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Archive for December 28th, 2008

Envelope

edie

While I didn’t necessarily know what to expect of the Warhol exhibit, I didn’t expect to encounter so much electronic media.  I hadn’t thought of Warhol in those terms.

One of my first jobs was that of a janitor for a slumlord who owned a handful of really shitty commercial properties in downtown Minneapolis.  I also cleaned his office and in it hung four Marilyns, three Maos and two Torsos.  Because I worked on the weekends, I would take my lunch breaks in his office surrounded by these images with which I was fascinated.

Having always associated Warhol with such colorful static images it was interesting to discover how much work he did with black and white film.  I particularly enjoyed listening to the recorded conversations while watching the multiple screens display various “screen tests”.  Audio and visual elements combined offered a peek into the mind of the artist.  A view that wasn’t a product of media that made him into the star that he became.

Despite the size of the collection on display at the Wexner Center I stopped the longest to contemplate a letter and envelope that had been addressed to Andy Warhol.  It was a hand-written stamped envelope mailed from San Francisco by Valerie Solanas, the woman who tried to kill Warhol in 1968.  What I pondered wasn’t the assassination attempt but instead the envelope and letter itself.

Most of today’s media, and specifically personal communication, takes place electronically.  I receive hand written letters only from my friend Jürgen in Germany and I write back because he doesn’t yet own a computer.  My friend Steve in Warkworth, Ontario occasionally sends typed letters.  I used to save the letters that I received in the mail.  I still have a few in a box somewhere in the basement, but these days the communications I receive are held on servers somewhere – a place that I cannot reach without electricity and log-ins.

The words and the thoughts are only available for viewing – they were produced in such a manner, never intended to be touched or held.  These messages are accessible from virtually anywhere, but are seemingly nowhere simultaneously.

It was just two days three days earlier when I commented on Andrew Miller’s post “When to go offline”, stating my feelings about the social aspects of sending and receiving post cards.  There is still something marvelous about holding a communique that has been hand-written.

Forty years later it is possible to see what had once been written to and held and read by Warhol himself.  Had the media he explored forty years ago been as common place as it is today, we may never have known of him, let alone have the ability to view his personal communications.

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The initial plans were to take in a visit to the Toledo Glass Pavilion on Christmas Eve, but my arrival time meant we’d have to pass. The drive by was thrilling none the less, and I asked my host to “go around the block again”.

Across the street, attached to the main building of the Toledo Museum of Art is an addition by Frank Gehry which houses the University of Toledo’s Center for the Visual Arts. In it’s design, one can see the beginning stages of Gehry’s plunge into deconstructivism.

My host, a historic preservationist from Chicago, stated that he had no idea what deconstructivism was and that even after reading multiple definitions, he finds himself left with the feeling that its nothing more than a word used to elevate conversation, or rather the social status of those using the word, and that even those who use it can’t define it. While I understand the deconstructivist concepts, I too had a difficult getting my point across. This lead to a question that permeated the entire weekend:

“If I were a fly on the wall in a room where one of two people were ‘deconstructing’, what actions might I witness?”

Because that question has rendered me (and a couple of my friends) speechless, I’m extending an invitation to whomever may be reading to weigh in on a possible answer.

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