Empire

Today from 12:30-1:30 I’ll be tweeting about Andy Warhol’s 1964 film Empire from the Museum of Modern Art at the invitation of WNYC. The film’s entire 8 hours will be accompanied by commentary from a series of guest tweeters, along with participation from readers worldwide. If you don’t use Twitter, no worries: the entire conversation will be funneled into a scrolling text window at WNYC.org.

The line-up:

10:30am: WNYC’s Carolina Miranda (@cmonstah) and Liz Arnold (@lizarnold or @wnycculture) kick off the chatter.
11:00 am to noon (and throughout the day): @MuseumModernArt (aka Victor Samra), will discuss MoMA’s exhibit, Warhol in the collection, etc.
12:30pm – 1:30pm: @_waterman (yours truly) will discuss the building and New York City in literature.
2:30pm – 3:30pm: @marklamster (Mark Lamster) will talk architecture, etc.
4:30pm – 5:30pm: @ARTnewsmag (Robin Cembalest) and @Hyperallergic (Hrag Vartanian) will talk about Warhol’s artistic legacy.

I’m probably going to show up a little early: I want to be there to applaud when the sun starts to set and the observation deck lights go on.

What I’ll tweet about depends largely on what kind of conversation emerges from the interaction on Twitter (follow the hashtag #empirefilm). But I’ve been thinking in terms of recent work by Reva Wolf, Daniel Kane, and others about Warhol’s relationship to New York’s poetry and downtown arts scenes in the 1960s. Warhol was one of the unifying threads when I taught a course on the Downtown Scene, 1960-1980 last summer. I’m teaching it again this year, along with a graduate seminar on New York writing in the Age of Warhol.

Here’s a great poem, for instance, inspired not by Empire, but by the earlier Warhol film, Sleep, featuring the poet John Giorno. It’s written by Ron Padgett, one of my favorite figures from the the “second generation” New York School poets:

Sonnet for Andy Warhol

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I think the poem applies to Empire equally as well as it does to Sleep, and though on first glance it may appear the poem endorses the commonplace criticism that Warhol’s epic films (in which not much happens) are boring, I think neither the film nor the poem is boring, nor is either of them about boredom. Rather, both crackle like a freshly struck lightning rod. Look again.

For a useful overview of Empire, see the entry at Gary Comenas’s excellent Warhol Stars site. At WNYC.org, Liz Arnold has an interview up with Jonas Mekas, the legendary underground filmmaker who served as cinematographer for Empire, and Carolina Miranda’s been scouring the archives for Warhol- and ESB-related bits. You’ll find annotations, links, and parallel content at WNYC’s Tumblr through the day. For historical peeps at the ESB, start with a series of posts over at The Bowery Boys.

Meantime, here’s a taste of the action:

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