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[text] Andy Warhol [e]

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Andy Warhol. Outer and Inner Space
l965, 16mm film, black-and-white, sound, 0:33 min. in double screen, with Edie Sedgwick, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

by Callie Angell

»... Warhol, though he grounded his art in the ubiquity of the packaged commodity, produced his most powerful work by dramatizing the breakdown of commodity exchange. These were instances in which the mass-produced image as the bearer of desires was exposed in its inadequacy by the reality of suffering and death.« [1] (Thomas Crow)

As a body of work, Andy Warhol's films from the 1960s have often been held critically and historically separate from his better known painting and sculpture of the same period. There are certain films, however, whose formal concerns as portraits compel long overdue comparison with Warhol's Pop Art paintings. One such cinematic work is the Screen Tests (l964-66), the series of five hundred black-and-white silent films that is only now achieving recognition as one of the artist's most important accomplishments as a portraitist. Another such film is Outer and Inner Space (l965), in which Warhol combined experimental technology and multiscreen structure with the rigors of the traditional portrait sitting to create a multiple film-and-video portrait of Edie Sedgwick. In this film, shot at the midpoint of the decade in August 1965, Warhol can be seen reworking certain formal and aesthetic concerns --with media, multiple imagery, celebrity, and portraiture--which he previously explored in depth in his serial silkscreened portraits of movie stars in the early sixties. The visual similarities between these paintings and Outer and Inner Space suggest interesting links between Warhol's best known Pop Art paintings and his cinematic ventures into portraiture, performance, and, later, multi-screen projection. At the same time, the emotional fractures which are apparent in Edie Sedgwick's performance -- and which are, in many ways, the real topic of this film -- articulate the metaphysical and psychological difficulties of portraiture with a specificity that is only hinted at in Warhol's paintings.

In Outer and Inner Space, we see Edie Sedgwick seated in front of a large television monitor on which is playing a pre-recorded videotape of herself. Sedgwick is positioned so that her head appears to be roughly the same size as her video image, with her face enclosed within the frame of the television screen behind her. On the left, Sedgwick's video image, in full profile, gazes off to the right, looking up as if she were talking to someone standing above her. On the right, the »real« (or »live«) Edie sits in three-quarter profile facing left, addressing someone sitting off-screen to the left of Warhol's movie camera -- an arrangement which at times creates the illusion that we are watching Sedgwick in conversation with her own image. Warhol shot two 33-minute sound reels of the two Sedgwicks, video and »live,« and then projected the two reels side-by-side, with Reel 1 on the left and Reel 2 on the right, to create a quadruple portrait of his star.

The »outer and inner space« of Warhol's title delineates the metaphysical confrontation established by this scenario: on the left, a brightly glowing video image transforms Sedgwick's profile into a flattened, glamorized mask which seems almost vapid in its graphic simplicity; on the right, the filmed face of the "real" Edie, shadowed and expressively modeled by the glow of her own video image, exposes every detail of her increasingly unhappy subjectivity as she endures the ordeal of this face-off with her televised self. »Outer and inner,« therefore, refers not only to the dichotomy between Sedgwick's outer beauty and inner turmoil, so vividly diagrammed in this double portrait, but also describes the two very different spaces of representation occupied by the video/television medium and by film.

In this context, it is significant that Sedgwick seems to be unnerved, not by the film camera she is facing, but by the uncanny presence of her own prerecorded video image looking over her shoulder from the television behind her. Video -- and perhaps television as well -- seems to be directly implicated as the instrument of her suffering. The contrast between the flatness and relative lack of expression in her electronic image and the subtle photographic tonalities and inner vulnerability captured in her film image suggest some of the inherent inadequacies of video as a portrait medium. At the same time, however, the spectacle of Sedgwick's discomfort, which is so relentlessly delineated on film, makes one think that video might, after all, be the kinder, less revealing medium. Sedgwick's distress, in the end, emerges as the direct product of the act of portraiture: the tension that arises between the living reality of a person and the image that person is reduced to, a conflict which she must literally act out, in real time, in this film.

Outer and Inner Space was Warhol's first double-screen film, and also a very early, if rather anomalous, example of experimental video art. Warhol was able to make this experiment when, in August 1965, Tape Recording magazine arranged to lend him a high-quality Norelco video camera, tape recorder, and monitor for a period of one month, in exchange for an exclusive interview in which Warhol would report on his experiences and endorse the new medium. During this month of video access, Warhol shot at least eleven half-hour tapes of people at the Factory, including the two half-hour tapes of Sedgwick made for Outer and Inner Space.[2] As he explained in the Tape Recording interview, he was most excited by the immediacy of video playback, and by the way in which that playback enabled him to create a double portrait by posing his subjects in front of their own image on the video monitor.[3]

This ability of the new video medium to multiply the image of his subject seems, in fact, to have inspired Warhol to revisit the gridlike structure of his paintings: the diptych format may have given him the idea that he could redouble Segwick's image by adding a second film reel on a second screen, just as he often doubled or quadrupled his silkscreened portraits by adding additional canvases or panels. By the end of 1965, Warhol was experimenting widely with the double-screen format, particularly in the multi-screen projections of his own films that accompanied performances by the Velvet Underground and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable in 1966. His most well-known works in this expanded format are the doublescreen feature The Chelsea Girls (l966) and the 25-hour multi-image film **** (Four Stars) (l967).

During the filming of Outer and Inner Space, Warhol experimented with the video/TV medium, deliberately distorting the scanning of Edie's video image in Reel 1 (on the left), playing with the vertical roll on the television monitor in Reel 2 (on the right), and even turning off the television at the end of Reel 2. These experiments, remarkably, show Warhol intuitively isolating the unique features of video at a date several months before Nam June Paik purchased his first videotape recorder and years before similar works such as Joan Jonas' Vertical Roll (l972). These occasional »breakdowns« in Sedgwick's video image caused by Warhol's manipulation of the medium recall the fading, blurring, and disintegration of the silkscreened images in Warhol's painted portraits, and, in a similar manner, underscore the unreliable superficiality of the mass-media image in contrast with the human import of Sedgwick's real-time suffering.

By 1970, Warhol had stopped making films to concentrate on video, eventually producing commercials, music videos, and even his own magazine-format cable TV shows. These later, television-related productions demonstrate that, when working in a commodified electronic medium, Warhol chose to abandon the confrontational, formal aesthetics of portraiture for more flattering formats like the celebrity interview.

Warhol's single venture into video art after Outer and Inner Space was a videotape called Water (l971), which was shown at the Everson Museum in Syracuse in October 1971 as part of Yoko Ono's »This Is Not Here« exhibition. [4] Ono had invited a number of artists to submit either a »water container« or an idea for one, to which she would add water to complete a »water sculpture« to be credited to both artists. Warhol's response was to send in a black-andwhite videotape entitled Water: a half-hour close-up of the Factory water cooler, with a soundtrack of ambient Factory conversation recorded near the water cooler during the shooting. Although the tape was shown on a video monitor during the Everson exhibition, Ono was--for obvious reasons--unable to add water to it. In the Water piece, Warhol can be seen using video to outwit Ono at her own conceptual game, stretching the definition of sculpture by submitting a work on videotape and decisively asserting his own authorship over a supposedly collaborative piece.

1 Thomas Crow, »Saturday Disasters: Trace and Reference in Early Warhol«, in: Modern Art in the Common Culture, Yale University Press, New Haven and London 1996, p. 51. ^

2 The experimental slant-scan Norelco format which Warhol used has since become obsolete, and his earliest videotapes are now no longer retrievable; ironically, this 1965 film now constitutes the best preserved version of his first video work. Excerpts from the Norelco tapes of Edie Sedgwick used in Outer and Inner Space were included in the exhibition Andy Warhol's Video & Television at the Whitney Museum in 1991. ^

3 »Pop Goes the Videotape: An Interview with Andy Warhol«, in: Tape Recording, vol. 12, no. 5, September-October 1965, p. 15-19. ^

4 For documentation of this »Water Event,« see Chrissie Iles and Yoko Ono, Yoko Ono: Have you seen the horizon lately?, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford 1997, pp. 48-51. ^

 


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