Warhol Films All Over!

Andy on film

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam has a new Warhol show up, and it’s quite different from any other I’ve seen. This one does not concentrate on the iconic screen prints of soup cans, Marilyns, etc. Instead it puts the focus on the film and multi-media work, and does it in a brilliant way.

In one room they have the Screen Tests running – each wall is a screen, and each program is a set of ten tests (each is about 4 minutes, so about a 40 minute loop). At most you can see three of the walls at once, so you can glance across at three of them simultaneously. These were filmed at 24 fps but are shown at 16 fps, so every movement is just a little slow.  There I saw Lou Reed, Susan Sontag, Harry Smith, and quite a few others.  I like the way the images start to fade in, last awhile, and then the film ends and the images fades back out.

Then in the main film room they had 19 films running simultaneously! It was a long room, so a film about every 20 feet or so along the wall, each with a nice explanatory panel and a timer that showed time elapsed, but then also films on hanging panels that made the image visible on both sides. Plenty of places to just sit and look, so in some places you could see five or more films at once. There is Henry Geldzahler sitting in the couch, becoming meeker and meeker under the camera’s strict gaze. There Julia Warhola (Andy’s mom) at the ironing table. Way on the back wall, the 8-hour Empire getting toward very late night. And there’s Maria Montez suggestively eating a banana.  And so on.

This setup probably would have seemed completely insane back in the sixties, but now in our media saturated times having five+ screens available at once seems about rights, especially for these Warhol films where often not very much is happening at any given moment. They are more like pictures that move slowly, and thus being able to see many of them at once is similar to being in a gallery with multiple paintings.  I hope to go back to spend more time in the film room, just soaking up some of this stuff that has been remarkably hard to come across over the years.

Another room of the show has individual TV screens set up to show the cable TV programs that Andy did in the 80s.  I saw parts of a few of them; the highlight was an interview with John Waters and Divine from 1980.

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