Recovered from floppy disks from 1985, Warhol created the early digital art to show off the graphic art capabilities of the Amiga 1000.
More than a dozen previously undiscovered digital works by artist Andy Warhol have been recovered from aging floppy disks from 1985. Commodore International commissioned Warhol to produce digital art to demonstrate the graphic arts capabilities of the Amiga 1000 personal computer. Members of the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Computer Club, with assistance from staff from the Andy Warhol Museum, the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry (FRSCI), the Hillman Photography Initiative, and New York based artist Cory Arcangel, recovered the images. Safely accessing the data on the floppy disks required unusual tools and methodologies. The team recovered 28 new digital works by Warhol from the diskettes, saved in an unrecognized file format. The Club's forensics experts were able to reverse-engineer the file format and reveal the artwork. Eleven of the images feature Warhol's signature, and experts from the Andy Warhol Museum judged the 28 pieces to be in Warhol's signature style.
Arcangel prompted the search for the digital art after learning about Warhol's work with Commodore International from a YouTube video of the Amiga launch. With the support of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Arcangel approached the Andy Warhol Museum about cataloguing any art associated with the Amiga. Arcangel later contacted CMU and the FRSCI, a "laboratory for atypical, anti-disciplinary, and inter-institutional research at the intersections of arts, science, technology and culture". CMU art professor and FRSCI director Golan Levin offered a FRSCI grant to support the work and connected Arcangel with the CMU Computer Club. The Computer Club has expertise in restoring vintage computers, or "retrocomputing". The team processed roughly 40 diskettes in the search for any images produced by Warhol. "What's amazing is that by looking at these images, we can see how quickly Warhol seemed to intuit the essence of what it meant to express oneself, in what then was a brand-new medium: the digital," says Arcangel.
The Hillman Photography Initiative documented the efforts to extract the digital files in a new short film. Trapped: Andy Warhol's Amiga Experiments. will premiere at the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh at 7 pm on Saturday, May 10. The documentary film will be available online on May 12.