Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Screen test

I've been watching some of Andy Warhol's screen tests on Youtube.

Some of them are very boring. Indeed, I lose interest in most of them by about the 30-second mark. This surprises me, because I'm generally a patient person who gives my undivided attention to things (like very long books and arthouse movies).

But a few of them really intrigue me — those with particularly interesting faces, or whom I know something about (like Edie Sedgwick, and everything I know about her I learned from Claire Messud's novel The Woman Upstairs).

As part of a course on Andy Warhol, we were invited to use the Vine app to create our own screen tests.

So I "screen-tested" my daughter for a full 6 seconds. And what I got out of the exercise is something I've always known in theory, but here I felt it firsthand: that the picture or video is more about the relationship between the watcher and the watched than it is about the image itself being captured. A kind of still portrait but over time.

The Vine exercise was part of the MOOC's opening unit, on celebrity. And the ensuing discussions continue to be quite provocative, on the nature of celebrity, on cultivating persona, on the phenomenon of social media. Has our promised 15 minutes in fact shrunken to mere seconds? And I wonder how interested I would be in Warhol's art if it weren't for the fact of his own celebrity.


Warhol Mania is on at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until March 15. It's a small exhibit (2 rooms) but tightly focused on Warhol's posters (including for Perrier) and magazine work.

Because it consists entirely of "printed" work, there's no real "aha" moment such as I've experienced in seeing some other artworks (say, in terms of the colour and texture of a painting). However, it's interesting to see Warhol's works grouped: e.g., his illustrations of shoes and accessories for ladies magazines. And I learned, sadly, that much of Warhol's original work would've been destroyed — typically, the magazine itself is seen as the finished product, and working files aren't retained.

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