Andy Warhol, 'Vinyl', 1965. 16mm film, black and white, sound, 67 minutes. © 2013 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute. All rights reserved. Film still courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum.
Andy Warhol experimented with celluloid in the mid-1960s, at the same time as the New York Pop Art pioneer was perfecting his silkscreen paintings. The resulting 16mm films – three of which are on view in recently restored prints at the ICA this weekend
– act as interesting if hard-to-watch counterpoints to his more instantly gratifying images of soup cans, celebrities and dollar signs.
Many of these works are known as “anti-films” due to their rejection of cinematic convention. The six-hour long Sleep (1963), shown this Saturday, is formed of footage of the poet John Giorno asleep. Vinyl (1965), shown on Sunday, although an adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, dispenses with all the processes one would normally put in place to ensure an entertaining film, such as rehearsals, camera cuts or location changes.
Andy Warhol, 'The Chelsea Girls', 1966. 16mm film, black and white, color, sound, 204 minutes in double screen. © 2013 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute. All rights reserved. Film still courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum.
But some vicarious pleasures are to be had, thanks to the fact that Warhol was fond of focusing on the famous faces from his Factory. Glamorous fashionistas, writers, musicians and artists – such as Edie Sedgwick (attendant in Vinyl), Allen Ginsberg, Lou Reed and Salvador Dalí – were the subjects of his famous series of ‘Screen Tests’. And The Factory and its regulars feature in the three-hour long Chelsea Girls (1966), the closest Warhol had to a commercial success. The ICA shows this two-channel film in its intended form, projected on two screens simultaneously, on Friday night.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine