New Photography Initiative Spearheads Warhol Amiga Discovery

Hillman Photography Initiative documentary tells the story of obsolete image data recovered from physical and virtual archive

Pittsburgh, PA…In a long-term effort, begun in 2011, a team comprising artists, curators, archivists, and technologists recently retrieved images Andy Warhol made in 1985 as part of his digital experiments with a Commodore Amiga 1000 personal computer. The Hillman Photography Initiative at Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) initiated and documented this process for its five-part series, The Invisible Photograph; the resulting documentary episode will premiere at CMOA on May 10. It will be available on the web May 12 at nowseethis.org.

Video stills from The Invisible Photograph, Part II – Trapped:  Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments

 

Andy Warhol’s digital files, trapped on Amiga floppy disks held in the archives collection of The Andy Warhol Museum (AWM), were extracted by members of the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Computer Club and its Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry in a process requiring years of planning and months of complex hardware and software recovery. Numbering more than 20 images found among Warhol’s 41 disks, the files show the mature artist struggling with digital imaging tools, and encountering a learning curve familiar to anyone who remembers picking up a mouse for the first time: squiggly lines, and a paint-fill covering half of the screen.

For high-resolution images of Warhol’s Amiga experiments, please visit The Andy Warhol Museum press room.

The story of this successful recovery has many twists and turns, befitting a major collaborative effort. The impetus for the project came when artist Cory Arcangel learned of Warhol’s Amiga work from a fuzzy YouTube clip showing Warhol promoting the Amiga 1000 in 1985. In December 2011, Arcangel approached the AWM regarding Amiga hardware in the museum’s possession with the idea of restoring it for exhibition and cataloging any files on associated disks. In April 2012, he contacted Golan Levin, director of the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at CMU, who connected Cory with the CMU Computer Club, which had gained renown for its collection of obsolete computer hardware and retro-computing expertise. During Arcangel’s November 2012 visit to Pittsburgh for his CMOA exhibition Masters, he followed up on these leads with curator Tina Kukielski. Kukielski, who was also co-curator of the 2013 Carnegie International, subsequently joined the Hillman Photography Initiative at CMOA. During that visit, Andy Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner and chief archivist Matt Wrbican (who had used Amiga computers soon after Warhol did) agreed to work with Kukielski and Arcangel in attempting to access the images.

Collaborating with AWM chief collections manager Amber Morgan, Milton Fine Curator of Art Nicholas Chambers, senior manager of photography rights and reproductions Greg Burchard, Shiner, and Wrbican, the team gathered first in February 2013 to read the disks. The Computer Club set up their curious gear at the The Warhol, and a video crew from CMOA closely followed the progress, ultimately forming a full episode of its five-part documentary series, The Invisible Photograph, which investigates the world of photography by way of images that are guarded, stashed away, barely perceptible, or simply forgotten.

Warhol’s Amiga experiments were the result of a commission by Commodore International to demonstrate the computer’s graphic arts capabilities. They vary from doodles and video stills of the keyboard, to playful variants on Warhol’s classic images of a banana, Marilyn Monroe, and Campbell’s soup cans, to portraits. One artwork resulted from the series: a portrait of pop star Debbie Harry. The portrait has been in the AWM collection since the museum opened, but the other images on the disks had been inaccessible due to their obsolete format long before arriving at the AWM in 1994. “I am both a serious Warhol fanatic and lifelong computer nerd, so to have the opportunity to help uncover this history, i.e., dig through Warhol’s dusty disks, was a dream come true on both counts. What’s amazing is that by looking at these images, we can see how quickly Warhol seemed to intuit the essence of what it meant to express oneself, in what then was a brand-new medium—the digital,” says Arcangel.

The Invisible Photograph, a production of the Hillman Photography Initiative at Carnegie Museum of Art, is a five-part documentary series investigating the expansive realm of photographic production, distribution, and consumption by way of the hidden side of photography, whether guarded, stashed away, barely recognizable, or simply forgotten. Watch the first episode in the series at nowseethis.org on April 29.

Documentary Premiere
Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments
May 10, 2014
7–9 p.m.
Carnegie Library Lecture Hall (event) & Carnegie Museum of Art (reception)
Co-sponsored by The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University

A conversation with the key players follows the screening, including artists Cory Arcangel and Golan Levin, new media scholar Jon Ippolito, and Keith Bare and Michael Dille of the CMU Computer Club.

Afterward, enjoy signature cocktails and snacks with the creators and stars.

 

To participate in the Hillman Photography Initiative, watch films, and follow the discussions, visit nowseethis.org. The full suite of projects launches April 29.

 

#nowseethis

 

For more information about The Andy Warhol Museum, or to request additional high-resolution images, please contact:

Rick Armstrong, Communications Manager, ArmstrongR@Warhol.org / 412.237.8339

 

The Hillman Photography Initiative’s first cycle of projects charts an ambitious course for one of the most forward-thinking photography programs at any museum. To learn more, please read our recent press release.

Support
Support for the Hillman Photography Initiative was provided by the William T. Hillman Foundation, and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 

Carnegie Museum of Art
Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present. Founded in 1896, the Carnegie International is one of the oldest surveys of contemporary art worldwide. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understand of the built environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. The Hillman Photography Initiative serves as an incubator for innovative thinking about the photographic image. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, call 412.622.3131 or visit our website at www.cmoa.org.

 

The Andy Warhol Museum

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the place of Andy Warhol’s birth, The Warhol is one of the most comprehensive single-artist museums in the world. The Andy Warhol Museum is one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.  Additional information about The Warhol is available at www.warhol.org.

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