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Andy Warhol’s - “Campbells Soup” - Part I

It was a sunny winter day and I expected the Jordan Schnitzer Museum to be relatively uninhabited. I was surprised to find a pleasant crowd at the museum. My mind was floored as I entered the first room of the exhibit. The colors were vibrant and many of the prints were much larger than I had imagined. Although I did not join the group watching the video being displayed, I enjoyed reviewing Andy Warhol’s oeuvre (including Mick Jagger, Kennedy’s Assassination and Chairman Mao) while listening along. The visitors to the museum that day appeared to be captivated by Warhol’s exhibition set within the newly remodeled museum. I came away with a new appreciation of Warhol’s creative practices and the scope of his work.

I contend that creative thinking is what differentiates us from technologically driven devices. This is making originality and creativity more valuable than ever before (Paul Saffo 1994). The realm of the machine is quickly enveloping many of our jobs. Jobs that rely on physical repetition and minimal neural output will eventually go to the machines. At this point in time, computers are still formula and task driven.

There is also a degree of confusion concerning the term “original”. Ironically, one definition of the word “original” is “Being the source from which a copy, reproduction, or translation is made, ” from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. This meaning does not imply or infer unique originality. It only denotes an item with which mass production can be achieved. Another definition of “original”, “Showing a marked departure from previous practice” seems to imply a measurable distance from previous ideas. Saffo writes, “The line between original and derivative works will blur as link-building information systems relentlessly identify the origins of ideas…” (Paul Saffo 1994)

Artists have been remixing and reworking their predecessors’ ideas since time began. Is the work of Andy Warhol (1928-1987) “Original”? I certainly feel it is. He was creatively distilling the culture of his time in new ways. As Paul Saffo states, “Will the act of creativity be reduced to assembling old ideas like so much digital clip art, as the once-sustaining web of tradition becomes a suffocating blanket of electronic recall.” As this plays out, we are becoming even more comfortable and reliant on the familiar. “Original” can actually be uncomfortable to some in our society. There is a certain comfort factor associated with the known and understood that fosters ease. This has only helped to propel artist that remix our past in new ways. In a music video, Jean Francois Coen and director Michel Gondry “makes use of sign fragments to mirror the lyrics of the song” (Megan O’Connell 1-27-05).

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