This paper offers a way to think philosophically about Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests and in particular their ethical implications. I focus on how the faces of the Screen Tests’ participants appear on the screen, making a link to the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. For Levinas, the human face signifies the possibility of transcending day-to-day structures of perception based on understanding, knowledge and visual representation, and can therefore invite an encounter with radical alterity. I make a connection between Levinas’s reading of the face and the observations of a number of film theorists who see the cinematic close-up as a unique image, transcending the status of an ordinary perceptual phenomenon. I examine two Screen Tests, those of Bob Dylan and Ann Buchanan, using them as concrete examples of how film close-ups can open viewers to the face, in a Levinasian sense: the epiphany of radical alterity. This allows me to claim that despite Levinas’s declared hostility towards the visual, his philosophical articulation of the notion of the face helps to show the ethical implications of the appearance of the human face in cinema in general, and in Warhol’s Screen Tests in particular.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
- Andy Warhol
- Emmanuel Levinas
- Jacques Derrida
- Screen Tests
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Literature and Literary Theory