Screen tests are traditionally used to decipher if an actor is suitable for a role, but Andy Warhol's tests were more opaque. In the words of the famous pop artist: "That screen magnetism is something secret –- if you could only figure out what it is and how to make it, you’d have a really good product to sell. But you can’t even tell if someone has it until you actually see them up there on the screen. You have to give screen tests to find out."
Warhol created almost 500 screen tests between 1964 and 1966, with stars including Edie Sedgwick, Salvador Dali and Bob Dylan. Celebrities and anonymous Factory disciples were stripped of their personas and placed equally before the camera, mostly communicating only through blinks and the occasional crack of a smile. Each Screen Test was exactly the same length, lasting as long as the roll of 16 mm film. His living portraits didn't reveal a narrative or voice -- it was the sitters' challenge to entrance an audience solely with their presence. The four-minute impromptu clips became legendary, epitomizing Warhol's obsession with fame, boredom and the conflation of the two.
Warhol's screen tests are making a 21st century comeback at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, allowing visitors to combine the dreamy vintage aesthetic of Warhol's original with the post-YouTube era technical enhancements. Warhol filmed his subjects with a stationary Bolex camera and 16 mm film, subtly changing the focus and tone to harness the mood of his transient superstars. He then stretched out the films in silent slow motion, creating an otherworldly filmic realm removed from reality. Museum-goers can experience their 15 minutes of fame on their own terms, personally manipulating their screen test with a computer touch screen. Their screen test will be digitally transformed to slow motion and put online, where, don't worry, you can share it on Facebook.
Geralyn Huxley, curator of film and video at the Warhol museum told ArtDaily: "The visitors’ finished screen tests will reveal the subtle nuances that made Warhol’s films transcend their medium to become visual masterpieces."
Visit the "Create Your Own Screen Test" website to see past screen tests and learn more.
To get some inspiration, watch Edie's screen test below and just think: you could be next.
Correction: An earlier edition of this article stated the Warhol Museum was in Philadelphia. It is in fact located in Pittsburgh. We regret the error.