As media becomes increasingly digitized, the vehicles for our ideas become faster and more fluid. What many people don’t realize is that they also become more fragile.
Let me give you an example: I’m combing through old recordings right now, looking for songs to add as extras to a remaster of my CD, Blue Turns Black. I’ve found digital files on disc and ADAT tapes that cannot be read or retrieved maybe nearly ten years old. However I have recordings on cassette tapes that go back to the 90′s that are still perfectly playable.
I bring up this example of how an older storage medium proves to be better than the “improvement” that displaced it in order to point your attention back to the humble floppy discs used — after cassette tapes — in early home computers. That technology is the hero in an art world story involving the discovery of an archive of digital paintings created by Andy Warhol 30 years ago. The Daily Mail explains…
Dozens of original artworks by Andy Warhol have been discovered on decaying floppy disks.
The artworks were commissioned in 1985 by pioneering home computer company Commodore, who wanted Warhol to demonstrate the graphic capabilities of its new Amiga 1000 as it went head to head with Apple’s popular Macintosh series.
Although video footage exists of the artist creating the images alongside singer Debbie Harry at the launch of the Amiga 1000, the artworks themselves were thought lost until researchers tracked down the obsolete disks within The Warhol Archive and hired a team of experts to extract the contents.
The hunt for the floppy disks began when the artist Cory Arcangel – a self-described Warhol fanatic and ‘lifelong computer nerd’ – stumbled on a YouTube video of the Amiga 1000 launch.
After discussing the footage with figures in the U.S. art scene, Arcangel was introduced to The Andy Warhol Museum’s chief archivist Matt Wrbican, who was able to track the floppy disks down.
Describing the artworks, Arcangel said: ‘In the images, we see a mature artist who had spent about 50 years developing a specific hand to eye coordination now suddenly grappling with the bizarre new sensation of a mouse in his palm held several inches from the screen.’
‘It had to be enormously frustrating, but it also marked a huge transformation in our culture: the dawn of the era of affordable home computing.’
‘We can only wonder how he would explore and exploit the technologies that are so ubiquitous today.’
Here’s that video…