It would try the endurance of most viewers to attempt to watch Andy Warhol's silent, black-and-white 1964 film Empire - a single shot of the Empire State Building, projected in slow motion and lasting just over eight hours - in its entirety. Greg Pierce, a film and video technician for 13 years at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, recommends watching at least the first 50 minutes (the first reel of 10) to get the idea.
"The film begins with a white screen. It's pretty washed-out and you can see the Empire State Building," says Pierce, "and as it gets darker, the lights on its exterior get switched on. When you are watching grains swimming around and then these lights come on, if you have gone into that Zen mode it is a dramatic point in the film as far as a still-life of a building goes."
The film is being screened in its entirety at Coskun Fine Art daily from 10am and is projected onto the façade of the gallery at night. After the first reel, the lights flicker on and off for the next six-and-a-half hours. Then the floodlights go off again in the next-to-last reel so the end of the film takes place in almost total darkness. "Another highlight is in reel seven," says Pierce, "when you catch Warhol's reflection."
Shot on 25-26 July 1964, Empire followed on from 1963's Sleep, Warhol's five-hour, 21-minute film of a sleeping man. "There are many films between Sleep and Empire, but there is a big change in Warhol's film-making procedure with Empire. He got a new camera [an Auricon] that allowed him to film longer takes. The camera took a 1,200ft roll of film that would shoot for roughly 33 minutes."
The camera filmed the iconic New York landmark from a window of the Time-Life Building for six hours, from 8pm to 2.30am. "He wanted to make the Empire State Building a star," says Pierce, "and the idea of shooting 10 rolls of film of a building was somewhat of a joke, but Warhol had the budget."
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