Swedish Warhol

by on Jan.31, 2011

I’ve been reading Pontus Hulten’s Warhol catalog for Andy Warhol’s big retrospective at the Moderna Museum in Stockholm from 1968, one of the most important shows of Warhol’s work in the 60s. What makes this catalog utterly fascinating is that it’s huge but also that they did not use color. So you get a whole bunch of Marilyns in a row that look exactly the same, or, perhaps even more startling, a whole bunch of race riots in a row that are the same race riot picture, no color to differentiate them. One can say, like James writes in his post about Steve Shaviro below, that the catalog accentuates the way his “surfaces really are surfaces.”

What this seems to do is insert a kind of temporality and coercion into the reading process: No, you’re not done yet, you’re going to see it again, and again, and again.

The book includes minimal critical framework, so that suddenly there are pictures of Warhol and the Velvet Underground, and it’s not clear how these relate to the official “art works.” You get a feeling of the heady camera that cannot be shut down, that goes everywhere. Including newspapers (for race riot images).

It’s interesting to read Swedish literary journals from the 1960s because pop art is seen as deeply leftist: a kind of attack on lofty bourgeois culture. While in America it is seen more likely seen as nihilistic (I’m not a Warhol expert, I might be wrong about this).

This tension can be seen in the translation of Warhol’s quotes, which translates Warhol’s very modern English into a kind of stilted, old-fashioned Swedish. Particularly striking is that “The Factory” is translated not into “Fabriken” but “Ataljen” (the studio). Very strange.

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