Susan Sontag was one of the many subjects of Warhol’s Screen Tests, a silent-film portrait series capturing well–known cultural figures of the 1960s. Warhol filmed seven Screen Tests of the journalist and author Sontag in his Factory—a space of collaborative and interdisciplinary artistic production. Of the Sontag films, ST318 is perhaps the most direct and severe. The intricacies of Sontag’s facial features are heightened by the film’s slow–motion progression, stretched out to four minutes and thirty seconds (just three seconds short of Cage’s 4’33”). Like 4’33”, the silent film’s minimal aesthetic threatens boredom, yet both works afford the audience an alternative opportunity to embrace the dynamism and potential of the everyday. In Sontag’s 1969 essay “The Aesthetics of Silence,” she declares silence “a zone of meditation, preparation for spiritual ripening, an ordeal which ends in gaining the right to speak.”
Gallery label from There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33”, October 12, 2013–June 22, 2014.