‘Cinema and Boredom: Wasting Time with Andy Warhol’
Andy Warhol’s movies – a significant corpus of work made between 1963 and 1968 – have often been criticised as boring. These accusations have been levelled against his experiments with endurance, such as the 25 hour long **** (Four Stars) of 1967, as much as shorter works that experiment with stillness and stasis, or that test the boundaries of generic form to exhaustion. However, the complex form of this boredom – as a deliberate aesthetic strategy employed by Warhol, as a marked feature of some of the films’ content, and as an affective response experienced by viewers – remains largely critically neglected. Claiming that a cultural text is ‘boring’, in other words, most often operates as a dismissal, shutting down discourse rather than opening it up. Using Warhol’s movies as a focus, this paper will explore the political force and valence of boredom as it has been employed by a range of filmmakers. Connections will be made to other artists and directors experimenting with experiences of time in the 1960s and ‘70s (Akerman, Antonioni, Tarkovsky), as well as to some of those associated with the recent ‘slow cinema’ movement (Apichatpong, Costa, Tarr), a number of whom have explicitly identified Warhol as an influence on their films. Walter Benjamin’s suggestion, in The Arcades Project, that ‘boredom is the threshold of great deeds’, will be used to examine the ways in which this embodied and affective experience can be inflected positively. The experience of boredom, I will suggest, especially as it relates to the moving image, should not be merely abandoned as ‘wasted time’, but recalibrated as a potentially powerful corrective to normative conceptions of speed, chronology and time.
Glyn Davis is Chancellor's Fellow and Reader in Screen Studies at the University of Edinburgh, where he is exploring the relationships between cinema and boredom. He is the co-editor of 'Queer TV: Theories, Histories, Politics' (Routledge, 2009) and 'Warhol in Ten Takes' (BFI, 2013), and the author of monographs on 'Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story' (Columbia UP, 2008) and 'Far from Heaven' (Edinburgh UP, 2011).
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013