Monday, May 14, 2012 at 7:30pm
Andy Warhol's Paul Swan
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Andy Warhol, 16mm, 1965, 66 mins
Introduced by Douglas Crimp
Paul Swan is Andy Warhol’s two-reel portrait of the dancer once billed as “the most beautiful man in the world.” In 1965, when Warhol filmed him, Swan was eighty-two years old and still performing his aesthetic dance routines in weekly salons attended by the likes of Marcel Duchamp and Alexander Calder. In Warhol’s film, Swan dances such numbers as “Two Hero’s Slain,” his elegy for World War I soldiers, “The Elements: Earth, Water, Fire, and Air—the Movements Seen and Unseen in Nature,” and “Three Oriental Numbers” in skimpy costumes that he spends a great deal of the time getting into and out of. Paul Swan is one of the few films Warhol shot it color in 1965, and though the camera is stationary in the first reel, trained throughout on the tapestry backdrop Swan uses for a set, in the second reel Warhol zooms right in on Swan’s aging flesh and shoe-polish eye make-up. For much of that reel, though, Swan remains off-stage (and off-screen) looking for a particular pair of black slippers that he insists must be worn with his French peasant costume. Swan’s pianist helps him look for the slippers while the crew behind the camera becomes increasingly impatient to get Swan back in front of the camera. Not surprisingly, Warhol is content to let the action take its own course. Callie Angell wrote that “Warhol’s interest in Paul Swan seems to have been based on the observation that, in his unswerving dedication to his increasingly anachronistic art form, Swan had become the living embodiment of camp.” And in fact Swan had appeared in Warhol’s film of that title around the same time that Paul Swan was made. Angell also noted that Swan’s performance in Warhol’s film recalls “the equally disorganized, equally uncompromising performances of Jack Smith,” with whom he appears in Camp. - DC
For tonight's event, Crimp will read from his new book, "Our Kind of Movie": The Films of Andy Warhol.
Douglas Crimp teaches Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester. His previous books are On the Museum’s Ruins (1993) and Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics (2002). Crimp was the curator of the Pictures exhibition at Artists Space, New York in 1977 and an editor of October magazine from 1977 to 1990. With Lynne Cooke, he organized the exhibition Mixed Use, Manhattan: Photography and Related Practices, 1970s to the Present for the Reina Sofía in Madrid in the summer of 2010. He is currently working on a memoir of New York in the 1970s called Before Pictures.
Tickets - $7, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.