13 Most Beautiful . . . Aptly Named

By MICHAEL C. GUINNESS

A buzz could be felt among the audience members at the Vogue Theatre on January 30, where a series of Andy Warhol’s rarely seen film clips was about to begin rolling in the Vogue’s classic halls.

Billy Name, Photo by Rob Long

Screen Test: Billy Name, Photo by Rob Long

The advent of 13 Most Beautiful… in Vancouver, coincides directly with “Andy Warhol: Camouflage Man,” a one-man show and the first in Warhol’s hometown of Pittsburgh, PA at the renowned Andy Warhol Museum (one of four Carnegie Museums in the city).

Reminiscent of the Velvet Underground shows that both complemented and influenced Warhol’s art during the formative years of his ‘Factory’ days, Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips assembled an eclectic mix of music to accompany Warhol’s self-dubbed “screen tests:” pieces that have been experienced only by a select group of individuals over the past 40 years.

So, what was it about Dean and Britta that compelled them to initiate this piece? “Dean and Britta had a connection to Warhol in one way or another,” asserted Thomas Sokolowski, the curator of the new Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

At first glance, the assemblage of screen tests evoked the very image of what Warhol might have wanted portrayed, a scattering of notable names juxtaposed by mostly unrecognizable faces, in itself a treat for the subtleties that it emphasized. The experience was energized by how well the original music was composed to portray each character; narrated by actions, the faces would display during the four minutes each film would run. Sokolowski explained that each screen test was shot on 16mm film and slowed down to 16 frames per second so that each test was “not true slow motion . . . but slow enough to make you think.”

The 16 frames per second certainly was a successful technique, as I felt myself relating to each character through the emotions in their eyes. The music became a soundtrack for silent interaction, drawing me even closer into the second screen test that Wareham introduced as “one of Warhol’s favorites,” featuring Ann Buchanan sitting so still and stoic that she brought herself to tears by refraining to blink.

Ann Buchanan, Photo by Rob Long

Screen Test: Ann Buchanan, Photo by Rob Long

Dean and Britta did a wonderful job of selecting a variety of personalities from Warhol’s past that told a story of his life, while including little facts about each character that ushered the story along to the unique, yet very familiar music that seemed akin to his work.

As the performance began nearing its end, Lou Reed’s face appeared on screen, second to last, accompanied by music that matched his character’s enigmatic presence. As I beheld this final segment, I couldn’t help but feel, somehow, that I was given the opportunity to gaze directly upon an intimate subsection of Warhol’s life, something no museum would be able to create with the same attitude and fervor; a privilege that is awarded to only a select few.

Lou Reed, Photo by Rob Long

Screen Test: Lou Reed, Photo by Rob Long

For those of you who missed the performance, there is still time to experience this piece of art history on a DVD of the show, which was released on February 10. Here is a trailer for the DVD:

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1 comment so far

  1. Britta on

    The DVD is available at http://www.plexifilm.com
    It will be released on March 28th ’09.


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