Cory Arcangel is behind one of most high-profile digital art restoration projects in recent years. Working with members of the Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Club and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the artist recovered 12 images files from Andy Warhol’s personal computer, six of which are reproduced here.
In 1985, Warhol was hired by Commodore International to help promote their latest, and most performing machine to date: the Amiga 1000 (a YouTube video of the launch, during which the Pop artist created a portrait of Debbie Harry live, has reached cult status in some circles). Warhol also produced several more pieces in the studio. Some of them (still unpublished) were retrieved by Commodore’s former CFO, Don Greenbaum, on his personal equipment in 2011, but many of Warhol’s digital artworks remained untouched for decades on floppy disks stored in the Warhol Museum archive.
It took three years and astute retro-computing to open up image files whose format had become unreadable. Warhol had given the digital treatment to some of his favorite motifs – Marilyn Monroe, flowers, himself – often adding his signature in clumsy pixels. The Amiga Preservation project gives insight into a fascinating chapter in the early history of computer-generated art. But perhaps more than that, Arcangel’s project is a celebration of the unpolished aesthetic of early image editing software. It marked the moment when digital archeology entered art history. C.M