Radical vision

We were seeing the future and we knew it for sure: Transmitting Andy Warhol at the Tate Liverpool
By Lina Kavaliunas | Art | 26 November 2014

In the fall of 1962 Andy Warhol, on the brink of Pop art stardom, hopped in the back of a station wagon and drove west. He recalled his journey across America in POPism (1980), remarking: “We were seeing the future and we knew it for sure. We saw people walking around in it without knowing it, because they were still thinking in the past, in the references of the past. But all you had to do was know you were in the future, and that’s what put you there.”

Now, almost three decades after his sudden death, Warhol’s cultural prescience and influence are undeniable. We are living in Warhol’s future, in a time where his prediction that everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes has been realised through the advent of social media and the internet, smart phones and reality TV. Though Warhol wasn’t able to exploit these innovations himself, his legacy has been transmitted into our present; picked up, remixed, and re-transmitted by artists like Gretchen Bender and Cory Arcangel.

Tate Liverpool’s Transmitting Andy Warhol is a celebration and examination of the Pop visionary’s expanded practice, achieved through his experimentation with multiple artistic platforms and alternative modes of communication. This inquiry is sounded through the display of over 100 artworks, ranging from paintings and prints, magazines, films, album covers, his TV show, and a spectacular re-evocation of Warhol’s gesamtkunstwerk, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966-67). The exhibition is the first of Warhol’s work in the North of England and as such endeavours to offer a different approach to the artist’s legacy. As Assistant Curator at Tate Liverpool Stephanie Straine explains, it’s an approach that at once broadens our understanding of Warhol’s work and adds to the mystery surrounding this eminently visible, yet enigmatic artist.

Lina Kavaliunas: How did you develop the theme for the exhibition?
Stephanie Straine: The exhibition’s curatorial concept developed out of our interest in addressing Andy Warhol’s radically dispersed artistic practice, as he worked across painting, drawing and printmaking; continued his commissioned illustrations for magazines like Harpers Bazaar, Time, and other mass media publications well into the 1960s and beyond; and undertook collaborative works in film, television, publishing, and the music industry. There has never been a solo exhibition of Warhol’s work in the UK that has looked at this aspect of his legacy, which is more pertinent now than ever.

LK: What makes Warhol still so relevant today?
SS: My hope for this exhibition is that it provides audiences with new insights into the breadth of Warhol’s artistic processes and philosophies, as well as the social, political, and aesthetic implications of his practice. Warhol’s expansion of the networks for distributing art is especially important today in an era when digital media offers artists, as well as any member of the public, boundless possibilities for distributing information, images, and ideas. I think audiences will find this exhibition and Warhol himself very relevant to them.

‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’ 1967. Album cover design by Andy Warhol. Collection of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London

LK: In what ways has Warhols influence been transmittedinto the present? How are contemporary artists engaging with his legacy?
SS: There are many contemporary artists who have engaged with Warhol’s legacy (given how complex and multifaceted his practice as a whole is), but I would mention that in our current season, it is interesting to note that The Serving Library will produce a new issue of their publication Bulletins of The Serving Library in response to Transmitting Andy Warhol (the Warhol exhibition taking place concurrently on the fourth floor): a whole range of artists, writers and cultural thinkers will consider Warhol’s ‘transmitted’ legacy, as it functions in the contemporary moment.

LK: What was your reaction to the recent discovery of Warhols digital works, which he made in 1985 using an Amiga 1000 personal computer?
SS: I think this discovery of Warhol’s Amiga artworks points to something that he did throughout his career: he was always keen to work with the very newest forms of technology available, and in fact manufacturers often came to him to offer him trials of their brand new equipment (this is how he came to use videotape as early as 1965). The Amiga works are proof that Warhol would have been deeply inspired by the internet and its limitless potential of sharing images, films, and other forms of visual culture across the world instantaneously.

Andy Warhol ‘Dance Diagram 1 (Fox Trot: ‘The Double Twinkle-Man’)’ 1962. Casein and graphite on linen support. Photo: Axel Schneider, Frankfurt am Main © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London

LK: How did the concept for Tate Liverpools autumn/winter season, Making Things Public, originate? What lead to the decision to show these three exhibitions – Transmitting Andy Warhol, Gretchen Bender, and The Serving Library – alongside one another?
SS: Making Things Public emerged as a concept from all three of the exhibitions that were programmed for our autumn/winter season. Warhol’s stated interest in making art democratically available to all – whether you were visiting a gallery, buying a record or watching a commercial on TV – was crucial to articulating the idea of ‘making things public.’

Each artist represented makes or made ground-breaking experiments with media, and shares an interest in exploiting available channels for the dissemination of culture and ideas. Corresponding with Warhol’s practice, Gretchen Bender presents the first solo exhibition of the multimedia artist’s work in the UK. Including the monumental 24-monitor multi-projection screen installation Total Recall (1987), in which Bender explores the accelerated image-flow of mass media representation, the exhibition re-evaluates this, until recently, overlooked pioneer. Blurring the boundaries of media production, through publishing, exhibiting, and staging conversations, The Serving Library hints at the potential future of that most traditional of institutions, the public library.

 Transmitting Andy Warhol runs until 8th February at Tate Liverpool, Albert Dock Liverpool L3 4BB. Gretchen Bender and The Serving Library are also on view until 8th February at Tate Liverpool

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