Free Culture; Open Content

Andy Warhol Films: Open Content: Rufus Collins, Screen Test, ST61

Rufus Collins, Screen Test, ST61

The role of content producers has evolved as well, away from the idea of authoritative repositories of content and towards the broader notion of content being both free and ubiquitous. It is now the mark — and social responsibility — of world-class institutions to develop and share free cultural and educational resources. Potential abounds for a museum’s open content to be dispersed, repurposed, and curated all over the web.

[there is a] growing sentiment among museum leaders that cultural objects and important artworks are meant to be shared with as broad of an audience as possible.

New Media Consortium: Horizon Report, 2012 Museum Edition

Andy Warhol Films: Open Content

Andy Warhol Films: Open Content: Edie Sedgwick, Screen Test, ST306

Edie Sedgwick, Screen Test, ST306

The size and significance of Andy Warhol’s oeuvre in the 20th century is matched only by the number of cultural institutions offering remarkable stewardship of that oeuvre here in the 21st century. The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, The Andy Warhol Museum, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and other institutions have all offered leadership in preserving, documenting, and presenting Warhol’s vast film archive.

In spite of this leadership, today in 2014 the vast majority of Andy Warhol’s films are not publically accessible. We live in a ubiquitous video world of YouTube, Instagram, and myriad other Web and Mobile platforms. It is a ubiquitous video world that Warhol anticipated more than 30 years ago. Yet while every kitten on earth is represented there, the extraordinary output of the genius of the 20th century is not. Given the significance of Andy Warhol’s films, their absence on the cultural channels of our time is nothing less than a travesty.

Andy Warhol Films: Open Content: Black-and-white photograph of Andy Warhol and 18 of the cast & crew from his films of the mid-1960's

The Films of Andy Warhol. Whitney Museum of American Art, 1988.

A growing number of cultural institutions are beginning to open their content to the world: The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney shares its historic images on the Flickr Commons. Through their Open Content Program The Getty has made 87,000 images available. The Walters Art Museum has partnered with Wikimedia Commons to release over 19,000 images. The Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Museum released the collection data for 60% of its documented collection into the public domain.

However circuitous and thorny the path may be, I can’t think of a more urgent cultural chasm than building a bridge between Warhol’s large and singular body of film works and the media-enabled culture that has so far been largely denied access to it.

Andy Warhol Films: Open Content: Andy Warhol with members of The Factory

Andy Warhol Films: Current Status

As best I know, The Films of Andy Warhol are physically cared for by The Museum of Modern Art, and their copyright is held by The Andy Warhol Museum:

Before his death in 1987, [Andy Warhol] determined that his films should be cared for by The Museum of Modern Art, and in 1997 THe Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts completed the donation of the surviving four thousand reels of original footage and print materials. Generous support from the Foundation enabled the Museum to preserve and, in cooperation with The Andy Warhol Museum which retains copyrights to the films, return to circulation films that had been hidden away for two decades. Callie Angell at The Whitney Museum of America Art is preparing a catalog raisonné of the films.

Mary Lea Bandy, 2004

Andy Warhol Films: Twitter

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It’s not only Cultural Institutions that actively put up roadblocks between their content and their public, it’s also in places like Film Distribution where we see Old and New Media clashing, with the audience being the loser. Eveliina Honkanen is a student at the University of Edinburgh / Edinburgh College of Art. She’s recently completed a short thesis film, Scoring, which I’d like to see. Unfortunately I have zero chance of seeing her new film for at least a year. Why? Because she’s trying to get it seen!

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