Reframing Warhol as the Superstar of Multimedia.

Culture Shock’s pivotal role in the digital preservation of over 500 films by Andy Warhol – “MoMA’s largest effort to digitize the work of a single artist in its collection.”

“Nico/Antoine” (1966), one of hundreds of Andy Warhol films. Credit: Andy Warhol Museum

 

Warhol’s contribution to contemporary culture is immense. He is remembered for his iconic pop art images but he also made films, founded Interview Magazine, managed The Velvet Underground, directed the Exploding Plastic Inevitable events, had two series in the early days of MTV, painted Debbie Harry on an Amiga computer in 1985, ‘wrote’ a novel with a tape recorder and was in an episode of The Love Boat. His combined output across multiple media is monumental but has not been appropriately recognized.

When Hugh McGrory, Chief Innovation Officer at Culture Shock, New York, a strategy and innovation consultancy, first contacted The Andy Warhol Museum in 2011 to discuss the possibility of helping to realize the museum’s long-time goal of digitizing Warhol’s film work, he discovered the epic scale of the collection. “I knew there were many films that remained unseen by the public, films I had read about,” commented McGrory, “But I had no idea at the time that there were hundreds of films and thousands of videotapes.” Patrick Moore, The Andy Warhol Museum’s Deputy Director stated in a recent New York Times article that “the films are every bit as significant as Warhol’s paintings.” 

McGrory understood that a project accessing over 1 million feet of decades-old 16mm film created by one of the most important artists of the 20th Century would require a partner with the necessary technical know-how, infrastructure and insurances, and that this meant approaching an industry leader beyond the art world. Culture Shock had curated Projection, a series of moving image digital artworks from the website Vimeo at Volta NY Art Fair in 2011 and had come to the attention of Justin Brukman, Managing Director of MPC NY, an Oscar-winning family of VFX studios and a Technicolor company.

“We’ve always believed that VFX can be presented in a fine art setting and I liked Culture Shock’s passion for work at the intersection of art and technology,” said Brukman, “After several years of joint project development we’re now on course to digitize one of the largest bodies of film work by a single artist.”

McGrory sees this as a first step in the right direction. “I’m obviously feeling a sense of accomplishment for initially helping to facilitate a project of such historic importance. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. Warhol influenced art, film, music, fashion, photography, illustration, design, advertising, publishing, technology, and television. He was the first artist to exhibit video. By looking at each of these elements as an instance of transmedia storytelling we can begin to understand how the story being told shaped the culture it represented.” 

Debra Anderson, Chief Executive Officer and Founder at Culture Shock, adds that “Warhol moved from idolizing celebrity to creating it. We now live in the world of the cultural producer where famous people don’t just endorse products but have enormous business empires across multiple markets built around their personal brand. Andy made this happen.”

McGrory sees this as much more than an exercise in art history. “It is very important to understand the past in order to examine the present. Warhol was a mirror to the culture of his time. By using that mirror to reflect our world fifty years later we see that we now live in Warhol’s imagined future. It can be argued that Warhol’s lasting legacy is a society painted in his own image, where everyone can be famous for fifteen minutes.”

Culture Shock is excited to launch Stereo Projects, a new virtual reality production studio.

“We need to go back to the beginning of cinema to move forward in virtual reality, to disregard the restricting conventions that were imposed due to technical constraints. Warhol’s films do this; using a fixed camera, no sound and an almost still subject. They ignore everything that happened post-Lumiere Brothers and return to a fascination with photography and an extension of portraiture. When film people sit down with coders to look at VR it’s the same thing. Everyone starts with a blank canvas.” – Hugh McGrory

For more information, visit stereoprojects.com.

Image: Andy Warhol, Nico/Antoine, 1966, ©2014 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute. All rights reserved. Film still courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum.