Walking into a modern museum exhibition running a show where many sounds and images are projected can now be an overwhelming experience. This is particularly the case when these sounds and images are not separated but overlap, so that they comment on, contrast with, and contaminate each other. We might experience a similar set of sensations in a contemporary multi-media cityscape, especially in the event of an unusual media intervention such as an outdoor film festival (Figure 1.1
), a series of projections on the interior or exterior walls of a public building (Figure 1.2
), or an interactive media installation occupying an otherwise empty square (Figure 3.1
, Chapter 3
). Upon entering such an environment, the visitor—or rather, temporary dweller—is likely to pause for a moment, affectively charged, and scan the space in search of a protocol to navigate it. All we know is that we are in a certain space, an intensified “here.” The question is not so much how we might, literally, navigate these multi-media environments, but rather how our navigation will affect our encounter with their particular orchestration, of which the visitor
becomes, upon entering, a constitutive part. For even if we suspect, or even if we recognize how to move through these spaces, we are unlikely to know in advance how we will be moved by doing so. We are caught in what I will call a “hereness,” a strong sense of being somewhere that we don’t necessarily feel in more ordinary spaces.
Figure 1.1 (left) Doek! Frans Huisman Schiedam, The Netherlands, 2001
Figure 1.2 (middle) Machteld Aardse and Anne Verhoijsen’s Iran en Route (2006). Video projections at Club 11 Post CS Amsterdam
Figure 1.3 (right) Doug Aitken’s Sleepwalkers (2007). MoMA, New York. View from 54th Street
In this chapter, I will explore the sense of “hereness” that such encounters foster in the participating viewer, the “me” of the encounter. In particular, I will focus on the multi-media exhibition Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms
, which took place in a temporary location of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Post CS, in 2007.1
I treat the Warhol retrospective as an exemplary case of the multi-media exhibition. Yet the arguments I put forward in this chapter, I contend in its concluding section, also bear on the more general expansion of the cinematic within our everyday life and urban environments, in which exhibitions like this one often take place.
In what follows, I will first situate the 2007 Warhol exhibition against the backdrop of discussions of Warhol’s early films. Although such discussions largely focus on the films’ peculiar relation to time and temporality, they also testify to a developing notion of the “here” of our encounter with the cinematic that pertains first and foremost to the viewer’s body within the physical space of the encounter. In the chapter’s second part, I will turn to the 2007 Warhol exhibition and argue that in the multi-media exhibition this notion of “hereness” is at once augmented, punctuated, and rescaled through mediation. I argue that the sense of “here” invoked in the participating viewer pertains at once to his or her body within the space of the encounter and to the way that body relates to, and intersects with, the mixed reality of the multi-media environment. In the chapter’s final part, I will once more turn to the “subject,” or rather “subjects,” of and in the exhibition, that is, to Warhol and his “sitters” as well as to the “me” within the encounter—the viewer, visitor, city-dweller—and make a case for a seemingly opposed development. That is, I will make a case for the extension of the cinematic into our everyday physical environment by suggesting that what was once considered to be “there,” on screen, in the image, is increasingly already giving shape to the “here” of the encounter prior to mediation while being nonetheless shaped by its potential.
These three discussions—first, on time and temporality in Warhol; second, on the augmentation and punctuation of place in the multi-media exhibition; and third, on the extension of the cinematic within our everyday environments—converge in their bringing to light a conception of the space and place of the
encounter that I see in terms of a thickness, or a thickening of the “here” (as well as of the “now”) through mediation. In this thickened “here,” I will demonstrate, neither viewer nor representation is held in place. Nor is it necessarily possible, at least within our everyday media-infused urban environments, to occupy a place outside of this thick “here” that is the cinematic. Although I will point to some significant differences between our encounter with the films as discrete cinematic chronotopes as compared to the chronotope of their simultaneous projection in the exhibition space in the second part of the chapter, I maintain that Warhol’s own early cinematic endeavors and the critical reflections prompted by them are to some extent already suggestive of this thickening.2
The simultaneous use of numerous projections and various media in one exhibition space is hardly a new phenomenon; nor, for that matter, was the 2007 Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms the first occasion on which Warhol’s films were presented in such a way. In the 2004 exhibition Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures in Berlin, for example, a selection of Warhol’s films consisting mainly of the Screen Tests (1964–66) and several early black-and-white films, were also “shown simultaneously, all presented side by side in a generous installation space.”3 In fact, Warhol often presented his films next to or even overlapping each other; he experimented quite vigorously with proliferating media-use and display. This becomes particularly clear from Branden J. Joseph’s descriptions of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable (EPI), a series of multi-media events promoting the Velvet Underground in 1966 and 1967. Joseph writes:
At the height of its development, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable included three to five film projectors, often showing different reels of the same film simultaneously; a similar number of slide projectors, movable by hand so that their images swept the auditorium; four variable-speed strobe lights; three moving spots with an assortment of colored gels; several pistol lights, a mirror ball hung from the ceiling and another on the floor; as many as three loudspeakers blaring different pop-records at once; one or two sets by the Velvet Underground and Nico; and the dancing of Gerard Malaga and Mary Woronov or Sigrid Superstar, complete with props and lights that projected their shadows high onto the wall. (2002a, 71)
In his 1967 book American Underground Cinema
, Sheldon Renan was already speculating on the emergence of a “film as environment” conception based on the “expanded cinema” of his contemporaries, including Warhol’s EPI
To a certain extent, then, the origins of the contemporary multi-media exhibition can be traced here. There are, however, also some significant differences between today’s multi-media exhibitions and the expanded cinema of the ’60s. For, as the title of EPI
—already suggests, the experiments with participatory media environments in the ’60s were efforts in a more general trend aimed at disrupting the contemplative viewing position of the bourgeois art audience. Excessive media-use and participatory challenges had a clear de-disciplining intent, geared toward provoking new modes of viewing and participating that were often experienced as disruptive or offensive, and addressing topics often considered taboo. By mobilizing observer, recording camera, and projective surface (which in the EPI
was no longer necessarily a screen), moreover, the expanded cinema of the 60s took a rather antagonistic stance toward mainstream (Hollywood), which required a darkened auditorium and immobilized observers who remained at a safe distance from the world observed.5
By now, however, the multi-media environment has lost some, if not all, of its initial disruptive potential, especially in terms of the modes of viewing it affords.6
The simultaneous presentation of multiple audiovisual works from different periods of time and on different platforms in the 2007 Warhol exhibition intersects with another development: a more general proliferation of urban screens, personal communication devices, and image-capturing technologies within our everyday (urban) environment. If the multi-media environment is no longer necessarily perceived as shocking or offensive, it can still affect the visitor-viewer in significant ways. In this chapter I will discuss the multi-media exhibition Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms
as a case in point for analyzing how the dynamic site of the cinematic affects our sense of “here.” The exhibition is typical of a present-day multi-media environment in that it offers a condensed version of the multi-media environment of the city at large, with the various audiovisual works of Warhol presented simultaneously in two spacious, formerly industrial lofts aptly labeled “Filmscape” and “TV-Scape.” The case is also exemplary because it revisits some of the concerns of the 1960s avant-garde that are relevant for our purpose here. In the next section I will briefly address these concerns, in part by placing them against the backdrop of some recent discussions of the technological mediation of time.
From the outset, Warhol’s films received much critical attention, and interest was reinvigorated after their restoration and redistribution by the Whitney Museum following Warhol’s death in 1987, allowing scholars to finally have full access to works that most of them had only been able to read about (the films were pulled out of circulation in 1972). Although the topics within the debate vary greatly—ranging from reflections on the films’ significance within Warhol’s oeuvre and the 1960s avant-garde in general, to ruminations on their conceptions of stardom, or their negotiation of taboo topics like homosexuality and deviant sexual behavior—there is one topic in particular that resurfaces in the debate, and that is the film’s peculiar relation to time, which is of particular relevance for our purposes here.7
In what follows I will first briefly look at this artistic and critical preoccupation with time and temporality. While acknowledging the importance of the debate on time and the “now” of the encounter to my overall argument in this chapter, my main aim here is to demonstrate how these reflections on time and temporality rest on particular assumptions about our encounter with the cinematic in terms of a “hereness.” This occurs especially when the reflections touch on the films’ materiality, their tension between motion and stillness, and the physical discomfort of their viewers when watching the films in the auditorium.
Warhol’s films give off an air of technical illiteracy and feign the withdrawal of the artist’s hand, such as on the occasions when Warhol simply switched on the camera and walked out of the room (the most radical example in this vein is Henry Geldzahler’s film portrait from 1964, which lasts for more than 90 minutes). As the late Callie Angell, curator of the Warhol Film Project at the Whitney Museum, wrote, Warhol’s early film production reduced the medium to its basic elements: a single shot, a stationary camera mounted on a tripod, and a single, preconceived action.8 In more recent discussions this has led several scholars, in a kind of mise-en-abyme of remediations, to ruminate on Warhol’s audiovisual productions in terms of the real-time logic of video and surveillance.9 Graig Uhlin, for example, has recently argued that Warhol’s films abide by the logic of what he refers to as a
” (2010). The films’ extraordinarily long duration, Uhlin maintains, especially when seen in combination with their resistance to narrative and their lack of a clear beginning, middle, and end, is suggestive of the flow of television as theorized by Raymond Williams.10 Even though the films are not live, as television can be (and paradigmatically is), they are built around a set of aesthetic strategies that evoke such liveness: their ope...