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Published: January 28th 2009
The "Andy Warhol, Other Voices, Other Rooms" exhibition at the Hayward was a laugh. My first impression was that we were the willing subjects of an extended piss-take and that the joke was on us....ha ha very funny mofo!
As my fellow art critic Tash and I moved around the gallery it seemed to me that 'satirist' was a suitable endgame for Androwski Warholi whose artistic evolution took him through stages as dancer and jester. I imagined he would have delighted (satirically of course) in an extravaganza composed of his photo, audio and video detritus.
The 'stuff' in the exhibit, we learned, was Warhol's attempt to present contemporary culture as art and through it comment on life, death, love and philosophy. As well as this 'art' Warhol objectified the 'Andy Warhol' persona, making it a product like his pictures or film pieces, for consumption by the masses. Or at least those of the masses (like us) who eat personas.
In no particular order, we gawped and mused over a room with floaty silvery green pillows, an improvised skit featuring gay cowboys and their horse, Edie Sedgewick talking about herself to herself, audio recordings of Upper Eastsider conversations about
art, pictures of unknowns taken in photo booths, gold leaf collages, the MTV interviews, film of a group of guys jibber-jabbering over a takeout and of course the iconic soup tin canvases and blown up Brillo pad boxes.
It made me wonder about the hours of material, artful and artless, inspired and irrelevant that my friends and family must have generated over the years. As Nathalie had said only a week or so before and Tash noted that day, all it would have needed was an artist among us to have captured the ramblings for us to have equally(?) captivating 'art'. We would all (potentially) have something to propel us into our own 15 minutes in the limelight. But we didn't did we. I'm not sure Warhol was a genius, but in making the everyday the headline, you could say he pulled a rabbit (or maybe turd) out of his ass.
In these times of self-publication where content is anything and everything, in the words i'm typing now, the idea has exploded. And the purpose? Maybe it's the pleasure people get from our internal monologue finding a wider audience. Put another way, were big babies crying out for
My first impression then was that a large part of the stuff we looked at, listened to or watched was a laugh. A blatant attempt to send up 'art' by not just incorporating contemporary objects and icons, but making the the soup tin, writ large (literally) the art. The joke was doubly on us that day, as 20 years after Warhol's passing, we were viewing elements of our own day to day for £10, when we could just have gone to the supermarket or listened to strangers in a restaurant for free.
Now, after some of my own pissing in the wind, I think that it was (a massively overblown) assertion of people's need to be listened to and understood.....though I didn't understand it all. So in some sense at least, perhaps it wasn't all a joke!
After all the high art we headed for the movies: Slumdog Millionaire at the Odeon Covent Garden. Not a feel good movie from where I sat, but maybe we were too close to the screen. Broad pans across clogged and rubbish strewn waterways in Mumbai didn't uplift my spirit. Bright colours and the frenetic pace didn't divert me from
the squalor the of the setting. I got death, heartache, orphaned and intentionally maimed children, overlaid with a cheesy romance. I did laugh and groan out loud when the kid leapt into the steaming cack pool! Euurgh!
I suppose my perception was tainted by the hype. Since Nat and I opted out of the overpriced premiere of the movie at last years BFI film festival, the film's marketing machine had gone supersonic with Baftas, Oscar and who knows what other accolades apparently on the cards.
Suitably suckered, my expectations were high. Although some of the sights, sounds and situations recalled memories of our wanderings in India, the recollections themselves are a mix of delight and dismay.
I definitely enjoyed the films concept: that of an ill-fated and barely survivable early life culminating through luck and an alignment of the stars in a big money win. The traumas and tribulations furnishing the orphaned hero with the answers to a series of quiz show questions that just might draw his hellish reality to an end...and get him the girl.
But I couldn't help but dwell on the blinded Arvind and the slum dwellers cheering the slumdog on. I
guess the question for me is what to do about it. Something or nothing? Am I to be A: a word spewer? B: a good-doer? C: a universal good crusader? or D: a moral evader. I'm not sure yet of my final answer. Maybe i'll phone all my friends and record the answers.....
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