Today I feature Andy Warhol’s SCREEN TESTS. Between 1964 and 1966, the pop artist shot close to 500 short movies — or what he called “screen tests” — of friends, celebrities and models.
ABOUT SCREEN TESTS
from MOMA New York
In August 1962, Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987) began making silkscreen paintings of popular icons, including a series of images of Marilyn Monroe that he began a month after her death. He went on to experiment in portrait making with public photo booth machines, which automatically take four exposures several seconds apart and print them in a strip, like a sequence of film frames.
Combining the seriality of these silkscreen and photo booth portraits with the ephemeral quality of the filmed image, between 1964 and 1966 Warhol shot approximately 500 rolls of film: several-minute silent portraits of acquaintances, friends, and celebrities, including many of the artists musicians, poets, actors, models, playwrights, curators, collectors, critics, and gallerists who composed New York City’s avant-garde scene. Some subjects were invited to the artist’s East 47th Street studio, known as The Factory or The Silver Factory, to sit for their portraits; others were captured spontaneously. At times Warhol left his subjects alone with the camera, creating a heightened sense of vulnerability that is perceptible in the films. His first subjects, seated before a sterile backdrop, were asked not to move or speak (later portraits were shot under more flexible conditions). These films, known as “stillies” around the Factory, were also referred to by Warhol as Living Portrait Boxes, and, later, as Screen Tests.
Warhol shot the portraits at the standard speed for sound film (24 frames per second), but specified that they should be projected at a 16 frames per second, the conventional projection speed for silent films in the early period of cinema. The result is an unusually slow fluidity of pace, a rhythm gently at odds with the large-scale close-ups, which are rendered almost abstract by stark contrasts of light and shadow. The images, still yet moving, play in a continuous loop, bearing a timeless presence.Watch other screen tests on You Tube: Bob Dylan, Baby Jane Holzer and Nico (these have been dubbed with some music so just mute the videos to experience the authentic screen tests as Warhol originally made them- as silent motion portraits)
CREATE YOUR OWN SCREEN TEST –à la Warhol
Tips from MOMA, New York
STEP 1: Stage your Film Set
- Prepare your camera and/or webcam
- Set up a solid white or black background
- Darken your filming environment, with the exception of a light source shining directly on you
- Sit in a chair facing the camera
STEP 2: Record your Screen Test
- Start recording
- Look directly into the camera lens
- Remain as motionless as possible.
- Record for up tp 90 seconds.
- Save your screen test to your computer.
Note: During the duration of the Warhol Motion Picture show at MOMA in 2011, STEP 3 was for people to Upload their Screen Test to Flickr. Screen tests that were accepted by MOMA were displayed on the exhibition website in *black and white at a 4:3 size and muted to emulate the style of Warhol’s Screen Tests. (*you may choose to do the same with the screen test that you have made for your own viewing pleasure)
More on Warhol’s Motion Pictures: Warhol’s film-making adventure went on with a series of longer films, or rather “anti-films,” that challenged the conventions of filmmaking. No three act structures here. Here are some of them:Sleep (1963). 40 silent minutes of his friend John Giorno’s long slumber. Kiss, a 54 minute film built out of a series of shorter films. It’s all couples kissing. Eat (1963),a 45-minute film depicting pop artist Robert Indiana gnawing on a raw mushroomAmerican film created by Andy Warhol.Oh and there’s a brief appearance made by a cat. (Info Source 1 & 2)
“Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures” focus on the artist’s cinematic portraits and non-narrative, silent, and black-and-white films from the mid-1960s. Warhol’s Screen Tests reveal his lifelong fascination with the cult of celebrity, comprising a visual almanac of the 1960s downtown New York avant-garde scene.