Warhol's World: Still Relevant After All These Years?
Astoria NY / November 2008. I saw three Warhol films: Inner And Our Space, Lupe and More Milk Yvette this Saturday at The Museum Of The Moving Image. It was a rare chance to see these films as they never made it commercially and hence museum or film screenings are the only opportunity to do so.
Watching these films is definitely not for everybody. New-to-Warhol or Not-Fans-Of-Warhol only see the distraction of two films running side by side and make note of the difficulty hearing the soundtracks, since two soundtracks run simultaneously. But for those of us interested in Warhol, who as an artist helped shape our understanding of art and ourselves today, seeing these films [which are not widely available] was something of a thrill.
Inner And Outer Space stars Edie Sedgewick who was a beautiful young actress that Warhol made famous in the sixties. In the film Edie converses about an array of intriguing subjects such as the little specks that you see when your eyes are closed, the new millennium [which at the time of the film was thirty plus years away], the benefit of having a small car [you can avoid traveling with boring people] and new inventions like Nair [a hair removal cream].
Typically a viewer wouldn’t hear this much as the two sound tracks normally compete with each other. Last Saturday they had some projection troubles which, as fate would have it, worked in our favor. The film consists of two screens running side by side. Both screens are shot in black and white and then put together via a third film which consolidates them [I’m speculating here]. Both screens show Edie in the foreground with a TV in each background. One screen takes a tight camera shot of her with the TV just behind her. The TV is turned on and Edie is featured in it in a very close head-only camera shot. The second screen is on the left and the camera shot of her is from further back. The net effect is that you pay more attention to the close up screen of her on the right [the left sound track not running certainly had an influence]. And not that this matters [but it does], she’s wearing large, dangling earrings, cute short blonde hair and her eyes are made up so that they catch your interest.
So what is one to make of this? It is said by the experts that she’s in the Outer Space [Edie in the foreground shot] having a conversation with herself in the Inner Space [Edie in the background on the TV]. Since art is by its very nature subjective, and everyone is allowed a point of view, I’m going to be controversial and say that I really didn’t see it the way the experts do.
I saw it as her rambling on to a friend in the room [not shown], leisurely smoking her cigarettes, while her image ran in the background on the TV, and another film of her doing basically the same thing is running right next to her. So what does this mean? If one is an Existentialist, then perhaps it means nothing.
But if one is something else, then perhaps Andy was experimenting with dissociation on moving film. Perhaps he was juxtaposing the image of Edie Sedgewick onto the screen as multiple entities through space and time. One of the Edie moving images is on the TV on the right screen, another of the Edie moving images is on the TV on the left screen. Yet another of the Edie images is in the foreground ahead of the TV on the right screen, while yet another of the Edie moving images is in the foreground ahead of the TV on the left screen. The two Edies together on the right screen [one Edie on TV and the other Edie in the foreground] is another entity which is dissociated from the other two Edies together on the left screen. The combination of the two screens of Edies on the Warhol film itself, comprise yet another entity, separated from the others by space and time. Do they make a statement by Warhol about how we feed back into ourselves, past to present to future? Are we living in more than the three known dimensions? Thank god the film lasted only 33 minutes as I was mentally exhausted by the end of it, trying to figure out: "WHAT WAS WARHOL TELLING US? "
Warhol used the latest technologies of his day to carry his message that 'you are what you consume'. Not just what you physically consume, but what you mentally consume [like this organic, tasty morsel of an article]. As I left, I asked myself 'now what exactly was the thrill of seeing this Warhol film?'. Perhaps in the sixties, other theater-goers like myself went to watch Inner And Outer Space and left the theatre wondering the same thing. Maybe this is why the film failed commercially. In the end, it was Edie's beauty, openness, charm, and her soft soothing voice that held my interest. But it was Warhol who inspired me to come to this screening to stretch my mind and ponder again: "What was Warhol trying to tell us?".
Then it hit me: Even beautiful women can't sell some things.
I still haven't answered the question posed in the headline: Is Warhol Still Relevant? Of course he is for artists and art appreciators. But he is particularly relevant for any of the digerati experimenting with the web as a new, rich, interactive medium. Watching Warhol play with the camera shots and movement, color and themes, sound and perception, and other dimensions of communication provides plenty of food for thought.
Warhol's World runs through Sunday, November 11th at The Museum Of The Moving Image on the corner of 36th Street and 35th Avenue in Astoria. The screenings are worth seeing because they make you think. The screenings also provide an opportunity to meet some pretty funky intellectuals. Art / Film / Museum.
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