Just An Observation Friday October 4th
After a relatively quiet September-culturally anyway- after the excesses of the Fringe it would seem that Edinburgh’s artistic circle have stirred themselves. Possibly the most high profile opening this weekend is the Andy Warhol Pop Power and Politics exhibition being held at the Scottish Parliament until November 3rd.
Possibly the most recognisable and influential-in many ways- artist of the 20th century detractors always claim Warhol’s work to be vacuous and lacking soul but this misses the point completely. There was a lot more intelligence in his work than is instantly recognisable and presenting culture as it was –albeit with brighter colours- was a bold statement that afforded his work longevity and ongoing scrutiny.
Warhol himself is as recognisable as his works and emerges as one of the all time great self publicists. His influence and fingerprints are all over 21st century culture whilst his ideas still course through the veins of modern life. Reality television has its roots in Warhol’s ideas of sticking a bunch of previous unknowns and recording their actions and reactions.
The main difference between his early films and the abomination that reality TV has become is that most of the characters he chose to feature included great beauties, articulate talkers and interesting characters such as Edie Sedgwick, Joe Dallesandro, Candy Darling, Nico, Jackie Curtis and Gerard Malanga, all who operated in a vacuum of sorts and had something worthwhile to say and put across.
Compare and contrast with the never ending circle of Bianca Gascoignes and Louis Spences and it is clear how this ideology has faltered and become an instant form of creating a false celebrity. True the Warhol acolytes also wanted fame and celebrity status but deep down were aware it was never actually going to happen- of all his disciples only Lou Reed really achieved international acclaim in his own right- therefore retaining some of their credibility and, more importantly, their integrity.
As for politics Warhol’s work is shot through with politics although it is not always clearly apparent. The Chairman Mao’s, Jackie Kennedy’s, JFK Assassination works as well as his Andrew Carnegie portraits are all obvious enough candidates but his ‘Electric Chair’ is also rampantly political. It is a stark image which says nothing and everything at the same time but simply presents an object of death and allows the viewer to make their own mind up whilst drawing their own conclusions. Or not as the case may be.
Andy Warhol’s ‘Mao’
The Edinburgh International Fashion Festival team are also back next week and their involvement in the Pringle show at the opulent Signet Library looks like being a fashion event not to be missed. Entitled ‘Princess Grace: More Than An Image’. I am assuming the collection will be based on poise and elegance, two characteristics heavily associated with the former screen icon who became a bona fide royal after marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco abandoning her Hollywood career at its very apotheosis.
Although September was a quiet cultural month for me personally it was very active socially so now that October has arrived I am looking forward to more nights in. Matters in this would be assisted however if there was ever anything decent ever on the television. Even a series which started out as hopeful as ‘Peaky Blinders’ seems to have somehow lost its way and although it still possesses a great Nick Cave and White Stripes soundtrack-not to mention Cillian Murphy’s ethereal eyes and razor sharp cheekbones- the plot is flagging and the characters raise little empathy, never mind caring what actually happens to any of them. Hopefully the return of ‘Homeland’ for its third series this Sunday will raise the bar again and some decent drama will provide relief from the barrage of reality shows, singing and dancing competitions and ‘Downton Abbey’s’.
Saying that my own guilty pleasure in the reality show stakes, ‘Made in Chelsea’, is also returning in the coming weeks. I actually annoy myself by watching this as the characters-I refuse to call them real people- are all obnoxious, smug, self obsessed and supercilious. Somehow I have convinced myself that I watch it to feel glad at least I am not like them and feel better for it but this argument is unconvincing as that would make me smug, self obsessed, supercilious etc. etc. and therefore I am no really any better than them at all. In fact it makes me worse as I am still interested in their lives-whilst insisting the opposite- but they are not even aware of mine.
Let’s hope then that the programmers who organised the winter schedules have a new surprise up their sleeves. I hold out little hope for this however and may have to join the rest of the world by drowning in ‘Breaking Bad’ box-sets, hyperbole and obsession. Sounds like a good idea!
Photo at the top- Joe Dallesandro in Andy Warhol’s ‘Flesh’