Warhol Follow Ups

3 August 2007

Following up the Warhol’s Screen Tests post from Wednesday my friend and colleague John Rowley mailed, reporting that the series of video portraits he’s been working on for the last year or so – inspired in part by the Warhol work – will be screened in Cardiff as part of Chapter’s Experimentica Festival. The pieces sound great – I hope I get to see some of them.

John’s been performing with Forced Entertainment a lot during the last five years or so (in performances such as First Night, The Travels, Bloody Mess etc) but he’s also got a stream of solo projects on the go including this new piece comprising around 25 of these hour-long portraits. For each portrait the subject is filmed in a full-length body-shot and standing, for long confrontations with John’s un-manned video camera. While Warhol’s Screen Tests ran 3 minutes (the length of regular film stock) the length of John’s portraits is based on the one hour duration of a standard MiniDv tape.

The same Warhol post also drew a reaction from Ant Hampton of Rotozaza whose recent work around ‘live portraiture’ also sits in some kind of tangent proximity to the Warhol Screen Tests. You can read about the research workshop project Ant was part of concerning live portraiture here.


1 August 2007

Jonathan Jones had a nice piece here in The Guardian yesterday about Andy Warhol, specifically touching on the tendency towards a posthumous ‘humanising’ of Warhol, a process not unlike that William Burroughs’ went through in the lead up to and aftermath of his own death. Seems that the weird/queer outsiders have to be assimilated posthumously, brought back to the family fold.

As Jones points out though:

“Try as you might to make Warhol a happy, well-rounded individual, exhibit his art for kids, paper a vast gallery with cow wallpaper, recreate his installation of helium-filled silver pillows – it’s all fun, it’s fine – none of it justifies seeing Warhol as a modern master. He only really becomes that when he indulges his obviously unhealthy obsession with violent death…”

Continuing this Jones gives a vivid account of the part of the show currently at the National Galleries in Edinburgh that’s focused on Warhol’s Death & Disaster images. I remember seeing some big Warhol retrospective at the Hayward, in the early 90’s I think and being very blown away by these images in particular.

Years back Jones wrote another piece on Warhol, this time about the Screen Tests. It’s very useful.

The screen tests are amazing and for me they remain a constant point of reference in thinking about contemporary performance. The link is close to the surface perhaps in something like Jerome Bel’s the show must go on, or in some scenes from Raimund Hoghe’s work or even in my own video (and occasional live performance) Down Time. But Screen Tests‘ relevance runs deeper than any direct echo of their core strategies, in which a silent/still figure is watched/witnessed and must negotiate their presence in front of an unmanned static camera. What’s really strong and prescient about the Screen Tests is how neatly  Warhol uses a rule to draw a a frame around a piece of time. Everything that happens in that time is the work. Time ticks. And inside it – in their live, inadequate and inspired attempts to be there, to deal with the task and the situation in which they find themselves – human beings make something happen. Warhol’s articulation of this in Screen Tests is pretty hard to beat and its certainly an inspiration.