Phil Solomon is an acclaimed experimental filmmaker from the United States, known for his use of machinima—incorporating real-time computer graphics to create cinematic video works. His video installation EMPIRE x 8, which draws its visual framework from the open-world video game Grand Theft Auto IV, pays wry homage to Andy Warhol’s iconic film Empire (1964). Positioned at a vantage point high above the New York streets, overlooking GTA’s avatar for the Empire State Building, the film represents a 24-hour hour period of shifting light, dramatic weather, falling debris, and ominous planes. Unlike Warhol’s film, the passage of time in EMPIRE x 8 is accelerated and the skyline simulated. Solomon explains how he duplicated Warhol’s perspective: “I hijacked a copter, leaping onto the rooftop of an adjacent building, spawned a scooter out of thin air and then gingerly drove it to the very edge of the precipice in order to roughly approximate that familiar view from July 25 – 26, 1964. And then I put the controller aside and did exactly nothing for 24 hours (48 minutes in our world).”

Presented on the media wall in the windowed entrance hallway of the Ryerson Image Centre, Solomon’s film is accessible from the street until midnight each day. Within this campus context—a university known for its innovative programs in film and video—Solomon’s video installation exemplifies the possibilities of incorporating computer graphics and gaming in the articulation of conceptual issues. Here, he employs the medium to reconsider an architectural icon—and an experimental film masterpiece—haunted by questions about appropriation, realism, and the tarnished state of the American Dream.

Organized by the Ryerson Image Centre

The artist thanks Kate MacKay and Melissa Kristl for their invaluable assistance

Curated by Paul Roth