Saturday, January 21, 2012

Directions: Empire³

Where: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

When: through February 26, 2012

This exhibit is made up of three videos of the Empire State Building.  The first, in the room to the right, is by Andy Warhol.  He set up a camera in a building facing the Empire State Building and filmed it overnight.  In its entirety, it's six or eight hours in length.  That's right; hours and hours of film of a building: nothing happens.  Apparently when it was first shown, people rioted to get their money back.  I watched for a few minutes, felt I'd gotten the gist of the film and made my way to the next video.  I didn't feel myself hard done by, but then I watched it for free.

The second video, in the entryway, is a video of Warhol's movie.  Douglas Gordon filmed a screening of Warhol's movie and what you see is the resulting video.  It's the same immobile building, except grainier and with a shaky camera.  I gave this even less time than I'd devoted to the Warhol and moved onto the third video by Wolfgamg Staehle.

Staehle's piece is a webcast from 1999 (so don't expect current webcast techniques) in which he streamed still photographs taken at six second intervals for 24 hours.  Still not much going on here.

The Hirshhorn just never disappoints.  You go expecting ridiculous things, and that's what you get.  Ten minutes will give you an excellent sense of what these films are about.  The problem is that the Empire State Building, that triumph of Art Deco architecture, is best viewed clearly to appreciate its many gorgeous details - these are all just grainy, even the Warhol, which is the clearest of the bunch was shot at night, so you can't really see anything.

I know, I know, I'm missing the point of the films, I'm sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Warhold created his film, at least in part, to see if people would really be gullible enough to watch footage of a building for hours.

Verdict: Pass - surely you've got something better to do with your lunch hour?

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