Sounding out Andy Warhol

Sounding out Andy Warhol

Tēnā koutou, ko Amos Mann āhau, a newly arrived Web & Multimedia Producer here at Te Papa Tongarewa. I’m a big fan of Andy Warhol and it was very exciting to arrive at Te Papa the same week he did. Te Papa’s Warhol: Immortal exhibition is now open and proving to be highly popular.

There is a new audio guide produced by Te Papa especially for this exhibition. Keen to try it out, I got the chance this week. Using the guide enriches the exhibition experience.

Listening to the evocative commentary, music, and audio of Warhol speaking creates an enhanced level of engagement with the great array of prints, sketches, photographs, films, and installations throughout the gallery. With the headphones on you really feel immersed in Warhol’s world.

Warhol: Immortal audio guide in use. 6 June 2013. Photographer: Flo Wilson ©  Te Papa. Quote is Andy Warhol, 1968

Warhol: Immortal audio guide in use. 6 June 2013. Photographer: Flo Wilson © Te Papa. Quote is Andy Warhol, 1968

On the audio guide, Te Papa curators Sarah Farrar and Athol McCredie give us an excellent overview, as well as thoughtful insight to Andy’s history and the impact of his approach to making art. They tell us of his early life and how his personal qualities, life experiences, and humour are embodied by the artworks right in front of us.

The audio guide includes music commissioned by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. These are songs by former members of the US band Luna, Britta Phillips and Wellington-born Dean Wareham. The songs act as your own personal soundtrack to a selection of Warhol’s Screen Tests. During the mid-1960s Warhol created over 500 silent film portraits of just about anyone who turned up at his studio – the Factory.

Watching the large projections of Andy’s otherwise-silent Screen Tests while listening to these lush, beautiful songs is a reflective and nostalgic experience. The songs are a twenty-first century take on Warhol aesthetic.

For me, a highlight of the audio experience is hearing Victoria University Media Studies Senior Lecturer Geoff Stahl’s vivid description of the Factory. He describes it both as a charismatic social scene and as an industrious workshop producing Warhol’s art. Though the headphones, Geoff’s descriptions transport us; in a way, the other visitors become the stars (and the nobodies) hanging out and admiring Andy’s latest work.

With the audio guide, you also hear Warhol speaking. He describes his processes and approaches to creating art. He speaks with frank simplicity, yet always with a touch of the driest humour. Hearing Andy’s voice, while surrounded by his iconic art, is really quite special.

Geoff Stahl’s insights to the legacy of Warhol point to the prophetic nature of his ground-breaking approach to art. For Warhol, the mundane became profound, nobodies became celebrities. Geoff notes the significance of Warhol is especially clear when considering our current use of social media: now more than ever, online, we are all producing our own few moments of fame.

The Warhol: Immortal audio guide  is available for hire during your visit to the exhibition. Warhol: Immortal runs 1 June – 25 August 2013 | Visa Platinum Gallery, Level 4.

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