Many of Andy Warhol’s films ran for several hours and often portrayed people doing ordinary things in front of a largely still camera.
This project, officially launched yesterday, broadcasts live-streaming footage of Warhol’s grave online. The project’s name was derived from Warhol’s words: “I always thought I’d like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph and no name. Well, actually, I’d like it to say ‘figment.’”
Monday, at midnight, the web stream officially went live, and real-time footage of Andy Warhol’s grave was accessible online around the world. EarthCam also has set up a high definition camera that takes still shots of the site. These photos are linked to a software program that turns each still shot into a Warhol-style colorful silkscreen image.
The launch party for the project was yesterday — Aug. 6, Andy Warhol’s would-be 85th birthday. Representatives from EarthCam and the Warhol Museum gathered around Warhol’s grave at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery, in Castle Shannon.
Throughout the afternoon, his grave gathered a collection of curios. Glitter decorated the mulch around his tombstone. Campbell’s tomato-soup cans accumulated on his headstone along with a series of small figurines: a porcelain-looking angel, a candle with a cross on it, a plastic Happy Meal character from the Universal Pictures film Despicable Me. On the ground, a Ouija board appeared next to a red patent-leather shoe that sat in a nest of sparkly red and silver garland. There was a magic eight-ball, a burgeoning bunch of balloons and a box of hard candy that the Warhol Museum had brought for the occasion. A plastic folder full of letters leaned against the side of his grave.
Warhol joins the likes of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison as artists whose gravesites have become pilgrimage destinations and shrines, maintained by loyal admirers. That is very rare, said Eric Shiner, director of the Warhol Museum. “That means he really made it.”
His grave is also the subject of Madelyn Roehrig’s ongoing film project, Figments: Conversations with Andy, where she films people interacting with Warhol’s grave.
Shiner expects the site, now equipped with cameras, will become a platform for expression: “Performances will most likely happen,” he said.
Brian Cury is the CEO and founder of EarthCam, a New Jersey-based company that fixes web cams all over the world. This collaboration seemed natural for Cury, whose business idea grew from a compelling dinner conversation he had with Warhol in 1987, shortly before the artist's death. They spoke about television, fame and voyeurism.
After Cury and Shiner said a few words, the celebration started. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” around a cake that was covered in colorful dollar signs and neon green frosting that spelled out, “Happy Birthday Andy.” People released paper Chinese lanterns and Father Tom from the church said a prayer.
Andy Warhol prophetically said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.”
Marty Lieb had visited the cemetery to wish Warhol a happy birthday. The senior citizen wore Warhol's iconic banana print on a T-shirt and had said a few words to his tombstone. Lieb said of the experience, “My 15 minutes of fame was like 15 minutes with Andy on his birthday.”