Sunday, 25 March 2012

Empire State


I just left a rather back-handed comment over on Bris's blog about watching paint dry, and mentioned that someone, somewhere, posts a daily event of a live webcam in front of a freshly painted board, and invites you to watch it dry. Fascinating.

That inspired me to look it up, and guess what? He has gone one step further and you can now watch grass grow as well. He has placed his webcam on a patch of it outside his house, and when I watched just now, it was dark, so I guess he is in a different part of the world to me.

I didn't watch for very long, because - as every fool knows - grass stops growing at night, so there is not an awful lot to see until dawn, when it begins growing again as the sun hits it, but by that time I am usually in bed or in the pub. Anyway, if you want to take a look, you can find it here:

http://www.watching-grass-grow.com/

I am the only person I know who has actually watched Andy Warhol's 'Empire State' from beginning to end without walking out - even Warhol himself didn't ever see his own movie all the way through. I'm not sure that he even saw a small part of it.

I don't know if you are familiar with Warhol's Empire State, but it was made by setting up a camera on a building quite close to that skyscraper, pointing it at it and leaving it on - running in real time - over the space of about 7 hours.

The first few hours of watching are excruciatingly tedious, and most people walk out of the theatre within the first 30 minutes. They are foolish to do so however, as they miss some exciting bits of action as the first spool is changed, causing a slight jerk in atmospheric and lighting conditions which actually make you jump in your seat.

After a couple more hours, the sun begins to sink and the sky grows darker. Lights begin to get switched on in the building, and cleaners can be glimpsed doing their work after the office workers have left. Then the lights begin to go out floor by floor, and - in the following period of uneventful darkness - this is the time when the rest of the hardier cinema-goers yawn, get restless and leave their seats to go home to bed. Not me though.

They are also foolish to give up so early as well, because it is only another hour or three to wait until the sun rises in the east, and the whole building is bathed in a golden dawn light - the highlight, in fact, of the entire film. When the sun is in the sky, the movie ends and you (or I) realises the heightened state of sensitivity you have been brought to through a combination of sitting still and staring in one direction without sleep for over 7 hours. You also become aware that both legs have gone to sleep.

I have to admit that I was the only one who was obliged to sit through it all, because I had rented the film for the college film club, and had to stay to make sure that the projectionist re-wound the spools and put them safely back in the cans before leaving the building. I also had to make sure he had not died during the night, in case I had to inform his relatives.

I think this was the time when I suffered most for someone elses's art more than any other, but I was young and energetic then. I would like to hear John's appraisal of the flick, but I will eat my hat (the tweed one) if he has watched it all the way through.

14 comments:

  1. We stayed within the shadow of the Empire State building (Chelsea Hotel) a while ago, and could lie in bed, watching the upper floors change colour through the floodlights which stay on all night. Warhol's film is black and white, I think (it's been 40 years since I saw it), so the colours cannot be seen. That would be cheating.

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    1. I say above that 'cleaners can be glimpsed...' but - looking at the still on the header - I think this must have been an hallucination.

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  2. I lasted for about 1 hr 30 mins of 'Sleep'. I felt as if I was being punished for something I hadn't done!

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    1. You have just reminded me that I watched both Empire State and Sleep back to back. It seems impossible to believe now, but I think that is true - the showings must have started in the early afternoon. I think we had a short refreshments interval in between.

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  3. Beautiful film review Tom. I loved it so much, I'll never need to see the movie.
    It reminds me of time lapse work taken of Ayers Rock.

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    1. At least Ayers Rock goes bright red.

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  4. no. I would not be arsed going to see it tom... a cinematic version of one of those floatation tanks me thinks.... interesting though but in practice... I would prefer tamazepam!

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    1. Wise choice, but I was not your advanced age when I did.

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  5. That website sounds like a great punishment for kids who complain about being bored!

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    1. Youd have to strap them in and put drops into their eyes, like 'A Clockwork Orange'.

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  6. wasn't there one called Climax? I don't think that one lasted one and a half hours.

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    1. Probably a lot more exhausting, though.

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