Sunday, November 29, 2009

Screen Tests

While thinking about the gaze and how much power it can have over a person, I would like to share with you a few videos from Andy Warhol's Screen Tests. Warhol posed over 500 hundred subjects (poets, singers, factory visitors, art curators, drag queens, socialites, critics) in front of a movie camera for three minute "screen tests" which were silent, black and white, close-up film portraits. The subjects were told to stay as still as possible and not to blink while the camera was running.

These film portraits were not filmed with the purpose of actually testing or auditioning actors, even though Warhol told them that these tests were performed in order to gauge how much potential "star" quality an individual had.

At first, the films may seem silly, as you wait for something, anything to happen. But as the seconds and minutes pass by and the subjects continue to maintain eye contact as they stare into the faceless lens of the camera, immobile, it's easy for the viewer to become uncomfortable because it's almost as if you feel like you are invading their privacy; watching a part of them that they did not intend anyone to see. In a way, the viewer is experiencing voyeurism since we can see them in their most raw and unembellished states without them being able to see us, however after a while, this sense of "power" and "pleasure" we get quickly transforms into discomfort. It's amazing to see how squirmy and uncomfortable a person becomes as soon as a movie camera is pointed at them for an awkwardly long duration of time.

These film portraits were made in 1964-1966

Edie Sedgwick: This one is not supposed to have music in the background but someone added it. I would recommend watching it on mute.

Bob Dylan (again, there should be no music):


  1. This is sooo amazing. I love Andy Warhol first of all. Second of all, these videos are awesome. It's crazy to see how uncomfortable people can become when being stared at by a lens let alone other people...veryyy interesting!

  2. WOW
    these are great Nadia!
    And I absolutely agree with jessica's comment
    the longer the camera rolls.. the more uncomfortable people got.

  3. oh my, this is such a cool post on "the gaze"! Hah, it is uncomfortable...

  4. I know it works better without music, but the Sedgewick one has Slowdive in the background! How cool! Slowdive is my favorite! Definitely makes it much less uncomfortable, though.