This week in The Armory Show’s FOCUS: USA section, fair-goers will not just see a plethora of art but they will have the opportunity to become art. The Warhol Museum is re-visiting two of Andy Warhol’s popular series—Andy Warhol’s TV and his Screen Tests—with an interactive project that promises both a learning experience and a piece of history. We spoke with the Warhol Museum’s Curator of Film and Video, Geralyn Huxley, about Warhol’s love of moving image, how this spirit will be transposed to The Armory Show this week, and what the beloved artist might have thought of our current Internet and mobile device era.
Artsy: Can you tell us how Andy Warhol’s TV was conceived and give us a brief history of this program, as well as some of his other TV programs at the time?
Geralyn Huxley: Andy Warhol started making films in 1963. But when he stopped making films at the end of the ’60s, he was still interested in the moving image, so he purchased video equipment, which he set up in his studio (called The Factory) to record visitors who came to visit or that he invited. He was recording all the time during the 1970s. Finally, in 1979, he started his own television show, Andy Warhol’s Fashion, which mostly focused on the fashion industry. Then in the 1980s he began a series called Andy Warhol’s TV, in which he interviewed artists, musicians, people in fashion—it was a video magazine of sorts patterned a little bit after [Warhol’s print magazine] Interview. The second season of Andy Warhol’s TV began in 1983, and that was commissioned by Madison Square Garden Network. There were nine episodes, and it was similar to the first series only it was a little bit faster paced. Then the third series, which was broadcast between 1985 and 1987, was Andy Warhol's 15 Minutes and that was co-produced by and aired on MTV. There were five episodes of Andy Warhol's 15 Minutes until his death in 1987.
Artsy: How will you be recreating Andy Warhol’s TV and his popular Screen Tests at The Armory Show? What aspects of technology not available then will be present for this current iteration of his TV and Screen Tests?
GH: For The Armory Show, we’ve chosen 20 episodes of Andy Warhol’s TV that reflect the TV series and how it changed through time. The selection also reflects Warhol's participation in the series: At the beginning he was kind of shy but by the end, by Andy Warhol's 15 Minutes, he was participating in the episodes as a host and he was becoming more out there with his personality, making himself into a work of art rather than just creating works of art. You can see that trajectory through the episodes we chose.
Regarding the Screen Tests, this is kind of going back to the period before Andy Warhol started making video. He got his first film camera, a 16mm camera, in 1963. For two years, starting in 1964, he made a group of films that were eventually called Screen Tests, which were portraits of single individuals. The film would run for two and a half minutes; the subject would sit in front of his camera, look into the camera for two and a half minutes, and that would be the film. They’re very similar to Warhol's portraits except they’re on film. And then when Warhol projected them, he projected them in slow motion so they all came out to be about four minutes and they were more graceful because they were slow motion. They were very contemplative and really very beautiful. He made over 500 of these, with various people, including Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, members of the Velvet Underground, Edie Sedgwick, Jane Holzer, various artists … lots of different people. So what we decided to do was to give fair-goers an idea of what Warhol's process was shooting a film. We sourced an obsolete Bolex 16mm camera (which was the same kind of camera that Warhol used) and we took the insides out, outfitted it with a digital webcam, installed a speaker in the camera to play a pre-recorded sound of a 16mm camera rolling, and we hooked it up to a touch screen. Fair-goers will come into a space that's decorated more or less like Andy Warhol's Factory was in 1965—the walls are silver as they were at The Factory then—and they come in, sit in front of the camera for two and a half minutes, and this is digitally transformed into a four-minute Screen Test. This digital file will be sent to each individual over email.
Artsy: Will any guests who originally appeared in either Andy Warhol’s TV or his Screen Tests make an appearance for this iteration?
GH: Not as such, but I do expect there will be some people attending the fair, at least people who worked with Andy Warhol in those days. His colleague Vincent Fremont will surely come.
Artsy: What do you think Warhol would think of the Internet and, with that, the experience of viewing art online?
GH: Through his entire life, Andy Warhol was really interested in the next big thing. When Polaroid cameras came out, he carried one around with him; when Walkmen came out, he carried one around. He wanted to get his work out there to everybody, he wanted to get it out to America, so I think the Internet would really be up his alley. I don't think he would be worried about the quality of films on the Internet, at least not his work. Though I don’t really know, I think he would like art on the Internet because one of the things he tried to do with his multiples early on in his career (when no artist made multiples) was to democratize fine art.
Artsy: Can you offer a verbal sneak peek of one or two upcoming exhibitions or events at the Andy Warhol Museum?
GH: The exhibition "Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years", which was at the Metropolitan Museum late 2012, is currently on view; it's all about Warhol’s influence. In the fall we’re doing a retrospective of the Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura, curated by our director Eric Shiner.
More on Geralyn Huxley: As curator of film and video, Geralyn Huxley oversees the maintenance and preservation of The Warhol Museum’s extensive collection of original Warhol video tapes. She is currently working on a project to transfer the complete Andy Warhol film archive from 16mm film to digital files. She has co-curated many Warhol Museum exhibitions, and has been curator of film and video at AWM since 1994.