Between 1964 and ’66, Andy Warhol shot 472 silent, four-minute films of the various people who visited his New York studio, known as the Factory. The black-and-white footage appears in slow motion, tightly focused on the subjects’ subtly shifting facial expressions. Known as the Screen Tests, the series is the inspiration for Luke Willis Thompson’s film “Cemetery of Uniforms and Liveries,” in which he similarly zooms in on the faces of two black men from London. They, however, are not found lounging or smoking in an artist’s loft. Rather, their somber expressions are charged with a tragic shared reality: each has had a family member unjustly killed by Metropolitan police officers, who were not indicted.
According to Thompson’s research, Warhol’s Screen Tests — like his “13 Most Wanted Men” mural — were based on images of most-wanted persons. And notably, almost all of Warhol’s subjects were white. “It made me think that this omission was more significant than the racial exclusion within the underground scene in New York at the time,” he writes. “Warhol’s Screen Tests, unconsciously or not, draw some of their power by the taking this lineage of black image production and applying it to white and privileged subjects.”
Thompson’s film will screen this Thursday at the Swiss Institute, where the artist will also unpack some of these criticisms of Warhol’s work that aren’t often raised.
When: Thursday, August 10, 7pm
Where: Swiss Institute (102 Franklin Street, Tribeca, Manhattan)
More info here.