Watch Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests of Three Female Muses: Nico, Edie Sedgwick & Mary Woronov

Artist Andy Warhol shot over 500 silent, black-and-white screen-tests in his famous Factory between 1964 and 1966, documenting the beautiful youth who were drawn to the scene. Sometimes he would chat with the subject beforehand, offering suggestions to help them achieve the type of performance he was looking for. More frequently he took a passive role, to the point of leaving the room during the filming.

The opposite of a people person, he preferred to engage with his subjects by scrutinizing the finished screen tests, projecting them in slow motion to imbue them with an added element of glamour and amplify every nuance of expression. As Warhol wrote in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol:

That screen magnetism is something secret. If you could figure out what it is and how you make it, you'd have a really good product to sell. But you can't even tell if someone has it until you actually see them up there on the screen. You have to give screen tests to find out.

The screen tests are less auditions for roles in Warhol films than pieces of an ongoing project. Warhol played with them, assembling and reassembling them into collections which he screened under such fluid titles as 13 Most Beautiful Women and 13 Most Wanted Men. Some of his test subjects went on to achieve real stardomLou Reed, Dennis Hopper, and Bob Dylan

Others’ fame is forever tied to the Factory.

Edie Sedgwick, above, one of his best known muses, was a troubled girl from a wealthy family. Unlike some of the moodier screen tests, Sedgwick’s is fully lit. She displays a genuine movie star’s poise, barely moving as the camera drinks her in. Her beauty appears untouched by the addictions and eating disorders that were already a driving force in her life.

Actress and painter Mary Woronov emerged unscathed from her time at the Factory. Like Sedgwick, she seemed comfortable with the idea of being observed doing nothing for an extended period. Recalling her screen test experience in an interview with Bizarre, she made it clear that the subjects were far from the center of attention:

Andy put you on a stool, then puts the camera in front of you. There are lots of people around usually. And then he turns the camera on, and he walks away, and all the people walk away too, but you're standing there in front of this camera.

I saw Salvador Dali do one, it was really funny. It's a very interesting film, because it's a way of cracking open your personality and showing what's underneath—only in a visual way, because there's no talking, nothing. You just look at the camera. Salvador made this gigantic pose with his moustache blaring and everything, and he couldn't hold the pose. Not for five minutes. And so at about minute four, he suddenly started looking very, very real.

The camera loves stillness, something model and singer Nico was unable to deliver in her screen test. Perhaps not such a problem when the director has plans to project in slow motion.

As he stated in POPism: The Warhol '60s:

What I liked was chunks of time all together, every real moment… I only wanted to find great people and let them be themselves… and I'd film them for a certain length of time and that would be the movie.

Factory regular/interior decorator/photographer Billy Name told punk historian Legs McNeil in an interview that the screen tests served another purposeto identify the fellow travelers from among the poor fits:

… it's always cool to meet other artists, you know, to see if it's somebody who's going to be a peer or a compatriot, who you can play with and hang around with or not. Andy was doing a series of screen tests for his films, and we wanted everybody to do one: Dylan, Nico, Dennis Hopper, Susan Sontag, Donovan—everyone famous that came up to the Factory. We'd just film 16mm black-and-white portraits of the person sitting there for a few minutes. So our purpose was to have Dylan come up and do a screen test, so he could be part of the series. That was enough for us. But Dylan didn't talk at all when we filmed him. I don't think he liked us, ha, ha, ha!

Revolver Gallery, devoted exclusively to Warhol, has a gallery of screen-tests on their YouTube channel.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 24 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Hieronymus Bosch Demon Bird Was Spotted Riding the New York City Subway the Other Day…

To me, the great promise of homeschooling is that one day your child might, on their own initiative, ride the New York City subways dressed in a homemade, needlefelted costume modeled on the ice-skating bird messenger from Hieronymus Bosch’s The Temptation of St. Anthony.

Rae Stimson, aka Rae Swon, a Brooklyn-based artist who did just that a little over a week ago, describes her upbringing thusly:

Growing up I was home schooled in the countryside by my mom who is a sculptor and my dad who is an oil painter, carpenter, and many other things. Most of my days were spent drawing and observing nature rather than doing normal school work. Learning traditional art techniques had always been very important to me so that I can play a role in keeping these beautiful methods alive during this contemporary trend of digital, nonrepresentational, and conceptual art. I make traditional artwork in a wide variety of mediums, including woodcarving, oil painting, etching, needle felting, and alternative process photography.

Not every homeschooler, or, for that matter, Waldorf student, is into needle felting. It only seems that way when you compare the numbers to their counterparts in more traditional school settings…

Even the tiniest creature produced by this method is a labor intensive proposition, wherein loose woolen fibers are soaked, soaped, and jabbed with a needle until they come together in a rough mat, suitable for shaping into the whimsical—or demonic—figure of its creator’s choosing.

Stimson matched her full-head bird mask to the one in the painting by equipping it with gloves, a blanket cloak, long velvet ears, and a leafless twig emerging from the spout of its hand-painted funnel hat.

An accomplished milliner, Stimson was drawn to her subject’s unusual headgear, telling HuffPo’s Priscilla Frank how she wished she could ask Bosch about the various elements of his “beautiful demon-bird” and “what, if any, symbolic significance they hold.”

The answer lies in art history writer Stanley Meisler’s Smithsonian magazine article, "The World of Bosch":

…a monster on ice skates approaches three fiends who are hiding under a bridge across which pious men are helping an unconscious Saint Anthony. The monster, wearing a badge that Bax says can be recognized as the emblem of a messenger, bears a letter that is supposedly a protest of Saint Anthony's treatment. But the letter, according to (Bosch scholar and author Dirk) Bax, is in mirror writing, a sure sign that the monster and the fiends are mocking the saint. The monster wears a funnel that symbolizes intemperance and wastefulness, sports a dry twig and a ball that signify licentious merrymaking, and has lopping ears that show its foolishness. All this might have been obvious to the artist's contemporaries when the work was created, but the average modern viewer can only hope to understand the overall intent of a Bosch painting, while regarding the scores of bizarre monsters and demons as a kind of dark and cruel comic relief.

A field guide to Bosch’s bizarre images in the same article gives viewers leave to interpret any and all funnels in his work as a coded reference to deceit and intemperance... perhaps at the hands of a false doctor or alchemist!

Not every subway rider caught the arty reference. Unsurprisingly, some even refused to acknowledge the strange being in their midst. Those folks must not share Stimson’s dedication to examining “that which is unfamiliar, seeking out all that is yet unknown to you in both art and life.”

Within 24 hours of its Metropolitan Transit Authority adventure, the one-of-a-kind demon-bird costume was sold on Etsy.

(Holler if you wish Stimson had kept it around long enough to take a spin on the ice at Rockefeller Center or Bryant Park, where the majority of patrons would no doubt be gliding around in ignorance that, as per Meisler, Bosch equated skates with folly.)

See more of Rae Stimson’s needle-felted creations, including a full-body alien robot costume and a sculpture of author Joyce Carol Oates with her pet chicken in her Etsy shop.

via Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is a New York City-based homeschooler, author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her at The Tank NYC on Monday, September 24 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

When Led Zeppelin Reunited and Crashed and Burned at Live Aid (1985)

I’ve tended to avoid reunion shows from my favorite bands of old, and I’ve missed some great performances because of it, I’m told, and also a few clunkers and forgettable nostalgia trips. But sometimes it really doesn’t matter how good or bad the band is ten or twenty years past their prime—or that one or more of their original members has left their mortal coil or shuffled off into retirement. It’s such a thrill for fans to see their heroes that they’ll overlook, or fail to notice, serious onstage problems.

The crowd of thousands at Philly’s JFK Stadium exploded  after “Rock and Roll,” Led Zeppelin’s opener to their 1985 Live Aid reunion gig (above), with Phil Collins and Chic’s Tony Thompson doubling on drum duties (because it takes two great drummers to equal one John Bonham, I guess). But according to the musicians themselves, the show was an absolute fail—so much so that Collins nearly walked offstage in the middle of the 20-minute set. “It was a disaster really,” he said in a 2014 interview, “It wasn’t my fault it was crap.”




Collins expands on the problems in his candid autobiography:

I know the wheels are falling off from early on in the set. I can’t hear Robert clearly from where I’m sat, but I can hear enough to know that he’s not on top of his game. Ditto Jimmy. I don’t remember playing 'Rock and Roll,' but obviously I did. But I do remember an awful lot of time where I can hear what Robert decries as ‘knitting’: fancy drumming…. you can see me miming, playing the air, getting out of the way lest there be a train wreck. If I’d known it was to be a two-drummer band, I would have removed myself from proceedings long before I got anywhere near Philadelphia.

As for the Zeppelin members proper, Plant and Page had no fond memories of the gig. “It was horrendous,” said Plant in 1988. “Emotionally, I was eating every word that I had uttered. And I was hoarse. I’d done three gigs on the trot before I got to Live Aid.” Page, writes Rolling Stone, “was handed a guitar right before walking onstage that was out of tune.” “My main memories,” he later recalled, “were of total panic.” Apparently, no one thought to ask John Paul Jones about the show.

Barely rehearsed (Jones arrived “virtually the same day as the show”) and with failing monitors ensuring the band could hardly hear themselves, they struggled through “Rock and Roll,” “Whole Lotta Love,” and “Stairway to Heaven.” The footage, which the band scrapped from the 2004 DVD release, doesn’t show them at their best, for sure, but it’s maybe not quite as bad as they remembered it either (see the full concert above).

In any case, Plant was so inspired that he tried to reunite the band, with Thompson back on drums, in secret rehearsals a few months later. The attempt was “embarrassing,” he’s since said. “We did about two days…. Jonesy played keyboards, I played bass. It sounded like David Byrne meets Hüsker Dü.” Now that is a reunion I’d pay good money to see.

22 years later, at London's O2 Arena, the band was confident and totally on top of their game once again for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert, with Jason Bonham behind the kit. Probably their last performance ever, and it's damned good. See "Black Dog" above and buy the full concert film here.

The clip below lets you see more than 90 minutes of Led Zeppelin reunion concerts. Beyond their Live Aid show, it includes performances at Atlantic Records' 4oth anniversary (1988) and at the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame (1995).

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

William Shatner Is Releasing a Christmas Album with Iggy Pop & Henry Rollins : Get a First Listen to “Jingle Bells”

You know what they say: each year the Christmas season seems to start a little earlier. Here it's not yet October, and already we're hearing "Jingle Bells" — but then, this version doesn't sound quite like any we've heard before. The song comes as the opening number on Shatner Claus: The Christmas Album, which promises exactly what it sounds like it does. Officially dropping on October 26th, it will contain, according to Consequence of Sound, William Shatner's "unique take on 13 holiday staples," and feature guest contributors like Iggy Pop on "Silent Night," ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and former Black Flag frontman and all-around provocateur Henry Rollins on "Jingle Bells," a collaboration you can stream just above.

You may not describe Shatner's distinctive half-singing-half-speaking style as possessed of a great "range," technically speaking, but who can doubt the formidable cultural range of his musical career? On his debut album The Transformed Man fifty years ago he covered the Beatles, ten years later he took on "Rocket Man," and more recently he appeared on Dr. Demento's punk album singing The Cramps' "Garbage Man" with Weird Al Yankovic.




Shatner Claus demonstrates that the former Captain Kirk's interest in punk rock hasn't dissipated, and the pairing of him and no less an icon of that genre makes a certain kind of sense, seeing as both of them have spent decades blurring the performative line between singing and the spoken word, each in his own distinctive way.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise, then, that Shatner and Rollins are friends, and have been since they first recorded together on Shatner's album Has Been in 2004. Rollins once described Shatner to rock site Blabbermouth as "extraordinarily friendly, a very energized guy" despite being three decades the  middle-aged Rollins' senior. "He impresses me in that he's a guy who's really figured out what he likes," especially football: "I've been to the Shatner house many times for dinner, for Super Bowl Sunday, for football games. I don't watch football, but I like his friends. I'm a shy person. I don't really go out of my way to hang out but I like him and his wife... and I like all the food he lays out." The vast game-day spreads at chez Shatner have also given Rollins stories to tell at his spoken-word shows, and listening to Shatner Claus, you have to wonder: what must they have for Christmas dinner?

via Consequence of Sound

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Discover Rare 1980s CDs by Lou Reed, Devo & Talking Heads That Combined Music with Computer Graphics

When it first hit the market in 1982, the compact disc famously promised "perfect sound that lasts forever." But innovation has a way of marching continually on, and naturally the innovators soon started wondering: what if perfect sound isn't enough? What if consumers want something to go with it, something to look at? And so, when compact disc co-developers Sony and Philips updated its standards, they included documentation on the use of the format's channels not occupied by audio data. So was born the CD+G, which boasted "not only the CD's full, digital sound, but also video information — graphics — viewable on any television set or video monitor."

That text comes from a package scan posted by the online CD+G Museum, whose Youtube channel features rips of nearly every record released on the format, beginning with the first, the Firesign Theatre's Eat or Be Eaten.




When it came out, listeners who happened to own a CD+G-compatible player (or a CD+G-compatible video game console, my own choice at the time having been the Turbografx-16) could see that beloved "head comedy" troupe's densely layered studio production and even more densely layered humor accompanied by images rendered in psychedelic color — or as psychedelic as images can get with only sixteen colors available on the palette, not to mention a resolution of 288 pixels by 192 pixels, not much larger than a icon on the home screen of a modern smartphone. Those limitations may make CD+G graphics look unimpressive today, but just imagine what a cutting-edge novelty they must have seemed in the late 1980s when they first appeared.

Displaying lyrics for karaoke singers was the most obvious use of CD+G technology, but its short lifespan also saw a fair few experiments on such other major-label releases, all viewable at the CD+G Museum, as Lou Reed's New York, which combines lyrics with digitized photography of the eponymous city; Talking Heads' Naked, which provides musical information such as the chord changes and instruments playing on each phrase; Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion, which translates the libretto alongside works of art; and Devo's single "Disco Dancer," which tells the origin story of those "five Spudboys from Ohio." With these and almost every other CD+G release available at the CD+G museum, you'll have no shortage of not just background music but background visuals for your next late-80s-early-90s-themed party.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

What Makes Edgar Allan Poe So Great? An Animated Video Explains

His gloomy, haunted visage adorns the covers of collected works, publications of whose like he would never see in his lifetime. Edgar Allan Poe died in penury and near-obscurity, and might have been forgotten had his work not been turned into sensationalized, abridged, adaptations posthumously, a fate he might not have wished on his most hated literary rival.

But Poe survived caricature to become known as one of the greatest of American writers in any genre. A pioneer of psychological horror and science fiction, founder of the detective story, poet of loss and mourning, and incisive literary critic whose principles informed his own work so closely that we can use essays like his 1846 “The Philosophy of Composition” as keys to unlock the formal properties of his stories and narrative poems.




In the short TED-Ed video above, scripted by Poe scholar Scott Peeples of the College of Charleston, we are introduced to many of the qualities of form and style that make Poe distinctive, and that made him stand out among a crowd of popular horror writers of the time. There are his principles, elaborated in his essay, which state that one should be able to read a story in one sitting, and that every word in the story must count.

These rules produced what Poe called the “Unity of Effect,” which “goes far beyond fear. Poe’s stories use violence and horror to explore the paradoxes and mysteries of love, grief, and guilt, while resisting simple interpretations or clear moral messages. And while they often hint at supernatural elements, the true darkness they explore is the human mind.”

This observation leads to an analysis of Poe’s unreliable narrators, particularly in stories like The Tell-Tale Heart. But there is another aspect to Poe—one which makes his unreliable voices so compelling. Even when the stories seem incredible, the events bizarre, the narrators maniacal, we believe them wholeheartedly. And this has much to do with the framing conventions Poe uses to draw readers in and implicate them, forcing them to identify with the stories’ tellers.

For example, “Ms. Found in a Bottle,” the very first story in Poe’s posthumous collection, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, opens with an epigraph from French librettist Quinault’s opera Atys, an adaption of one of Ovid's stories. The lines translate to “He who has but a moment to live has no longer anything to dissemble.”

We are invited into a confidence through the doorway of this device—a classical, and neoclassical, reference to truth-telling, a sober, learned literary stamp of authority. As the nameless narrator introduces himself, he makes sure to place himself in another ancient tradition, Pyrrhonism, a skeptical philosophy concerned with epistemology, or how it is we can know what we know.

The narrator assures us that “no person could be less liable than myself to be led away from the severe precincts of truth by the ignes fatui of superstition.” Though we may doubt this bold assertion, and the person making it, we might also be convinced of our own unshakeable rationality and skepticism. These are the moves, to put it plainly, of stage magicians, mountebanks, and confidence men, and Poe was one of the greatest of them all.

He flatters his readers’ intelligence, draws them close enough to see his hands moving, then picks their comfortable assumptions from their pockets. Poe understood what many of his peers did not: readers love to be conned by a juicy yarn, but it must be really good—it must show us something we did not see before, and that we could, perhaps, only look at it indirectly, through a pleasing act of aesthetic (self) deception.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hear Nico’s Pre-Velvets Recording, “I’m Not Sayin,” Backed by the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones & Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page (1965)

For most of us, the Teutonic singer Nico has always been associated with the first Velvet Underground album and then a series of fascinating solo albums (often with Velvets connections) released during the ‘70s and ‘80s before her untimely death in 1988. The voice and the look are unmistakable, that far away stare, that detached, brooding and flat tone. It might also feel like she magically appeared from a cloud of smoke in 1967 New York City.

But before she met Andy Warhol, the former teen model had crossed paths with a who’s who of ’50 and ‘60s cool: Coco Chanel, Mario Lanza, Federico Fellini (who cast her in a bit part in La Dolce Vita), Lee Strasberg, Jean Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon (who allegedly fathered her first child).




In 1965 Nico met and began dating Rolling Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones, and that’s how we get to the video above. Already having sung in nightclubs in New York, her smoky voice was established, but Jones convinced the Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham to sign her to his boutique label Immediate, which had just started.

Oldham brought in his reliable studio musician and A&R man, a young guitarist called Jimmy Page, to produce and play guitar (along with Jones) on both sides of Nico’s first single, the A-side “I’m Not Saying” (a Gordon Lightfoot cover) and the B-Side “The Last Mile” (written by Page and Oldham). As a session musician, Page is on a *lot* of British hit singles, including Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” Them’s “Here Comes the Night,” Marianne Faithfull’s “As Tears Go By,” and a surprising amount more.

The resulting pleasant-enough single didn’t exactly rock the charts, but it was a first foot in the door. Jones would introduce Nico to Andy Warhol soon after that and she began to appear in some of his films like Chelsea Girls. Destiny was right around the corner.

For a singer so tied to the Velvets, it’s worth remembering she was only on three songs on the 11 song debut album and then left. But her place in rock history was assured, even though it was the oddest of team-ups at the time.

On a side note, the video for “I’m Not Saying” was shot at Canary Wharf on the Thames, long before it was turned into shiny towers for the rich. It’s a window back into a very different time.

via Dangerous Minds

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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