Andy Warhol once said, “I love Los Angeles…Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.” After 30 years on floppy disks, experimental computer drawings and doodles done on a Commodore Amiga, have finally been extracted. In a strange way, while his images were housed on those floppies, Andy Warhol got his wish.
Were it not for a chance encounter with a video on You Tube, he might still be lurking somewhere in plastic form. Cory Arcangel, a new media artist, saw the video of Warhol, in which the artist sits at a huge desktop computer. The occasion was a 1985 launch party for the Commodore Amiga. Warhol had entered into a collaboration with Commodore to help demonstrate what could be done, artistically, with their new high-end computer. While the results are without a doubt archaic, the fact that Andy Warhol was once again on the cutting edge of a popular art movement simply proves his immense value to the art world and US culture.
In 2011, Arcangel got in touch with the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA (Warhol’s hometown) to see if he could be allowed to seek out files connected to Warhol’s mid-eighties collaboration with Commodore. Arcangel also reached out to a computer club, known for its’ love of obsolete computers, at Carnegie Mellon University. Should he find anything, their help would be invaluable. Luckily for all involved, treasure was indeed found.
The real trick was translating and extrapolating the information on the now outmoded storage disks into a modern digital format. Using restoration equipment and reverse engineering, the team was able to successfully bring 28 pieces of Warhol’s once lost work back into the light. Among them are a self-portrait, the iconic Campbell’s Soup can and a Botticelli’s Birth of Venus with an opened third eye.
Ironically, in Tacoma, Washington, another of Warhol’s “projects” from the 1980’s is getting some new attention. When the Tacoma Dome was built in 1982, a contest was held asking artists to turn in renderings of how they think the outside of the dome should look. Suggesting a huge flower be painted around the the curved outside of the panels, Warhol entered but did not win the contest. Now, over 30 years later, city officials are looking at his idea with renewed vision. They are currently deciding whether to go forward with the project. Interestingly, again Andy Warhol may get his wish. Instead of painting the image on, they are considering using a plastic adhesive sticker to reach the desired effect. There is a test patch application planned to see if the idea will hold.
Andy Warhol was not merely a pop artist, photographer or cultural icon. Andy Warhol was also a philosopher. He said he was shallow and preferred television to people. He made fun of western civilization in a way that let the butts of his joke in on the joke. His desire to be plastic may have been a tongue-in-cheek comment, or it may have been a true inclination. Either way, with all the recent excitement surrounding his work, particularly near the end of his life, in both Pittsburgh and Tacoma, Andy Warhol’s wish to be plastic has finally come true.
by Stacy Lamy