Like digging up age-old dinosaur bones, students at Carnegie Mellon University have “dug up” digitally altered Andy Warhol paintings from a computer almost 30 years old. Stuck on several floppy discs and a 1985 Commodore Amiga 1000 were around 20 images of Warhol’s famous paintings, Campbell’s soup cans among them. The university’s computer club collaborated with the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Pittsburgh-based Andy Warhol Museum toun-earth the works of art.

Known for his screen-printed imagery of iconic people and things during the 80s, Warhol was revered for his vivid, bold aesthetic that encompassed the culturally rich world of the time. Ever the modern artist, Warhol worked with Commodore to promote the new Amiga model. With a digital camera and computer mouse, Warhol shot his paintings and modified them using the newest technology of the time. The images evoke a similar appearance of their original paintings, except now with a new linear quality, drawn using the mouse.

The efforts of Mellon’s computer connoisseurs began when artist Cory Arcangel came across a YouTube video showing Warhol at the event in which he digitally painted Debbie Harry as she posed for him. Upon seeing the video, Arcangel sought out the computer and accompanying floppy discs to see what could be done. Through several trials of software programming, Mellon’s computer club has made Warhol’s digital photography accessible for everyone. Furthermore, they obtained significant artifacts in the history of digital photography: Warhol’s pixellated manipulations paved the way for the 80s’ technology wave amongst artists.

The journey of unlocking these images can be seen in the Carnegie Museum’s five-part documentary series The Invisible Photograph, in the most recent episode titled Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments. The film was shown at the Andy Warhol Museum on May 10th, but is now available for viewing on the Carnegie Museum’s website here.

Katie George

Check out Andy Warhol’s Live Portrait of Debbie Harry here: