What we’re you doing in the mid-1980s?
Crimping your already perm-fried hair and gingerly selecting the perfect shoulder-padded, primary-coloured, date night powersuit? Jamming out to Wham! albums and indulging in exorbitant amounts of illegal recreational stimulants all evening? Just wearing an incredible amount of neon Lycra?
Whatever you were doing to keep occupied, were you aware that quirky old Andy Warhol was puttering about with cutting-edge (now primordial) computer technology and attempting to unfold an entire new frontier of his artistic practice, all while in the pockets of corporate fat cats?
Warhol is generally remembered for relishing a financial and critical renaissance during the 1980s, mainly thanks to who he was chumming around with– lots of hip Neo-Expressionists like Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat. He’s also pretty famous for dying during the decade; the cause — post-operative complications suffered while recovering from a routine gallbladder surgery.
Yet recently unearthed, degrading floppy disks boast data that remind us of the increasingly reclusive Warhol’s tender-footed efforts to transfer his widely-known artistic practice across the digital threshold. The disks also remind us that he was likely paid handsomely for the original images, which are the wobbly-looking result of a commission from the electronics company Commodore International to promote the once-revolutionary Amiga 1000.
YouTube clips exists of Warhol creating a computerized portrait of Blondie lead singer, Debbie Harry, live on stage at Commodore-sponsored bash, hosted to prove that the Amiga 1000 was capable of contending with all things Macintosh. The Warhol Collection retains the finished likeness of Ms. Harry, however, until very recently, the pieces realised by Warhol as he fiddled with unfamiliar technology went astray.
Clever academic, artistic, IT and archival cohorts came together with the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Club to conquer the considerable tasks of tracking down the antiquated disks (found within the confines of The Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ archive, big surprise), extracting Warhol’s creations from the damaged floppies and reconstituting them in file-formats actually recognisable this day in age.
Reactions to the unveiled images, which range from schematic soup cans to a radioactive Venus on the half shell, vary greatly. Some admire Warhol’s vexatious struggle to manipulate alien machinery like the Amiga 1000. Others share the sentiment that while the quality of floppy disks diminishes over time, bad art stays the same eternally. Whether you’re disenchanted or intrigued, it is striking to see some of Warhol’s final quintessential Pop Art works; for what aims to be sexier, more youthful, wittier, and more glamorously gimmicky than computer-crafted images of this hyper-cyber era?
Amiga 1000 images by Andy Warhol courtesy of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.