Andy Warhol is a mogul of modern art. The Philadelphia native was born in 1928 and is best known for leading the American pop art movement. In addition to his recognizable skill as an illustrator, he was also talented in painting, photography, sculpture and film, among other things.
As Warhol saw technology advance, he sought ways to use it in art. He helped to introduce the personal computer, Amiga, to the world in 1984 and 85. By creating artwork on this machine, he greatly influenced art and culture, as he had done for so many years. However, unknown to him, at the time, Warhol also created a mystery. The work he created on the Amiga has not been seen since the technology went extinct. Now, 30 years later, the files have been recovered.
The Carnegie Mellon University Computer Club spearheaded the project to tap into the Amiga floppy disk that held Andy Warhol’s trapped work. Club members had no idea that Warhol used a personal computer for his artwork until they saw a 1985 commercial on YouTube. For years, they worked to release the content trapped on the disk. In late April 2014, the Andy Warhol Museum announced that, “newly-discovered experiments created by Andy Warhol on an Amiga computer in 1985” were uncovered.
Freeing the content was not easy. It took collaborative efforts between the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Club and Frank-Raychye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, who worked together with curators and collection managers at Andy Warhol Museum. The project, which took many years to complete, was documented by the Hillman Photograph Initiative at Carnegie Museum of Art. A documentary titled, “Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments” will chronicle how the team cracked this mystery and freed artwork that had never been seen before.
Warhol’s work that was released from the floppy disk fascinates the art community today. Mostly because technology has become second nature to us and digital art is everywhere. But to Warhol, using a personal computer to create art was completely foreign. The chief archivist at The Warhol describes the Amiga art experiments by saying,
“In the images, we see a mature artist who had spent about 50 years developing a specific hand-to eye coordination now suddenly grappling with the bizarre new sensation of a mouse in his palm held several inches from the screen. No doubt he resisted the urge to physically touch the screen – it had to be enormously frustrating, but it also marked a huge transformation in our culture: the dawn of the era of affordable home computing. We can only wonder how he would explore and exploit the technologies that are so ubiquitous today.”
Learning that Warhol was scratching the surface of digital art when he died of gallbladder complications in 1987 leaves much to the imagination. What could Andy Warhol have created with a personal computer? While the world may never know, the new discovered work from his Amiga experiments is raising the question once again.
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