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

Reply from 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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5 Responses to “Free Culture; Open Content”

  1. Too bad Larry lost his case.
    Here is an article I saw last week on copyright –
    And now net neutrality is under a serious attack.
    BTW Lindsay Anderson’s films (If and Oh Luck Man for example) are available on youtube in their entirety.
    I will watch them for a few minutes now to diffuse my urge to rant.

    • Hi mac2net, yes, I hear you! One plus of Lawrence Lessig “losing” the Eldred case is, of course, that he wound up founding Creative Commons.

      Don’t get me started on Net Neutrality! It’s far to sad and upsetting a topic.

      However! What’s actually promising about the Open Content case, with respect to Warhol Films, or any other content where the copyright holder is a cultural institution, is that we don’t need any laws changed, we don’t have to fight any court battles, all we need is for one or more museums to choose to give the works they hold copyright on to the people of the world.

      Yes it may cost them money, yes there may be complex internal issues, but in cases like : The Powerhouse, The Getty,The Walters, and Cooper-Hewitt, it “only” took the courage and vision of the institution to put their content in the hands of their public.

      I can’t think of a body of work that would enrich our culture more than Open Access to The Films of Andy Warhol!

  2. LOL both of us are disturbed by net neutrality but neither of us wants to rant about it.
    Funny though, history will judge, as when this issue is combined with the NSA story it looks like we as in “Americans” are teetering on the brink of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. It’s a tragedy combining paranoia and greed. But in the end, the tragedy will be biggest for the antagonists who will fail to control. It will make a good James Bond movie.

    • One of the best books I’ve read in this space is Tim Wu’s The Master Switch. Wu documents every communications technology from The Telegraph to Television and shows how they move from early Open phases to mature Closed phases, and then asks if The Internet is truly different? My personal take home is that the early openness of the Net & Web will recede. It’s already happened. For me it’s not just things like Netflix paying Comcast so Comcast’s already paying customers can actually see Netflix content, it’s also places like YouTube being colonized by the old media ads for fake culture that I thought I left behind when I killed my television.

      Still, while our culture will neither be afforded, nor in fact truly desire, the openness of the early web, I also don’t see the Freedom of The Net becoming as atrophied as Public Access TV.

      What’s truly great about my hope for the future of The Films of Andy Warhol is that it doesn’t require battles against vast forces of money and power, but “simply” for The Andy Warhol Museum and it’s partners to make Warhol’s cultural legacy Open Access.

      • I am an ex-Booz IT guy [90s] and I discovered there that routing started as the domain of Virginia hillbillies who shot deer on the weekends. This community is too libertarian to be controlled in the long-run by either the suits or the boots. I think networking technologies will evolve a way around the commercial content providers. Amazon Kindle and Comcast have in common arrogance about their control of content leading to procrastination about innovating their delivery technologies.

        Does Wu project that new networking technologies will usurp the dominant players [again]?

        I saw an interview of the CEO of Disney on CNBC and they asked him what’s the point of owning ABC anymore and his answer was actually not that enthusiastic. They also asked him about the Comcast merger for which his answer was also very guarded. While Comcast is a crossover, ABC is pure media (correct me if I am wrong) and it could flip from the current model at any moment. Meanwhile the pure internet companies (Apple, Google, Yahoo, FB, Twitter, etc) have networking knowledge that could easily overrun the media companies and they are none too happy about the latest developments in net neutrality or the NSA.

        To make my long story short, fiber could be the new “plastics”.

What do you think, factory girl?

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Creative Commons Attribution, 2016