Monday, November 10, 2014

Andy Warhol

  For three consecutive nights last week, The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) celebrated their 20th anniversary with Andy Warhol films that have never been exhibited to the public. BAM teamed up with UCLA’S Center for the Art of Performance to co-commission a new piece set to 15 short of Warhol’s films that included icons such as, Marcel Duchamp (Writer, painter, sculptor and highly regarded contributor to the Modernist movement) Edie Sedgwick (Warhol’s most popular muse) and Allen Ginsberg. (Need I say anything about this literary figure?)

      Exposed: Songs For Unseen Warhol Films started off with a black and white film featuring John Giorno. Simply titled, John Washing the film was comprised of his very naked body slowly and carefully washing plates and wine glasses as if he had all the time in the world, while Tom Verlaine (lead singer of the legendary punk band Television) strummed a psychedelic bluesy riff on his guitar. 

   While this was not my favorite piece and I felt that Verlaine was just getting the crowd warmed up, the film had a dreamy effect on stage set to his music.

      The next piece, a playful montage, also in black and white featured Jill Johnston (feminist, cultural critic of the 60’s and 70’s and author of Lesbian Nation) dancing with a 22 shotgun rifle while surrounded by leaves and grass near a small shed. Her movements at times graceful, other moments she jokingly points the gun to herself, but made sure that the viewer understood that she was the one who carried the power over it. Then she twirled it around many times like a piece of a forgotten toy. The film’s denouement effectively managed to make you forget she had a weapon this whole time and Johnston ended her pas de deux holding the gun with content and doing a split.

      The final film Verlaine performed to was titled, Bob Indiana. The film was set at a cocktail garden party at Eleanor Ward’s country house and one of Warhol’s close friend. The first colored film presented, it featured Wynn Chamberlain, John Giorno, Robert Indiana, Marisol, and Eleanor herself. The film would speed up at times then slow down towards a close-up either Giorno or Marisol’s face. The extended time of Marisol’s close-up set off a romantic mood as you began to see the intimacy created between Warhol’s eye (the camera) and Marisol with her coy movements delicately smiling back at the him. It felt as if Warhol was attempting to catch a glimpse into her soul and nothing else mattered to him at that very moment in his life.

   The next performer was Martin Rev from the electronic-punk group Suicide. Rev was sporting a shiny gray jump suit with red shades and “revved” up the crowd with heavy synthesizer riffs from his piano keyboard. The next film titled Superboy went directly to a black and white shot of a young strapping boy taking swigs of coca cola out of a bottle. Warhol (along with Rev) created a dizzying effect of sex and cheap carnal desire. The in and out fast movements of the camera directly to the “sugar baby” in the film suggested Warhol’s psycho-sexual fantasies of young men. It went straight to the point.

      The following film had people shifting in their seats to get a better look at the film. The 16 mm shot was at Warhol’s infamous Factory and it had a young Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac crawling over other men, laughing, bantering and chain smoking cigarettes. The vignette had a playful theme and gave a sense of timelessness as the characters seemed to have lost track of time as the camera rolled. For this piece, Rev performed a rendition of Kool and the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” overlapped with a grinding dissonance every time he hit a note on his piano. The punk-electro-funk sound blasted through the gaudy walls and reached the high ceilings giving off an energetic vibe that perhaps made you feel as if you were there with the boys at The Factory.

  After Rev, vocalist from the duo the Fiery Furnaces, Eleanor Friedberger took the stage and truly won the crowd with her introspective upbeat rock melodies. She played a song titled Born with Two Names and it was an homage to Marisol the sculptor and artist and Maria Sol Escobar the woman from French and Venezuelan lineage. It depicted Marisol with in a modest dark pencil skirt and fuzzy sweater. She weaved through her own large sculptures of block-headed faces carved from wood. She looked less vulnerable from the shots at the cocktail party and came off with an unpretentious confidence that seemed to flow naturally on screen.

      Following this piece was a screen test featuring a beautiful young Edie Sedgwick. By this time her popularity oozed on the camera, but there was still a remnant of a shy, small town girl inside her that Warhol seemed to have captured after filming for several minutes. It was as if she had finally let her performance subside then was able to open up to Warhol in a personal way. Perhaps that may be why Warhol was so taken by her besides her apparent beauty. Sedgwick let Warhol into her most inner deep space and the film portrayed that relationship between the two of them. It was like watching yourself be lost in deep thought.

  Finally, what nearly everyone had been waiting for and it was to see Warhol in a film himself. The final 16 mm film was of Warhol dressed in a waiter suit and a kooky Taylor Mead waiting to be served by Warhol. The black and white short piece was played set to Bradford Cox’s dreamy soundscapes. The music appeared to be heavily influenced by Sigur Ros and its mystical quality intensified Mead’s performance while he was high on an intoxicating drug that was served to him on a tray by Warhol. As the film treads on, a very drug-induced Mead danced in front of a collage of pictures and flirted with the camera almost making fun of the whole thing.

       Overall, Warhol’s films were strange and had hardly any action whatsoever, but even though there might not be anything exciting happening on screen, he effectively captured a space and time that allowed the subjects to be subjected to a form of expressionism from the inside out.


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