When Andy Warhol predicted in 1968 that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” he was certainly underestimating his own fame’s durability. We’ve all seen his pop art portraits of Marilyn Monroe and now we can even replicate personal versions on our MacBooks for all of Facebook to see. Even if you’ve never heard of him, Warhol’s 15 minutes seem to have reproduced themselves as easily as his iconic screen prints.
It seems that even after Warhol and his Silver Factory made their way into history books, the collaborative atmosphere and experimental spirit of the Factory lives on. That is what the organizers of Montreal’s The Factory Project hope to convey when they take over a loft in Montreal’s Little Italy and fill it with various interactive installations that grapple with notions of identity, public life, the media, and performance that still resonate from Warhol’s Factory.
David Allan King, one of the Factory Projects curators, explains that reviving an artistic environment that “happened” 40 years ago is not just a retrospective work. “There are so many parallels with then and now – political climate, ideas about gender and sexuality, Vietnam then versus Iraq now, the interdisciplinary work we do now compared to back then, [and] our continued obsessions with celebrity,” explains King. “I’d say a big challenge [today] has been the idea of risk-taking experimental residencies, in a world where artists are so [restricted by] scheduling and budgets and presenting a “finished” piece as opposed to simply playing, studying, creating, [and] shaping….”
While collaborative artistic spaces are no longer as prevalent as they were in the 1980s and 1990s, King believes the Factory Project’s intention of taking the Silver Factory of the 1960s as a “springboard” for the production of contemporary work is coming at just the right time. “We have soooo many gadgets to play with that Andy and the gang didn’t. Our notions of celebrity and death – from Britney Spears to Facebook’s ‘15 minutes’ to the idolatry of past celebrities like Heath Ledger – has it really changed?” King asks in an email. “If Warhol were alive, I’m sure there would be a painting of Heath Ledger floating around somewhere.”
Warhol’s Factory was notorious for playfully challenging conventional notions of fine art and popular culture, subverting expectations placed on artistic production, and staging collaborations between major companies, celebrities, and Warhol’s constantly changing collective of eccentrics. The diverse contributions from participating Canadian artists at the Factory Project promise to further this dynamic.
Exhibits range from Sherwin Tjia’s peaceful tour of the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, to fellow Montreal artist Gray Fraser’s on-the-spot Warholian portraits, to an exhibit called fifteen by Beau Coleman and Mieko Oucki of Edmonton who have conceived “the city’s most exclusive hotspot.” And for those who wish to learn more about Warhol, Calgarian actor Steve Gin will play the “host” himself, mingling with the crowd and enacting scenes from the artist’s life in Eight Portraits of Andy Warhol.
Warhol’s exploration of his own queer identity serves as a catalyst for the Factory Project. The event is co-produced by Studio 303, an inter-disciplinary arts centre, and Out Productions, whose mandate, King explains, is “to explore and celebrate queer history, identity, and culture.” Today’s Montreal seems to be the perfect environment from which to look back: “Things are just as queer now as they were then, including in Andy’s work – queer in all senses of that word. Montreal’s a fantastic place for ‘queerdom’, much like New York.” With a variety of queer perspectives represented, the project draws from a rich pool of local and trans-Canadian artists.
For those still skeptical that the project is simply reproducing a past artistic moment, the organizers emphasize that the event is about play, interaction, and relating to our own contemporary experience; visitors can expect installations with modern media, from iPods to Rock Band video games. With exciting parties planned for the opening and closing, the Factory Project is set to reflect not only Warhol but those who King says were “magnetized at the Factory – all those artists who had gifts to offer him via their areas of expertise. And of course I also hope spectators will participate in the interactive installations and have the opportunity to see some of Canada’s exciting installation artists, as they develop new material that stands alone today.”
The Factory Project opens on September 20 and runs from the 24 to the 27 at the Eastern Bloc (7240 Clark). For more information visit factoryproject.ca.