Andy Warhol Digitally Paints Debbie Harry with the Amiga 1000 Computer (1985)

Say what you will about mid-eight­ies Amer­i­can cul­ture, but how many his­tor­i­cal moments could bring togeth­er a world-famous visu­al artist and rock star over a gen­uine­ly inno­v­a­tive con­sumer prod­uct? Maybe Apple could orches­trate some­thing sim­i­lar today; after all, we endure no drought of celebri­ty enthu­si­asm for iPods, iPads, iMacs, and iPhones. But could they come up with par­tic­i­pants to match the icon­ic grav­i­ty of Andy Warhol and Deb­bie Har­ry? In the clip above, both of them arrive at the 1985 launch of the Com­modore Ami­ga, and the sil­ver-wigged one sits down to demon­strate the per­son­al com­put­er’s then-unpar­al­leled graph­i­cal pow­er by “paint­ing” the Blondie front­wom­an’s por­trait. He tints it blue, clicks some red paint buck­et here, clicks some yel­low paint buck­et there, and before we know it, we’re gaz­ing upon a Warho­lian image ready for admi­ra­tion, one we too could wield the dig­i­tal pow­er to cre­ate for a mere $1295 — in 1985 dol­lars.

To watch Warhol at the Ami­ga is to watch a man encounter a machine whose func­tions dove­tail uncan­ni­ly well with his own. The way he uses the com­put­er casts a light on what peo­ple seem to find most bril­liant and most infu­ri­at­ing about his work. “All he does is select fill and click on her hair and it turns yel­low and its done?” types one YouTube com­menter. “Her face is fuck­ing blue.” Depart­ing from the stan­dard tone of YouTube dis­course, anoth­er com­menter tries to break it down: “As an artist myself, I find Andy Warhol a genius in mak­ing him­self famous for art that any­one can do. I could take the same pic­ture of Debra [sic] Har­ry and do the same thing in Pho­to­shop. Andy Warhol was great at being Andy Warhol. His art was sim­ply an exten­sion of him­self — sim­ple and col­or­ful.” Indeed, Warhol and Har­ry alike seem to under­stand that their work con­sists as much in the mate­r­i­al they pro­duce as in who they are, leav­ing no dis­cernible bound­ary between the iden­ti­ty and val­ue of the cre­ator and the iden­ti­ty and val­ue of the cre­at­ed.

Ded­i­cat­ed enthu­si­asts of Andy Warhol and/or the Com­modore Ami­ga might also give his 1986 inter­view in Ami­ga World a look, despite its sketchy scan qual­i­ty. It took place dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of the MTV music- and talk-show Andy Warhol’s Fif­teen Min­utes, whose Ami­ga-enhanced pro­mo spot (which fea­tures Deb­bie Har­ry) you can watch above. “Do you think [the Ami­ga] will push the artists?” Ami­ga World asks. “Do you think that peo­ple will be inclined to use all the dif­fer­ent com­po­nents of the art, music, video, etc.?” “That’s the best part about it,” Warhol replies. “An artist can real­ly do the whole thing. Actu­al­ly, he can make a film with every­thing on it, music and sound and art… every­thing.” “How do you feel about the fact that every­one’s work will now look like your own?” Ami­ga World asks. “But it does­n’t,” Warhol replies. Alas, Andy Warhol would not live to take advan­tage of the unprece­dent­ed­ly rapid devel­op­ment of com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy the nineties would bring, but that par­tic­u­lar rev­o­lu­tion has offered us all, in some sense, the chance to get Warho­lian.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Warhol’s Screen Tests: Lou Reed, Den­nis Hop­per, Nico, and More

Three “Anti-Films” by Andy Warhol: Sleep, Eat & Kiss

Steven Spiel­berg Admits Swal­low­ing a Tran­sis­tor to Andy Warhol and Bian­ca Jag­ger

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Of course he was the ide­al per­son to use for this. If he had sat down and start­ed with a blank slate and quick­ly whipped up some­thing insane­ly com­pli­cat­ed, Com­modore would not have con­vinced any­one that they too could use the machine to make art. They need­ed an artist who would pro­duce some­thing that *looked easy* to do. The more of the audi­ence who thought they could do that *too*, as long as they got an Ami­ga, the bet­ter.

  • I’d love to watch a mod­ern ver­sion: Banksy/Bono?

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.