“Prurience is Part of the Machine”: Automation, Real Estate, and New York’s Underground Screens

The Centre for Film and Media Research (CFMR) warmly invite you to attend their first research event for the autumn term.

Prurience is Part of the Machine”:

Automation, Real Estate, and New York’s Underground Screens

Amy Herzog (Queens College/The Graduate Center, CUNY)

Thursday 19 October, 5pm – Keynes Seminar Room 16

New York’s Times Square underwent a radical transformation in the 1960s and 1970s, emerging as one of the most visible and vilified public marketplaces for pornography. Times Square also provided a critical site for connecting, working, and cruising for a diverse demographic: artists, queers, curious youth, sex workers, closeted professionals, and new arrivals to the city. Long a crossroads for commerce and sensationalized entertainment, the neighborhood’s cinematic legacy is marked by a similar convergence of interests. Times Square’s porn theaters and grindhouses offered a steady mix of sexploitation, pornographic, and experimental film works. This crosspollination between adult and experimental film cultures extends beyond the content and style of individual works to include spectatorship practices and innovative viewing architectures.

Andy Warhol and Jonas Mekas were perhaps the most visible interlopers between the adult and experimental New York scenes, enthusiastically celebrating and critiquing the traffic between them. “I really do think movies should arouse you,” Warhol argued, “should get you excited about people…. Prurience is part of the machine” (Bockris, 327). Using Warhol and Mekas’s reflections as a point of departure, this talk will explore the rich connections between New York’s experimental and underground film cultures and several core themes resonating between them.


Amy Herzog is a media historian whose research spans a broad range of interdisciplinary subjects, including film, philosophy, popular music, urban history, pornography, gentrification, parasites, amusement parks, and dioramas. She is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Queens College and Coordinator of the Film Studies Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. Herzog is the author of Dreams of Difference, Songs of the Same: The Musical Moment in Film (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) and co-editor, with Carol Vernallis and John Richardson, of The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media (Oxford, 2013). Her writing has appeared in numerous collections and journals (including Discourse, Jump Cut and Feminist Media Histories), and she has presented her work at venues including the Guggenheim Museum of New York, The New Museum, Dixon Place, the New York Academy of Medicine, and the Coney Island Museum. Her most recent research project explores the history of peep show arcades in Times Square, New York.

More about the Centre for Film and Media Research

The Centre’s main objective is to support, produce and disseminate cutting-edge film and media research. A broad and welcoming church for the manifold approaches to our subject, we specialise in moving-image research that is collaborative, of high impact, international and interdisciplinary in scope.

We recognise that moving images are best understood comprehensively in terms of their aesthetic shapes, social roles, discursive formations, cultural meanings, psychological effects and/or economic realities, and best explained through attention to both institutional imperatives and individual agencies.

Drawing together scholars from across the University – including Arts, European Culture and Languages, Digital Arts and Engineering, History, English and American Studies, Law, Sociology and beyond – the Centre furnishes a lively, member-led research culture that serves as a forum for Kent-based researchers and as a beacon for the international community.

Through our journal Film Studies [1] and pioneering research projects and outputs we actively seek to shape the field, open lines of communication with the local community and engage with colleagues worldwide