Whatever you feel the merits of Warhol’s work were, and he can be something of an acquired taste, he definitely called it when it came to the meshing of commercial design and art. A lot of the artists in the pop art movement took pop culture items and recontextualised them in an art setting, like Richard Hamilton with the frames from comic books blown up on huge canvases, and Peter Blake with the memorabilia strewn landscapes of his portraits, but Warhol went a step further. Celebrity and household products were presented cheek by jowl in a flat and un-inflected way that seemed to suggest that they were to be considered art in their native state.
Debate still continues though on whether it can actually be considered art to paint Campbell’s soup cans, and to arrange Brillo Pad boxes, but the art of the found object, and the mass production of the images he created, as part of a factory assembly line, has strong echoes in the current digitally driven commercial arena. Warhol would have been on Pinterest, would have loved micro-blogging, and link-farms … that whole digital scrapbook ethos, and sharing and repurposing of different cultural memes and artifacts as a way to carry on a conversation made entirely of cultural references. The idea of the blog as a kind of cultural collation and curation is very Warholian in essence.
Product placement in films; adverts with actors and star directors; adverts breaking new songs by undiscovered groups – the lines are blurred constantly. A much more commercially savvy audience who consume their music and films and literature on devices constantly blitzed with pop-ups and link-bait wouldn’t find Warhol’s ideas that alien. If something pleases aesthetically, who cares if it is art, advert, or a beats of some other nature?
Everyone famous for five minutes in an attention economy where we are constantly advertising ourselves. There are apps to Warholize your image. He didn’t invent the meme, but he did pioneer the idea of the repeated image as applied to art – high art turned into commercial art turned into high art. It goes viral and it repeats, in exactly the blank bland way that Warhol envisaged.
Companies and individuals have Facebook pages and Myspace accounts, and Pinterest boards, and they all communicate with each other. It is easier than ever to have a dialogue with the commercial world that deluges you with images and actually change the way they operate and interact. How does it feel to be part of The Factory?