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A Monument On A Monument

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 6, 2011 8:20PM

2011_12_6warholempire.jpg In some ways, Andy Warhol's 1964 film Empire was his ultimate cinematic achievement. Like John Cage's piece 4'33" (with which it's sometimes compared) it goes about as far in a specific direction as it's possible to go: "to watch time go by" is how Warhol described the point of the film. For eight hours and five minutes, his camera fixes its gaze on the top of the Empire State Building. The camera never moves. The only things that "happen" in the movie are the skyscraper's floodlights turning on and then shutting off (although occasionally members of the film crew can be glimpsed reflected in the window through which the film was shot). Empire was added to the National Film Registry in 2004.

This Friday, beginning at 6 p.m., the Art Institute will project Empire onto the side of the Aon Center, giving Lake Shore Drive motorists and Millennium Park visitors quite a show. It kicks off the Art Institute’s upcoming “Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph 1964-1977” exhibition, which runs December 13 &mdash March 11.

If standing outside and just watching the film is too boring for you ... Warhol would be very pleased. However, provided you have $60-80 burning a hole in your pocket, you can instead opt for a rather absurd viewing party at the Institute's Nichols Trustees Suite. From 8 p.m. &mdash 11 p.m., you'll be treated to "music from one of Chicago’s hippest DJs, hors d’oeuvres, and complimentary wine & beer."

This won't be the first time that Empire has been shown on the side of a building. In 2005 London's National Theatre was used a backdrop. Aon Center is the third-tallest building in Chicago, so there should be plenty of surface area.

The screening begins Friday at 6 p.m. and ends Saturday at 2 a.m. If you don't mind standing outside in the cold, it's free.