the totality of that moment in time, at that place.
New York’s most potent symbol comes to represent stasis, rather than energy.
1:57 – No one is in the gallery, because Fuentes did almost no publicity. (You had to have a Google Alert going for “Warhol” to know about it.) But maybe this presentation is about the WORK, for its own sake, rather than trying to attract more viewers, or get attention, or even to commemorate Mekas’s role. Screening Empire is a good thing, just like that.
1:59 – ESB starts having a strange presence as this unchangeable persona. Like the body of the patient at a sick bed. This is starting to feel more like it must have, when it was shot: Warhol and Mekas just standing there, with the ESB as a REAL presence outside the window.
2:05 – Two older women come in, with classic art-world heavy-black glasses. They don’t know of the piece. How long will they sit and watch? “I’d like it in my bedroom,” says one. “It’s very restful.” Leave at 2:08. Three minutes of watching.
2:09 – From up close, the piece becomes a lovely strange abstraction, of flickering white parts on black.
2:12 – Another person comes in, quietly, stands there. Leaves after 2 minutes.
2:14 – Street person stays for 10 seconds.
Still no particular pain or discomfort or annoyance or boredom, three hours in.
***2:17 – Realized that the stylish, flame-like licks of light we see reaching up the ESB are just the product of having floods at the bottom of one level, licking up the façade as it rises and fading out towards its top. The ESB used to be lit as a monument, in honor of its presence and importance as a building. Now, covered in LEDs, it has become like a Times Square megascreen, advertising itself, and NYC, rather than illuminating a structure and icon. “That’s what you get, when you turn a city into a business,” says Kenny the Projectionist, and he’s right. You get an avatar of Disney, the archetypal entertainment business, instead of a real place where important things happen to be, and take place. Too long a thought. Missed watching the ESB for too long.
2:21 – Reel five changeover, with writing on leader visible. Kenny the Projectionist explains that the writing is a note to the projectionist, in black marker on clear stock, saying what the film is, which reel it is, and whether it’s the head (beginning) or tail (end) of the reel.
Reel five begins with someone visible in reflection in the window. Seems to be looking into the camera, but can’t be, because he’s not centered in the frame. A reminder that there were PEOPLE around the camera, shooting the film. Is it even vaguely possible that the reminder was deliberate?
2:28 – Again, looked away. Couldn’t I have missed something striking, notable, interesting? When nothing is billed as important, by a plot, any moment COULD turn out to have something going on that you don’t want to miss. (Although, statistically, chances are you’ve missed … more frames of the ESB against a black sky.)
2:31 – A couple come in. Say they know what it is. Stay 15 seconds. They make the common mistake of imagining that Empire is conceptual, a one-liner about the conceit of filming the ESB for six hours. That once you’ve registered that conceit, you’ve got the piece. They are so very, very wrong. The experience of the piece, and of WATCHING the piece, really does unfold over time.
2:34 – Man enters, leaves after 5 seconds.
2:40 – Back from 2 min bathroom break. What did I miss?! The new reel has many moments where the screen goes gray and grainy.
***2:41 – Empire enacts the basic “aesthetic” model of art looking, in the ideal – where you fall into the picture, and let it keep feeding you as long as possible. Isn’t this how we ought to look at any great work? How we would get most out of it? And with “Empire” sheer duration – it’s existence in time – makes that more possible than with any paintings.
2:43 – Of course, Empire is a SEQUENCE of images/frames, so you could argue that you look at each one for only a second.
***Is Warhol playing around the fact that a movie normally resists the extended looking that a picture permits, because a movie never stays the same – you can only look at it as a series of changes over time. Warhol is making a movie that can be looked at like an Old Master picture should be.
2:46 – I once looked at Las Meninas for better part of a week, in three or four hour chunks. Totally different than the experience of this. It was about looking here and there, at this and that detail, triggering this or that thought. Here, you’re really confronting a single totality over time.
2:48 – Huge noise from outside – as from loudspeaker truck, in Spanish. Or a feed fr a Spanish-language radio station, from a truck’s loudspeaker. Turns out to be a giant Hasidic van, looking for Latino converts, I’m told. (I could have poked my head outside, but that would have broken the durational spell. This is a marathon, and I can’t leave the road….)
2:49 – Does kind of ruin the experience of Empire – which is surprisingly delicate beast, that needs a tender environment.
2:55 – Guy walks in, joined by friend. Looks for few seconds. “High, how ya doin? We should grab a beer. I gotta go and find some flowers.” Leaves. Friend stays another 3 seconds, leaves.
3:00 – Would someone off the street recognize these few patches of light as the ESB? Starting to look to me like some kind of weird Japanese symbol or artist’s chop.
3:03 – You realize how careful the filmers must have been not to show any lights – or cigarettes or splifs being fired up.
3:04 – With no obviously important content, anything might be worthy of being noted – every flicker and flash is potentially worth taking a note about.
3:06 – Reel 6.
3:07 – Hasids are gone, thank god – or Lubavitchers, I guess
***Before smartphones (esp), we were simply alone with whatever stimulus was before us. Short of getting up and leaving, “Empire” gave you the Empire State Building. Now the whole world is in our pocket, begging us to pay attention to it. The eventless moments that Empire offers can hardly compete at all. (Huge effort of will not to check the Web, email etc.) Empire is the most striking test-case of that change. The movie was always about asking for our patience and forbearance, but now it tests us brutally.
***3:14 – Warhol probably never sat through all of Empire, and one Facebooker used that as evidence that it doesn’t ask for extended attention. But how long did Velazquez spend studying the Rokeby Venus, once he’d finished it? The experience of making a work is fundamentally different from experience of viewing, interpreting, COPING with it. But Warhol may have been the first artist to make the two experiences run in parallel, since our experience of watching the FILM is the same as some (imaginary) artist observer taking the footage of the original scene. (Of course, we don’t know how much AW attended to the building as he filmed it.)
3:15 – Young woman sits down, says she knows of the piece, but has never witnessed it.
3:22 - She leaves. Feels (especially to her?) as though she was here awhile. I turn off computer while she’s here, to have same, immersive experience as her. Actually, Empire is too mild-mannered to be really immersive. Too little to immerse yourself in – no kaleidoscope of sensation to go swimming in.
3:23 – An art historian friend said he’d visit, but never for the whole duration. But how could anyone know whether the whole experience would be special, rewarding, without TRYING the whole experience. After all, it’s the sheer extension of it through time that makes it different and special. That extension IS the piece, so if you don’t stay for at least a very good chunk, you haven’t experienced the piece. Like viewing one quarter of the Mona Lisa only, or in black and white.
3:25 – Two hipster girls come in, know what it is, leave at once.
3:26 – Now my eyes are hurting just from looking too much. This is first moment where experience is starting to be difficult. Not much more than halfway through.
3:28 – Maybe because of eye fatigue, the marks on the screen seem to have floated free of any masonry scaffolding, and seem just flames describing a shape in space.
3:30 – Two more ppl come in.
3:31 – They leave.
***3:31 – Nb this is actually the classic Albertian view through a window, literalized.
3:32 – Two more people come in. Leave again.
3:35 – Steeple light to l. goes out, back on, then flashes – could the flashes represent midnight? Notes say it’s the Met Ins tower – nb that I should have figured that out. Shows you how strange our attention can be, how selective. I wasn’t watching to figure out what I was seeing. I had an aesthetic attention for it.
3:37 – Man in, then out.
3: 39 – Man walks in. Leaves after one full minute.
3:49 – Ten minutes of contemplating the screen.
3:49 – Guy walks in , takes iPhone picture of screen, walks out.
3:50 – Reel 7, brief glimpse of someone – AW? – reflected in the window.
3:52 – a moment of flare and grain.
3:53 – Guy walks in – he had heard about someone being here for whole day. Goes to pee, says he then will come back. We’ll see if he does.
3: 59 – Two new people come in.
4:00 – By using black and white, is Warhol getting at the most basic experience of film, and representation, and vision itself? Light vs no light, signal vs silence/noise.
4:01 – Two people walk out.
4:02 – Funny that one of most famous, notorious works of art ever has barely managed to interest viewers for a minute of two, max. Have they zero interest in seeing what it might be about? Could they spend that little time with a painting – let alone w a pop song they’ve been offered a listen to?
4:02 – Man walks in, right out.
4:04 – Will Kenny the Projectionist have seen this movie more often than anyone else? A dozen or so times (although he wanders in and out.)
4:07 – Older man walks back in (guy who’d gone to pee?) stays looking for six minutes.
4:14 – Kenny the Projectionist points out irony of shooting the Empire SB from the windows of the Rockefeller Foundation – an empire’s-eye view onto Empire.
An absurdist moment has arrived, where I’m fed up and realize how DUMB it is to stare at an unchanging screen for so long. Warhol is not my friend…
4:15 - From up close, the grain does a lovely little shimmy in the lit areas, because almost invisible in the darks.
Something poignant and nostalgic about the image, as though the fascination is just with the act of being able to record on film at all.
4:17 – Couple walk in. Stay less than one minute.
4:18 – Kenny the Projectionist points out that we are esp aware of the artifacts of film, with this piece – the shimmy, the grain etc. Because normal movies have camera motion and figural motion that obscures those artifacts.
4:19 – Trio walks in. Out after three minutes or so.
4:34 – Reel 8. Was zoning out, unaware of time passing.
***4:38 – I’m actually tired of having new idea(-ette)s about the piece. Would love to just let it wash over me. BUT … just asked the question, why is it the length it is? Seems it doesn’t end when you might think, when the floodlights go out on ESB. Seems that it fills all ten reels of film exactly, so either that’s all the film Mekas had at all – but he must have asked Warhol how much he wanted to use for the shoot - or Warhol liked the round number, and the arbitrariness of the film being forced to end when the medium does, not because of a plot point. Ending when the floodlights go out, or with the sunrise, would be too cheap and tawdry and facile for Warhol – like the money-shot ending in porn. (Not that Andy had anything against money shots.) He needed an unmotivated ending, like the three-minute reel length that ends his “Screen Tests”. Equivalent to Cage’s 4’33” – but how was THAT timing arrived at?
4:49 – Makes the ESB actually seem poignant and delicate and evanescent, rather than hulking and massy, as it really is. (But of course ESB DOES look best at night, in real life.) And total stroke of genius to call the film “Empire” – Warhol was always more political than people let on – but I wonder if the one-word title comes about mostly in apposition to “Sleep” and “Kiss” and “Eat”, etc., not for its meaning. (Or at least, not at first.)
4:52 – Man walks in. Chats about how long I’ve been here. Says “This is my favorite bit” (sarcastically, ‘cause all bits around now are the same). Then “OK, that’s it. Guess I’ll come back later” and walks out.
4:54 – Couple walk in. Chat to each other a bit.
4:55 – Another man walks in. First time unconnected ppl have been here at same time.
4:56 - Couple walks out; ditto other man. I start getting angry that they don’t suffer as I am doing. WIMPS!
***4:58 – “From Russia With Love” out the year previous. OBVIOUS influence of its pacing on Warhol.
5:00 – I start whistling as I watch. Again reminded of how much my experience watching the film parallels Warhol’s, as I imagine him shooting it, with partial attention to the subject at hand. The archetype of Mekas’s “Direct Cinema”, more than any other Warhol, because we are less aware of the camera, because there’s no one in front of us mugging for it. The Empire SB is unaware of being looked at, or shot.
Of course the movie IS in black and white, with plenty of artifacts that indicate it’s a film – but our suspension of disbelief overrides that, and we feel in the presence of the ESB, just as Andy was.
5:03 – Couple walk in with small child – head to back office.
5:03 – Young man walks in, takes quick cell-phone pic of film, walks out again.
5:07 – Back from another 2 min bathroom break. Man is here when I emerge. I have now missed four minutes of Empire. So I guess I really can’t say I know the piece. What happened while I was gone? Fireworks? King Kong seen climbing it? Warhol looking into the lens? I’ll never know.
5:10 – “Nothing ever happens on reel eight” says Kenny the Projectionist. As opposed to the other reels?
5: 13 – mordencage is Kenny’s Instagram page, with footage of the lights coming on. And turns out I missed the TINY, subtle, one-second detail of the lights coming on in sequence down the building, not all at once.
5:18 – Reel nine. Reel eight went by very quickly.
5: 20 – One man comes in, says “I thought this was a museum piece. It’s quite something.”
5:21 – Of course, no PROOF that it’s all live and direct – many frames could have been repeated in the editing suite. Unlike a subject with actual continuous motion and change. Here the passing of time is almost notional.
5:23 – Though it’s said to be “acceptable” to show it 18 fps.
5:26 – Man leaves after chatting – “I promise I’ve spent more time with this in the past.” We discuss whether it’s still credible to dismiss Warhol as glib and superficial. What would it mean to claim that, when there are so many and varied and complex reactions to everything Warhol did. What more can we ask of an artist than that.
5: 28 – Reel nine seems more velvety, larger image – but that could just be our eyes as they tire, and look.
Actually easier to look, in a passive way at least, as you talk to someone.
5: 30 – Man walks in.
5:31 – Starting to be fond of ESB – a familiar, reassuring presence, always there. Like a pet reliably beside you as you work.
5:32 – Man walks out.
5: 39 – Watching like a hawk, now, so as not to miss the blackout moment. Which – oop, there it is!
Three windows seem to remain lit of ESB.
5:47 – Standing close to screen, I realize that you can just see the light flashing on top of ESB antenna. There was no reason to notice it before, when there was so much else to see in the frame.
5:52 – Nb that light on top of Met Life Ins. tower stays on throughout, proving that this isn’t just shots of the inside of a lens cap.
*** 5:54 – Kenny the Projectionist points out that the camera had to be some considerable distance from the window to capture the large reflections it does. Why would they do that?
***Metropolitan Life Ins tower flashes twice. It’s two o’clock, Warhol time. LOVELY that there’s that marker of time in a movie that’s all about time passing, Couldn’t ask for more or better.
*** 6:00 – So tempting to rewind to catch bits you’d like to revisit – as, midnight when the life ins. tower flashes 12 times. But brilliant that you barely can, with film, as you would with DVD. The need to stay focused is much stronger than with DVD, because you know you CAN’T revisit. The film passing though the projector’s gate is a match with time passing in a single direction, irretrievably.
6:01 – Reel ten, with strange flash of image of 1960s girl, with white and dark card, as density test for the printer.
6:01 – We see a glimpse, better than before, of figs in the room, with one of the mullions of the window.
6:06 – Woman comes in, says she knows it well. Cause worked at museum and kept a bootleg copy.
6:08 – Julia Robinson, NYU prof comes in. The first real expert on this stuff to appear.
Shares tons of details re the Fluxus and avant-garde background for Empire, e.g. the eight-hour movie called “Tree”. Also rumor that, after 18-hour Cage performance of Satie’s Vexations, Warhol was last person present. (The TV program “I’ve Got A Secret” interviewed John Cale about that performance.) She talks about a short-lived band with Johns, Warhol (?!), Pattie Oldenburg, LaMonte Young.
*** 6:32 – Saying this is a Mekas “creation” is wrong (not that Mekas claims that for a second.) Over time, all sorts of things accrete to a socially-created character – a myth or a god – named Andy Warhol, and all that so accretes counts as a Warhol. (Just as the acts of humans must have accreted to the stories of heroes and gods)
6:43 – End is near. I can almost feel the projector humming differently, as the weight distribution changes on the reels.
6:45 – DONE! 1994 copyright notice is last detail on the piece – perfectly appropriate for an artist who went on to declare business, and the business of art, to be the greatest art form.