Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Andy, You’re a Star :: Andy Warhol “Other Voices, Other Worlds” at the Hayward

Posted in Reviews by caryncoleman on November 26, 2008

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In one of Andy Warhol’s rarely seen films, a drugged out Paul Johnson makes a poignant rant about addiction resulting from excess consumption of everything from pills to soda. Amongst a sea of film, video, audio, and intense visuals it is this statement that provides a poignant synopsis to the Hayward’s “Other Voices, Other Worlds” as it highlights the awe-inspiring excess of Warhol. It’s a unique exhibition for an artist who you’d think there weren’t any stories left to tell or any new ways to tell them. Indeed, what we get is hardly the same old Warhol retrospective. Instead, amongst the visual bombardment of pop-culture celebrities, wanna-bes, and events what clearly emerges is a portrait of the man himself. It’s a refreshing insight considering how arguably Warhol’s fifteen minutes were up a long time ago.

The eternally fascinating “Screen Tests” loom large in three hanging scrims showing static versions of Salvador Dali, Lou Reed, an anonymous girl, and thirty-seven others. The surrounding backdrop of Warholian wall-paper (that continues throughout on the exhibition walls) and glass vintrine “time capsules” containing everything from record sleeves, Interview magazines, photo-booth photos, letters, and artist quotes over-stimulate with an almost Hard Rock Cafe vibe. This feeling is compounded as the seminal songs “I’ll be your mirror” and “Heroin” by the Velvet Underground psychedelically waft continuously through the air from the nearby 20-minute film by Ronald Nameth called “Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable.” It’s groovy cool at its best.

The visual bombardment of film, video, and audio that constitutes the rest of the show proudly showcases the excess and self-indulgence prevalent in the 1970s and 80s. It’s hard not to be captivated by the mess of people who dedicated and aligned themselves to the cause of Warhol in the vain search of fame. Warhol “Superstar” and boob-painter Brigitte Berlin, eternal icon Edie Sedgwick, Studio 54 founder Ian Schrager, amongst many others are scene-and-heard in the show sections “Factory Diaries” and “Audio Tapes.” Ending with “Filmscape” are an astonishing nineteen of Warhol’s experimental and often full-length films that allow serious indulgence, for up to twenty-three hours if you choose, in these characters. The most mesmerizing section, however, is “TV-Scape.” Housed within a stage styled like a boxing-ring with an American flag ceiling and ensconced by hanging red-and-white tassel curtains are the forty-two television programmes Warhol made between 1979-1987. This pop-historical treasure trove depicts such gems as new wave band Blondie discussing the corruption of the music industry (note: not much has changed) and a conversation between legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland and Metropolitan of Art Curator Henry Geldzahler conversing about, of all things, the glory of surfing. While this may have been nothing more than an avenue to satisfy the pop-star’s own ego (really, who are these people addressing other than themselves and each other?) it’s impossible to look away from the disasters on screen.

Taking its title from a novel by Truman Capote, a man who was also a master manipulator in regards to the cult of celebrity, “Other Voices, Other Worlds” marvels at Warhol’s dedication to documentation and how this seemingly constructed his own existence; his raison d’etre. Whether this manifests itself in the depiction of Factory members, famous folks, himself, or even his own mother through such diverse mediums as audio, television, short and long films, magazines, prints, and photographs, it’s his insatiable desire to be productive, to create products, and to document that is on display at the Hayward. And more than ever, in our technologically accessible world, we in contemporary society can relate to this. Now that documentation has become a ubiquitous compulsion (blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Twitter) one begins to question – if there isn’t sharable proof you did something, did it really happen and does it even matter? In this regard, Warhol has surpassed his own prediction of fifteen minutes as his massive body of work continues, and even develops, its relevance.

Andy Warhol “Other Voices, Other Worlds” at the Hayward (October 7, 2008 – January 18, 2008)

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