SXSW Interactive: Andy Warhol, Digital Pioneer

Warhol keeps things weird in the afterlife via technology

“Of course, we all know Andy Warhol…” was the opening salvo of Andy Warhol: Digital Pioneer, a presentation by Eric Shiner, who by merit of his job description (director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Penn.) is one of the world’s foremost Warhol evangelists.

Eric Shiner (Photo by John Anderson)

Yet contrary to the title of the presentation, most of Shiner’s energies were spent giving a general run-through of Warhol’s biography and career. Several versions of Warhol were invoked: Warhol the graphic designer, Warhol the collector, Warhol the underground filmmaker, Warhol the celebrity, Warhol the puppeteer of the Velvet Underground, Warhol the gossip queen. Referring to Warhol as a “trickster” was a common refrain.

Most germane to the packed house was Warhol the new media/digital innovator. In the mid-Eighties the artist was commissioned by Commodore to make a small cache of digital paintings to tout their then-new Amiga 1000 technology. The Warhol Museum worked in coordination with artist Cory Arcangel and the Carnegie Mellon Computer Club to reverse engineer the heretofore “lost” image files. When they were released to the public about a year ago, Warhol’s digital self-portrait made the blogosphere rounds. But this fascinating interaction of archival and artistic practice (not to mention digital archaeology) was given little airplay in Shiner’s presentation.

Equally as exciting are the digital education initiatives of the Warhol — though none were directly conceived by Warhol himself (the artist died in 1987). There’s the Earthcam streaming a live feed of Andy Warhol’s grave 24/7 (“Some days there will be a bagpiper playing at the grave, sometimes there are belly dancers who show up. It gets weird.”); the retrofitted bolex cameras that give participants the opportunity to record their own screen tests and post to social media; the screenprinting photo app (DIY Pop); and the forthcoming time-capsule/museum souvenir app (Unboxed).

Andy Warhol: Digital Pioneer

Saturday, March 14, Courtyard Marriott

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SXSW Interactive 2015, SXSW, Andy Warhol, Eric Shiner, Cory Arcangel

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