Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Fellow Lecture


Surface, Space, Phantasms: Spectators and Effects in Warhol’s Late Films

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

17.30 - 18.30, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

faced bathed in red light
Ronald Nameth: Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable, 1966

Speaker(s): William McManus (Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Fellow, The Courtauld)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Professor Caroline Arscott

Sometime in July of 1965, Andy Warhol began to break with his signature practice of building films around a single subject or informal context seen entirely from a stationary camera angle in favour of a more disjunctive approach to relations between movement, scale and tableau. The first result of this shift, Space, a conceptual montage of sorts, is often regarded as a failure by critics and by screenwriter Ronald Tavel. Generally, this failure is attributed to the social dynamic of the film’s participants—playing themselves within the permissive social environment of Warhol’s Factory—and their ultimate indifference to Warhol and the gaze of camera. For the remainder of 1965, Warhol’s camera work, although edited was mostly restricted to the explication of more narrative film projects in which actors were cast in more conventional roles. Beginning in early 1966, however with the development his multi-media project the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Warhol arrived at a complex model for avant-garde film—one that culminated for many his master work The Chelsea Girls, but that carried through his recreation of the Kennedy assassination Since, and carried through to his final avant-garde project, the one-time twenty five hour film **** (Four Stars). These later projects are characterized by a series of then radical techniques for underground film: split screens, back projection, stark anti-illusionism and a taut negotiation between the fictional activities before the camera and the acknowledgement on the part of the actors of being both stationary, individual objects arrayed indifferently within a particular spatial regime of the camera’s frame, yet also of being immersed within a greater collective and technological milieu that may be said to have largely defined social relations at the time. This paper will develop the connections between Warhol’s various late film techniques and the experiential conditions of the counter-cultural avant-garde in 1967.


William McManus has done graduate studies in art history at Johns Hopkins and Princeton Universities. His dissertation at Princeton deals with the art and films of Andy Warhol (ca. 1961-68). His is the first full length study to take Warhol’s painting, media projects and films together as an organic whole, and to place Warhol’s project within a social and psychoanalytic context of the neoliberal aesthetics that emerged from this moment. Prior to arriving at The Courtauld, McManus taught lecture and seminar courses at Vassar College, Stanford University and the Rhode Island School of Design, both in the departments of art and of media studies and the humanities centres more generally. His current research, loosely titled ‘Inside Postmodernism’ focuses on performance and projected works of the 1970s as they elaborate new models of historical experience. McManus has most recently given public lectures on these subjects at the Freie Universität Berlin, and at The Courtauld. His writing has appeared in the Art Journal and the Brooklyn Rail; an essay on Warhol’s painting and commodity relations is forthcoming in the journal Amerikastudien.

This lecture has been made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art in collaboration with The Courtauld Institute of Art. For further information about the Terra Foundation for American Art and this initiative see www.terraamericanart.org


Terra Foundation logo




Back to Events Calendar