“When we acquire a public persona or identify with public bodies, we participate in ‘utopias of self-abstraction’ that enable us to feel as if we have transcended our particularity.” – Jonathan Flatley
Over the past decade I’ve been thinking a lot about Andy Warhol and how his obsession with Hollywood shaped his own filmmaking. He was fascinated with stars and their larger-than-life presence, but also keenly understood that they were products of a vast illusion. If stardom was a matter of faith, then what was stopping the “beauties” and “talkers” in his own circle from becoming stars – or rather Superstars – if we believed they could? Let’s take a look at some of Warhol’s Screen Tests and photographs, and meet three contemporary artists who expand on iconic Warholian themes of self-fashioning and performance.
At The Factory
Andy & Susan
Between 1964–1966, Andy Warhol shot hundreds of Screen Tests at his studio, the Factory. Visitors were invited to sit down and face a 16mm camera, which would record a 100-foot roll of film. Whatever was going on around them, the sitter had to confront the camera’s gaze for three full minutes.
The resulting films act as an archive of the Factory’s social scene and document each individual wrestling with their self-presentation. The great writer and critic Susan Sontag posed for seven Screen Tests in late 1964, each a unique performance experiment. Luckily, Sontag brought a BBC camera crew with her, giving us a fantastic glimpse of Warhol (and her) in action.
One of Warhol’s muses was the fabulous Elizabeth Taylor. In 2011, Los Angeles-based photographer Catherine Opie spent six months documenting Taylor’s home at 700 Nimes Road both before and after she passed away. Never directly engaging with the screen legend, Opie nonetheless assembled a dazzling “portrait of her through her home,” from her décor and tchotchkes to her closets full of outfits.
The Art Gallery of Ontario is the final stop of a touring mid-career survey exhibition of American artist Anne Collier (on view until January 10). Her photograph Double Marilyn (2007) features the iconic Marilyn Monroe, another star in Warhol’s vast cosmology. The coolly pared-down composition – with two identical album covers simply placed side by side – also invokes Warhol’s art through the use of repetition.
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RE: ISSUE 09 The Right Ingredients
I swear that Guy Maddin [curator of Issue 09] would be fascinating if he simply read the ingredients list off of a can of condensed milk. Lovely, fascinating, touching, and hilarious column. Thanks so much!
— David M.
Thanks so much, David. We at The Review checked and discovered the tasty condensed dairy nectar you mention contains but two ingredients: sugar and milk. That would make an abrupt soliloquy. In my heart of hearts I'd much rather hear James Mason and Nina Simone in a voice-off that pitted the two vocal marvels against each other, both reading off the back of a Twizzler wrapper — much more movie apt, too!